Cameron’s election speechwriter slams immigration cap

There's a punchy Evening Standard column from Ian Birrell today challenging the government's immigration cap as "the sort of gesture politics that makes some sense in opposition but turns out to be nonsense in government". The author might claim to know something about the pressure to make such political gestures, having been David Cameron's speechwriter during the 2010 election campaign.

There’s a punchy Evening Standard column from Ian Birrell today challenging the government’s immigration cap as “the sort of gesture politics that makes some sense in opposition but turns out to be nonsense in government”. The author might claim to know something about the pressure to make such political gestures, having been David Cameron’s speechwriter during the 2010 election campaign.

Birrell recently wrote about his enthusiasm for the big society and his experience of writing the major Cameron speech which tried to explain what it was all about.

Today, he writes in the Standard about why the government’s immigration cap is “daft”:

Why are we turning away the next generation of entrepreneurs, especially when private-sector expansion is so crucial amid public spending cuts?

The reason is simple: because the Conservatives, spooked by loud voices in the media and on the Right, came up with the concept of an arbitrary cap on numbers coming into this country from outside the EU to make it appear they had a policy on immigration. It will bring the figure for net annual migration below 100,000, they said, while fudging precise details.

It was the sort of gesture politics that makes some sense in opposition but turns out to be nonsense in government. Ministers say they get endless complaints about the policy whenever they meet businesspeople. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Democrats failed to use their bargaining powers to get it abandoned; they should have insisted it was scrapped in return for their humiliation over the proposed rise in university tuition fees.

Instead we are stuck with this daft idea, which has been grafted on to Labour’s similarly foolish points-based system of entry.

Clearly, Birrell is very much writing in his own voice, no longer that of the prime minister.

The former deputy editor of The Independent was never a member of the Tory tribe, and was always very much on the liberal wing of the Cameron tent. Birrell has also written about how his personal friendship with David Cameron was strengthened by their shared experience of caring for disabled children.

Very few voices in government would be as laissez-faire on immigration as Birrell, as can be seen from his trenchant criticism of the last Labour government for also being too restrictive in its immigration policy.

However, business pressure over the immigration cap issue has been reflected in business secretary Vince Cable’s private and public advocacy of the dangers of a cap, and was also reflected, if not resolved, in David Cameron’s speech to the CBI:

“As we control our borders and bring immigration to a manageable level, we will not impede you from attracting the best talent from around the world.”

That is a characteristically Cameroonian sentence of deliberately unfathomable ambiguity, carefully constructed to simultaneously reassure both business audiences and party audiences with opposing concerns about whether the government’s immigration restrictions will prove too tight, or not tight enough. How to implement the sentiment in a workable permanent cap is going to cause more headaches in Whitehall.

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29 Responses to “Cameron’s election speechwriter slams immigration cap”

  1. SoapboxLabourUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap http://bit.ly/bio0bJ

  2. Shamik Das

    Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft on @leftfootfwd

  3. Melissa Nicole Harry

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  4. Duncan Stott

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  5. Sunder Katwala

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  6. Andy Buckley-Taylor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  7. Paul Perrin

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  8. sunny hundal

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft < Hah!

  9. Immigration Tips

    Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap | Left Foot …: Ian Birrell today calls the immigration cap… http://bit.ly/9Qo6TZ

  10. Shlomo Pines

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  11. Political Scrapbook

    Cameron's election speechwriter calls his immigration cap "daft" http://bit.ly/97pclf (from @leftfootfwd)

  12. Keith Phillip Jones

    RT @psbook: Cameron's election speechwriter calls his immigration cap "daft" http://bit.ly/97pclf (from @leftfootfwd)

  13. Alex Belardinelli

    RT @nextleft: RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  14. william

    I imagine most followers of LFF want a Labour government.A huge swathe of traditional Labour voters do not want their jobs threatened by outsiders. Any body living in the south of England, where Labour might as well not exist,knows that more migrants equals pressure on house prices, school places, hospital access and so on.Immigration, the issue that is taboo,is the surest way to keep Labour out of power if this website et al. does not reflect the views of non metropolitan London.

  15. Andy Sutherland

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  16. fljf

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap: http://bit.ly/cDInis reports @nextleft

  17. Theophile Escargot

    Former Cameron speechwriter on immigration cap: http://bit.ly/crrOkd via: http://bit.ly/a7DOLr

  18. John Rentoul

    RT @leftfootfwd: Ian Birrell, Cameron's election speechwriter, slams immigration cap http://bit.ly/bio0bJ

  19. Victor Southern

    The next generation of entrepreneurs being turned away? To the greatest possible extent immigrants from outside the EU tend to employ mostly relatives or people of the same tribe or clan as they come from.The result is the creation of racial ghettos, not a mixed multicultural society. In many cases their womenfolk do nopt work outside the house.

    I can understand your main point but this is not a reinforcement of your argument.

    If we cannot produce enough skilled labour in this country then we must change our educational system, not import still more people to overflow all of our resources.

  20. Max Atkinson

    Cameron’s election speechwriter slams immigration cap http://bit.ly/97pclf (via @leftfootfwd).

  21. Rick

    RT @maxatkinson: Cameron’s election speechwriter slams immigration cap http://bit.ly/97pclf (via @leftfootfwd).

  22. Stephen W

    It is just total nonsense to suggest that businesses in this country need net immigration in the hundreds of thousands when we have unemployment of 2.5 million in this country and a record graduate unemployment rate. Business should be ignored. The government should carry on.

  23. The Election Blog

    RT @maxatkinson: Cameron’s election speechwriter slams immigration cap http://bit.ly/97pclf (via @leftfootfwd).

  24. L DTUC

    RT @psbook: Cameron's election speechwriter calls his immigration cap "daft" http://bit.ly/97pclf (from @leftfootfwd)

  25. Brian Jenner

    RT @theelectionblog: RT @maxatkinson: Cameron’s election speechwriter slams immigration cap http://bit.ly/97pclf (via @leftfootfwd).

  26. Bryonny G-H

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron's election speechwriter slams immigration cap http://bit.ly/bio0bJ

  27. 2: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Entered “X” Here. « Der Gothmann: Argue Not with the Beard

    […] Cameron’s election speechwriter slams immigration cap (leftfootforward.org) […]

  28. More immigration cap anger from small businesses | Left Foot Forward

    […] people. The news follows twin criticisms of the cap last week from the prime minister’s election speechwriter and the House of Commons Home Affairs […]

  29. Home secretary forced to "water down" immigration speech | Left Foot Forward

    […] cap has come from a wide variety of sources, including David Cameron’s former speech writer Ian Birrell, who accused his former employer of imposing an arbitrary cap because the prime minister was […]

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