Immigration will not be one of the top six pledges in the next Conservative manifesto, despite it regularly topping polls of the most important issues to voters. The issue did not form part of a major speech by the Prime Minister yesterday in which he set out the key areas his party would campaign on at the election.
David Cameron claimed the omission of immigration was not an oversight but instead would form part of the manifesto section on how Britain “should live within her means”. He also pledged to give more detailed plans over the next few months.
But Lord Green of Deddington from the pressure group MigrationWatch told the Daily Mail the decision to leave out immigration was “amazing”. He said: “Immigration has now come top equal with the economy the past six months among the issues the public are most concerned with. It is amazing that the Conservative Party have not included it in their top six issues for the election campaign.”
The Prime Minister also sidestepped the NHS, leaving him open to charges from the opposition that he was “running scared” over the issue. Health care and immigration are regularly the top two priorities for British voters, and were presumed to have been the key election issues along with the economy.
David Cameron justified his decision saying: “It’s about people’s jobs, people’s taxes, the homes they want to buy, the schools they want to send their children to, and their retirement. Through this prism we will address every single issue.”
He referred back to a speech in November in which he pledged to increase the amount of time EU nationals had to work in the UK before they could claim benefits. He claimed the plan to increase the time from six months to four years was “the most radical set of actions that any government has ever contemplated in this country” to tackle European immigration.
The Conservative leadership are likely to face significant opposition from their backbenchers if they try to ignore European immigration during the election. But they have found it difficult to meet immigration targets as treaties oblige the UK to allow anyone from the European Union to settle in Britain.
Cameron had hoped to put temporary restrictions on the movement of people, but other European leaders have made it clear they will never allow this. This has left restriction of benefits as the only option. Whilst the policy is popular it is considered unlikely it would stop Eastern Europeans coming to the UK on its own.