Rishi Sunak is doomed either way on immigration

Rishi Sunak is doomed either way on immigration
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Good day. Sometimes the obvious conclusion is the correct one. Persistently high inflation in the UK is bad news for households, bad news for businesses and, as a result, bad news for the government’s re-election hopes.

But some things are less obvious: just this morning, the UK’s record net migration figure of 606,000 in 2022 will spark a fierce debate over British immigration policy. I think the political consequences of that are far from clear.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and send gossip, thoughts and comments to insidepolitics@ft.com

Party like it’s 1979

Sometimes a graphic is worth a thousand words.

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I don’t have much to add here, other than that Chris Giles’s article on whether the UK is once again becoming the ‘sick man’ of Europe is very worthwhile.

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As I say, I think the political takeaway from this is obvious: Experiencing 1970s-like economic challenges is going to have 1970s-like political consequences. If the next election is more like February 1974 , when a majority government gave way to a minority government, or those of 1979, when Margaret Thatcher won a majority, is at stake. I have stated my article on what I believe to be the most likely outcome and do not wish to return to old ground.

These are not good economic circumstances for incumbent governments. I think the main source of comfort for the Conservatives should be that both Labor in 1974 and the Conservatives in 1979 won, having moved away from the center after their defeats in 1970 and 1974.

change record

The UK has reached a new record for net migration. Historically speaking, we are experiencing the biggest change in the UK, in terms of raw numbers, as this graph from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory makes clear. The proportion of foreign-born people in the total UK population increased from 9% in 2004 to 14% in 2021.

Most Britons say they want migration figures to fall, but a large proportion oppose targeted cuts in most areas. in fact driving the UK’s highest immigration figures. As Sunder Katwala, director of UK think tank Future, explained in this informative and helpful article:

Only one in 10 people thinks that we are bringing too many refugees from the Ukraine. The idea of ​​reducing visas for the NHS or social care is equally unpopular: only 12 per cent would restrict visas for the health service. Only 17 percent are in favor of reducing the number of fruit pickers.

Sunder identifies a group he calls the UK’s “sincere reducers”: that is, people who say they want the overall UK numbers to fall but are also not opposed to all the policy changes required for that outcome. About a quarter of the population is in this group, he says.

The Conservative party’s problem here is obvious: that quarter is not enough to win the next election on its own, but if that quarter goes to the smaller right-wing parties or stays at home, there is no chance that the tory party can win. win neither. And as Nuffield College’s Ben Ansell recently explained on his (free!) Substack, the Conservative electoral coalition is heavily reliant on voters who are most likely to be among Sunder’s sincere reducers.

There is a direct parallel here with the Conservative Party’s internal and external difficulties over taxes and spending. Almost all Conservative MPs claim to want lower taxes, but it has been some time since a Conservative chancellor has managed to get substantial cuts in public spending beyond the parliamentary party. In fact, many Conservative MPs like to call for tax cuts, and in the next breath, demand more spending: on defence, on families, on skills. (In the Times, it’s worth reading Steve Swinford’s recent mini-profile of many of these groups.)

My general opinion is that we all tend to overestimate our willingness to bear the costs. Many of Sunder’s sincere reducers are quite the opposite: they would immediately start squealing the moment their taxes were increased, if the prices charged by businesses increased, or if they saw any of the real costs the UK would have to bear to reduce. actually the UK Net Migration Figures.

And in many ways, the current electoral situation for the Conservatives highlights this. Yes, some of the crises facing the government are external ones in which the Conservatives were not involved. Some of the problems are entirely self-created, like the lingering fallout from Liz Truss’s short tenure. Some are a bit of both, like the extended period of public sector wage crunch and lockdown hangovers. But the thing is, while British voters had nothing to do with the Truss government, almost everything that now makes the Conservative Party unpopular once helped make it popular.

The internal debate in the Tory party over immigration, and much of the commentary about it, talks as if there is some clever speech or political lever that Rishi Sunak could use to make his life and the life of his party easier. I think the reality is that there is a group of voters who will still be angry at the Conservative Party for not reducing immigration and would be angry about the consequences if the Conservative Party really did.

Here, too, is a warning to Labour. The party’s proposal to rewrite UK immigration rules so that employers cannot pay people on the shortage occupations list 20 per cent below the current rate, I think will be popular with the public. (That it is also recommended by the government’s own migration advisory committee adds to the appeal from a Labor perspective.) But as with any of these policies, it comes at a cost: and to me, if I were Labour, there would be no cost at all. confidence that voters will be willing to pay the cost when the bill comes.

now try this

I saw plane 75, and frankly I thought it was terrible. An anti-euthanasia film with the subtlety and intelligence of a brick, it stretched well beyond its natural running time.

There have been three thought-provoking films that ponder the question of assisted dying and what it means to have a good death in the last year: one of which, a good morningcan still be seen in theaters, while All went well and More than ever are available to stream. (My favorite of the trio is More than everand while a good morning is less than the sum of its parts, the plot involving the main character’s elderly father is flawless).

What connects those three films is that, while I think it’s fair to say, they are generally pro-euthanasia, their depth and humanity means they really elicit conflicting emotions and reactions. Life is complex when you get down to business, and a good movie that portrays that complexity inevitably delivers more than one message.

not so plane 75, which ironically made me long for death. (Full disclosure: Leslie Felperin disagreed: you can read her review here.)

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