David Davis’ appearance on Thursday 1 June’s BBC Question Time has ignited a storm over the Conservative Party manifesto. Because comments by the Brexit Secretary have thrown into chaos a policy that the Tories have backtracked on not once, not twice but three times.
Davis was discussing the Tories’ manifesto “objective” [pdf p56] to:
reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.
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He said the Tories hadn’t put an immigration target in their manifesto and that “we can’t promise within five years, that’s the point”. But when pushed by both presenter David Dimbleby and Labour’s Barry Gardiner, Davis fell apart:
The chaos surrounding Tory immigration policy has been compounded by the fact that just hours before Davis’ appearance, Theresa May said her party’s objective was “working towards” reducing net migration to tens of thousands by 2022.
Hang on a minute…
Tory Brandon Lewis also echoed May’s comments on BBC Daily Politics:
Sense at last?
Co-leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas has slammed the Tories’ flip-flopping on immigration. She said:
Behind the Tories’ hardline rhetoric on migration is the chaos of a policy that’s unworkable, economically illiterate, and utterly short-sighted. It’s no wonder that Ministers are backing away from this foolhardy net migration target.
The Green Party is pledging [pdf p6] a “compassionate” immigration system:
We will pursue an ethical foreign policy, and a humane and compassionate immigration and asylum system that takes responsibility for Britain’s role in causing the flow of refugees worldwide.
Co-leader Jonathan Bartley said that the Greens’ immigration policy was because “we’re an internationalist party, we’re outward facing… For us, it’s an issue of social justice”:
We do have a commitment to freedom of movement… We are realistic about it, but our long-term policy is to open borders, absolutely. But we are also pragmatic and realistic [about the] climate, but what we’re focused on is maintaining free movement…
Obtuseness, omnishambles and O-turns
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has said that reducing net migration would mean the government would have to borrow an extra £6bn a year. It has also repeatedly warned that cutting immigration would mean more debt and lower tax revenues. But the Tories have repeatedly chosen to ignore the OBR, which functions as their independent economic advisers. It is also now the third time the Conservatives have pledged to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands. And with the party’s U-turns on social care and free school breakfasts turning into O-turns (where they either end up where they started or just keep going round) May’s campaign is turning into a farce.
– Get out there and vote on 8 June. And encourage others to do the same.
– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.
– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.
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