Prime Minister Tony Blair has just been forced to give a full-dress policy speech in the middle of the current U.K. election campaign, trying to masquerade as a restrictionist on immigration. This despite the huge surge of immigration – some of it through the asylum or refugee loopholes – over which he happily presided in his first two terms.
There could be no clearer proof that the Conservative opposition's strategy of emphasizing the immigration issue has frightened Blair's Labour Party. As the London Times' Matthew Parris very reasonably says,
"[Conservative leader] MICHAEL HOWARD has won a considerable victory. He has forced Tony Blair to take the issue of immigration square-on. Mr Blair made a useful speech yesterday, conceding some points of great substance to the Conservative position… Immigration matters to people… politicians and journalists who respond to public anxiety by changing the subject are the very opposite of responsible. They risk losing their audience and their authority to less scrupulous individuals…."
"For three decades the airwaves have been as packed as the newspaper opinion columns with reassuring news and commentary about the enrichment which immigration can bring…. We must acknowledge and explain the stubborn and aggrieved persistence of a popular consensus that Britain is overcrowded, and that the sudden expansion of cultures that are strange to us is bad for a nation…"
"The only possible answer is Mr Howard's: to set a limit…Mr Blair half-concedes the logic…The Conservative Party may not win this election, but it is winning the argument. Whoever forms the next Government, immigration limits will be on the agenda." ["Mr Blair decided to play the race card – but finds he's been trumped," April 23 2005]
Imagine—in 2008, we might see GOP Presidential nominee Jeb Bush rushing to establish immigration reform credentials, under attack from Hilary Clinton!