Almost exactly 10 years ago, David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, appeared on the Andrew Marr Show to make a pledge that would shape British politics for the next decade. Under a Conservative government, the leader of the opposition promised, “net migration” would be reduced to the “tens of thousands”. Like much of Cameron’s rhetoric, it sounded like a clever technocratic fix to a seemingly intractable problem: Britain’s economy required immigration, but it was the source of media hostility and public anxiety that had bedevilled the incumbent Labour government. With a measurable target – “net migration” is simply the difference between the number of people arriving in a country and the number of people leaving – Cameron’s pledge suggested that immigration could be sensibly managed, and a political timebomb defused. Yet, like many of his other defining projects, the policy was an abject failure – both on its own terms, and in the way it helped poison British politics in the years that followed. From the beginning, it should have been clear that the promise was foolish. As early as June 2011, just over a year after the Conservatives took office, Oxford University’s impartial Migration Observatory argued that the… Read full this story
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