UKIP WAS trounced in last week’s local elections – but their influence on UK politics continues.
First, it was UKIP pressure for an “in/out” referendum on the EU that got the UK into its current Brexit predicament. However, the UKIP pressure to “blame it on the immigrants” is still there. Having caved in to the former, it looks as if the Tories are about to capitulate to the latter too.
Both major political parties are expected to launch their General Election Manifestos next Monday – and the big question is what the Tories will have to say on the question of immigration. David Cameron promised as long ago as 2010 that the parties would reduce net immigration to “tens of thousands” – a target the Party has never met, but which it may repeat.
The stakes for the Tories are just too high. Those of their voters who were lured into supporting UKIP in order to get the EU referendum may be ready to return, but most of them will be looking for a party which broadly supports the anti-foreigner UKIP line on immigration.
In past years, Labour has buckled under the same pressure, with leading figures throughout the Blair and Brown years talking about the need to reduce immigration. That line is not likely to be repeated this year – though the Party’s leadership is under huge pressure from its disloyal right wing rebels to make some sort of nod to the ultra right.
Speculation about what the Tories would put in their manifesto on this question came after Home Secretary Amber Rudd said, during a TV interview, that her personal view was that immigration should be reduced. She explained that she wanted to do this in a “way that supports business”, in the context of the UK leaving the EU. This suggests that a future Tory Government would be looking to having a system for seasonal workers to enter the UK but would otherwise clamp down hard on other forms of immigration.
Theresa May had previously referred to the need to have “sustainable immigration” and gave the impression that this was a new way of supporting David Cameron’s old targets. With the two leading figures in the Party appearing to share the same approach to immigration, it looks like the Tories are gearing up to spread the politics of fear and hate all over again.