The veneer is peeling off Dave™ and the brand-spanking-apparently-new version of a very modern post-Major Tory (it should really be post-Thatcher, but the pun wouldn't work) to reveal the same old tired reactionary party pandering to the prejudices of mittle England. Yes, Dave™ has bowed to the pressure in recent days from the Tory yellow press and swallowed the myth of the 70 million, dodgy statistics and all.
And just like the yellow press, he does not know what he is talking about. For a start he can't even get the terminology right: “In the past decade, net immigration (sic) in some years has been sort of 200,000, so implying a two million increase over a decade, which I think is too much." The correct term is net migration (immigration - emigration = net migration). As this figure can be both positive (immigration > emigration) or negative (immigration < emigration), the term net immigration makes no sense whatsoever. Also his facts are WRONG. In the past decade net migration has been approximately 1.75m, not 2m.
The above quote continues: "I don't think that's unrealistic; that's the sort of figure there was in the 1990s and I think we should see that again." Or as the Express helpfully puts it, "He wants annual net immigration to return to the “tens of thousands” seen under the Thatcher and Major governments. Between 1991 and 1995 – when John Major was prime minister – it was 37,000 compared to 163,000 in 2008." In fact the total net migration for the 90's was 645,000, about 37% of the rate during the past decade. Also, the figures for the Thatcher and Major years were: '91- 43,000. '92 - 10,000, '93 - -1,200 (i.e. emigration exceeded immigration), 94 - 76,800 and 95 - 75,400. And the figures for the first full year of Nu Labour, 60,000.
Cameron also gets it wrong in a number of other ways. For example, he completely ignores the fact that the figure for the net natural population change (births - deaths) now exceeds the figure for net migration. The figures show that a similar situation existed throughout the Tory years of the 90's but the change to a Nu Labour government also saw the net natural population change exceeded by net migration. This situation reversed again last year.
Other things likely to put a spoke in the wheels of Cameron's anti-immigration policy. For a start he cannot limit the number of EU nationals that come to live and work in the UK without wrecking the basic commitment to the free movement of labour and jeopardising the UK's EU membership. He could of course restrict access for nationals from any new EU member countries (Iceland, Macedonia, Croatia, and Turkey are currently prospective members), as Nu Labour did recently.
Then there are all the many UK citizens living abroad who might just suddenly develope a sudden urge to avail themselves of the National Health Service that the Nu Tories' have recently pledged to protect. Prospective employers are also very worried about the potential effects on the ability to move workers around their multi-national empires and to be able to recruit from abroad. The there are the 39,000 people a year who come to the UK on spousal visas after marrying British citizens abroad. The list goes on...
All this is of course predicated by the Office for National Statistics projections of a UK population of 70m by 2029, which itself was based on a net migration figure peak between 2005-08. The only way this could be sustained for the next 20 years is if a country the size of Poland joined every 3 years AND Cameron did not avail himself of the 7 year restriction of movement derogation.
Naturally, Cameron also sought to try and protect his 'nice chap' image, after all he couldn't be seen to be too racist. "I'm in favour of immigration – we've benefited from immigration – but I think the pressures, particularly on our public services, have been very great. I think we should be focusing on the pressure on our public services, on health and education and housing." So why was he focusing so much on the distant sepia tones of the Thatcher and Major eras?
That's what Cameron actually had to say, what about how the papers covered it?
Almost all fell in line with Cameron's misuse of the term net (im)migration. The Guardian also managed to screw-up the ONS figures: "Office of National Statistics figures suggest that the population will rise by 9 million to reach 70 million by 2028." That was the projection released in 2008, the latest figure put back hitting the magic 70m mark to 2029.
The Times appeared to be the only paper to pick up on the net natural population change issue, except the do not know what they are talking about too. "The overwhelming majority of this growth will be driven by rising fertility — partly linked to immigrant mothers being younger and having larger families — and immigration." Come again? What else is the growth going to be driven by but immigration and the birth rate. Emigration and deaths can only decrease to population. They also fail to show that natural growth would exceed migration in the projections, but they could hardly do that considering the in a companion opinion piece from MigrationBotch's Alan Green (a conceit considering that effectively Alan Green = MigrationWatch) that contained a whopping great lie.
