With a UK general election less than two months away immigration is becoming a hot topic and is rated in the top five of voter concerns.
As Labour gets tougher by the day on immigration, the opposition Conservative leader David Cameron has signalled a shift in strategy this week by indicating that election candidates will be allowed to use the word “immigration” on campaign leaflets, the Daily Express reports.
Party leaders have frowned upon the use of the “I” word in election literature for fear of being accused of “pandering” to the Right.
Now jitters over a narrowing poll lead and surveys showing immigration is the big issue on the doorstep seem to have led to a change of heart.
Tim Montgomerie, editor of the activists’ website Conservativehome.com, noticed the change last week.
He highlighted an “excellent” advert in a local newspaper covering election news in the Labour marginal seat of South Ribble, Lancashire.
Tory candidate Lorraine Fullbrook, who needs to overturn a 2,200-vote majority, said: “We would cut net immigration from the current hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.”
Mr Montgomerie wrote yesterday: “Lorraine knows what she is doing. I’ve had a dozen candidates get in touch to say they are determined to ignore Central Office and use references to immigration. One told me: ‘This is the issue on the doorstep and it’s ridiculous if we can’t mention it’.”
Tellingly, Tory headquarters last night refused to condemn the advert. A spokesman said: “Campaign literature will focus on all of the areas in which Labour has failed. The choice at the election will be five more years of Gordon Brown or change with the Conservatives.”
The “blind eye” strategy came after the party obtained a leaked Government report which revealed 70 per cent of Britons believe there are “too many immigrants” and 64 per cent think Labour policies are to blame.
The Ipos Mori survey was commissioned by Communities Secretary John Denham’s department to help target £12million of new spending in 160 neighbourhoods where residents feel blighted by immigration.
The Tories say ministers are using taxpayers’ money to shore up Labour’s vote in key marginal seats like Basildon, Birmingham Edgbaston, Burnley, Crawley and Pendle.
The Sunday Express has discovered that in Labour-controlled Barking and Dagenham, in east London, the scheme is being run by management consultants The Campaign Company, whose chief executive is former national general secretary Peter Watt.
Last night Shadow Communities Minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said: “This is yet more evidence of Labour ministers abusing public cash to fund a general election campaign.
“It is a sign of the disillusionment and dissatisfaction in Labour’s heartlands with this Government’s appalling record on immigration.”
Mr Denham’s department said yesterday: “The political make-up of the areas had no bearing on funding.”
Mr Cameron vowed yesterday to reverse Labour’s “spendaholic culture”. He told Welsh Tories in Llandudno that the Government was behind costly bungles, like paying out £10million in tax credits to dead people.
He said the new offices of Children’s Secretary Ed Balls’s department included a massage room and contemplation suite, joking: “I know things can be bad in meetings with Gordon Brown, but is it really that bad?” Source: Sunday Express.