Cameron’s amnesia on immigration

David Cameron said that immigration had only become a political issue in recent years. But Conservatives have been running on the issue of immigration for decades.

Last night David Cameron repeated his claim, first made last week, that immigration had only become a political issue in recent years. But young Dave has a short memory and has clearly not brushed up on his post-war history. Conservative candidates have been running on the issue of immigration since the 1960s – in some cases using provocative language.

Last night Mr Cameron said:

“we do believe you do need to have a cap on people coming from outside the European Union for economic reasons, that would help to bring it down. Added to that is new European countries, when they join the EU, we say there should be transitional controls, we were told there would only be I think 13,000 people coming from Poland, in the end there were hundreds of thousands.

That is absolutely vital and we are the only ones saying let’s grip this, let’s have a cap, let’s bring it down radically, then it won’t be a political issue, it wasn’t in the past, and I dearly love it not to be an issue again.

Watch it:

Last week when David Cameron said, “I would dearly love to get it down to the levels it was in the past so it is no longer an issue in our politics as it wasn’t in the past”. But as Left Foot Forward detailed, immigration has been repeatedly raised as an election issue by the Conservative party:

2010: Conservative leaflets promoted by Andrew Rosindell (MP for Romford since 2001) saying Labour “opened the floodgates

2005: Michael Howard said, “It’s not racist to talk about immigration.”

2001: William Hague described Britain as a “soft touch“.

1995: Andrew Lansley wrote, “Immigration, an issue which we raised successfully in 1992 and again in the 1994 Euro-elections campaign, played particularly well in the tabloids and has more potential to hurt.”

1978: Margaret Thatcher told World in Action in 1978 that “people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture”.

And going back even further, using language that no mainstream Conservative would feel comfortable with today, in the 1960s Enoch Powell and Peter Griffiths made provocative use of immigration in speeches and leaflets.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.