The piece, entitled ‘If the Tories are serious about immigration it will be in the manifesto’, replete with a Daily Mail-style photo of a Calais migrant, was a giant piece of wish fulfilment on Green's part. "This is a significant development. He does not make stray remarks on this subject. Indeed, he has hardly mentioned it since a major speech on population two years ago." "He has definitely moved the debate forwards. Instead of the usual accusations of racism* there is now a more reasoned acceptance by the political class that current rates of immigration into Britain are unsustainable." Says who?
The lie: "The latest population projections from the Office for National Statistics show that the United Kingdom’s population will reach 70 million in 20 years’ time and that just over two thirds of this increase will be because of immigration." There is absolutely no way, even with MigrationBotch's usual 'flair' for manipulation/selective use of statistics, that this is true. To directly quote the ONS' National Population Projection 2008-Based, "Of the 4.3 million projected increase in the UK population over the next 10 years, some 2.4 million (56 per cent) is a result of projected natural increase (more births than deaths) while the remaining 1.9 million (44 per cent) is the assumed net number of migrants. Similarly, of the 10.2 million projected increase in the population by 2033, 5.6 million (55 per cent) is due to projected natural increase and 4.6 million (45 per cent) is due to projected net migration."
This is a lie he has peddled before, back in October last year when the ONS released its statistics, and one which the Mail swallowed wholesale. What he is conflating here is the population growth due to net migration AND the projected natural increase by births to those people he labels as immigrants i.e. not what he would label as 'British by birth'. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.
The one other thing that the Times did, which the other dailies didn't, was to quote Alan Johnson's spokesman. "David Cameron cannot meaningfully commit to keeping Britain’s population below 70 million. Chinese-style family controls don’t exactly fit with his stated aim of rolling back the influence of the State.” Precisely, for someone who aims for a minimal state and constantly espouses delegation of central powers to local government, he is talking about an awful lot of micro-management that begins to butt up against the margins of eugenics here.
The Telegraph was of course in seventh heaven, with a slight warning note attached: "Mr Cameron is right to recognise that immigration levels should be sensitive to the requirements of a free market. Indeed, he must be careful that he does not put a cap on net inflow that stops British industry responding quickly to a sudden need for skilled workers."
"It is a shame that Mr Cameron did not discuss Europe yesterday. Our control over immigration is enormously limited by the law of the European Union, leading to scandalous abuses," referring to Pakistani men are "contracting marriages with European women they barely know." Aaargh!
Today's prize (actually yesterday's, but we had an awful lot to do yesterday) goes to the Star (Simply the best what 7 days a week?) for its coverage of events. In 'David Cameron: I Will Stem Tide Of Migrants', not only do they put words into his mouth but they can't even get the 'myth' right. "The Daily Star has already revealed the Office For National Statistics predicts the total could hit 74 million by 2029", except that they didn't. "The UK population is projected to increase from an estimated 61.4 million in 2008 to 71.6 million in 2033", it's 70m by 2029 you idiots. However, the piece de resistance was their comment 'Cameron Talks Immigration Sense'. A pity they don't.
"Hundreds of thousands of foreigners have been flooding to Britain every year. Public services like the NHS and council housing cannot cope. The whole national infrastructure could collapse. We need to close our doors. That’s what the nation wants. And that’s the pledge we’ll expect from ALL party leaders come election time." Nuff said.
* On a recent Radio 4 program Iconoclasts, he threatened to sue Philippe Legrain if he did not withdraw the comment that he (Green) was a racist. Unfortunately Legrain did. Greens argument was that because he has spent most of his life abroad living and working amongst foreigners. Surely that is exactly what all those bureaucrats and army officers did during the British Empire and no one would seriously argue that they weren't racist?