What I Told a Cabinet Minister
The Tories are no longer the party of immigration control
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The British Tories are completely deluded. They do not understand why millions of ordinary people are utterly fed up with them and the state of Britain. And they do not understand why their electorate has been blown apart.
That’s the conclusion I reached after having dinner with a cabinet minister who told me how senior Tories think about one issue that will shape the next election.
The issue is immigration and the insight into how the country’s most senior Tories are thinking and feeling about it is remarkable. It went like this.
Many people in Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, I was told, have convinced themselves into believing that while the British people might be worried about the record level of immigration they are mainly concerned about illegal rather than legal immigration.
Having reshaped Britain’s immigration policy around a ‘high-skill’, points-based system, having given the people ‘control’, many Tories seem to think voters are no longer really fussed about legal immigration at all. What they really care about, I was told, is ‘people breaking the rules’ by entering Britain illegally.
Rishi Sunak, the minister went on, basically clings to the same view. While the prime minister sort of understands why ordinary people might feel anxious about the historically unprecedented rates of legal migration, he’s convinced himself into thinking the only thing that really matters is stopping the boats.
And this view is also shaping thinking about the looming general election. Once the government has taken back control of the southern border, so the thinking goes, once it’s stopped the small boats, once it’s finally got the planes heading off to Rwanda, the rising tide of public concern about immigration will evaporate, the Tories will be rewarded at the ballot box and the disillusioned masses will flood back to them rather than take a punt on the pro-immigration Labour Party.
‘It’s certainly an interesting view’, I said. ‘But it’s also completely deluded’.
Here’s what I said in response.
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