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Good morning. Another day, another set of headlines about the UK’s high net migration figures and the government’s failure to reduce them. Some thoughts on the causes of that, and why you should expect to see more stories about wacky Labour policies, too.
Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to [email protected]
Ministers come to blows
I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Rishi Sunak’s plan is to fight the next election having successfully delivered on his five pledges to the electorate. “Look at what I’ve done, and here’s what I plan to do next” is the government’s preferred approach to the next election.
The problem is that he is very far from keeping those pledges, and instead, unless something changes, his election argument will be “Hey! Two out of five ain’t bad!” That’s not the message anyone would hope to deploy in their election fight. The one thing that the Conservatives could do to make the problem worse is add a sixth pledge that they are also not going to meet.
Yet here we are. Michael Gove has followed Suella Braverman, saying that the current level of migration to the UK is causing “inevitable pressure” on housing and public services.
There are a couple of things to note here. The first is that, as it stands, the UK will probably have lower net migration next year because the latest figure — a record 504,000 for the year to June 2022, while some analysts predict the estimate for the full calendar year will rise to 700,000 next week — includes the arrival of refugees from Ukraine and those fleeing the civil rights crackdown in Hong Kong. Some people think that the reason why ministers are making a lot of noise about net migration is because they hope to be able to point to falling numbers next year.
I think that is too clever by half. Whatever happens, the net migration number will still be high by historic standards, and it could yet surprise to the upside. The political and economic fallout from Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s looming re-election as Turkey’s president (our coverage of Turkey’s elections is collated here) and the ongoing situation in Pakistan (our mini-profile of Imran Khan doubles as a handy introduction) could both lead to an unexpected increase in the number of people coming to the UK next year. I myself know of several skilled workers from both countries who are making plans to come to London, where they have relatives and friends.
What we’re actually seeing is a row within cabinet breaking out into the open. On the one hand, you have Suella Braverman arguing for lower immigration and tighter controls (as home secretaries tend to do). On the other, you have Jeremy Hunt and the various spending departments doing what they tend to do, which is arguing for more migration to help fill vacancies and keep the economy running.
The consequence of litigating that row in public is that it means greater attention on another Conservative target that the government is not going to hit: just the thing they don’t need more of!
Labour’s leaked proposals
Labour will gradually prohibit smoking by increasing the age you can start buying cigarettes. Labour will allow all EU residents to vote in British elections. Labour will allow workers the “right to disconnect” from email, WhatsApp and by telephone.
One reason why there has been a rash of stories about Labour’s manifesto is the looming meeting of the party’s national policy forum in mid-July, when the party’s power brokers and lay members will gather to hammer out the party’s policy platform. Some of these stories — including Jim Pickard’s scoop about the right to disconnect or my former New Statesman political correspondent Patrick Maguire’s piece revealing Keir Starmer’s plans to liberate the greenbelt for housebuilding — are true.
But some of the leaks about policies Labour is considering will be anything but. Why? Well, for similar reasons to the Conservative party’s very public debate about net migration. One way to get a pledge you want in the manifesto is to make a lot of noise about it beforehand, in order to increase the political cost of abandoning it. And, of course, another way to get a pledge you want scrapped is to make a lot of noise about it, to raise the tariff for pursuing it.
So we should expect that for the following months, both Sunak and Starmer will be grappling with stories they would rather not see in the papers about policies they might — or might not — adopt at the next election.
Georgina is back from her holiday today! Before she went, she wrote an excellent piece about how new arrivals from Hong Kong are finding their feet in British politics, while my column this week is about becoming a digital native who now finds much of the digital world weird and scary.
Now try this
I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. I rather enjoyed it: it was a very good popcorn movie that rounded off the trilogy nicely. Rather less impressed was Jonathan Romney, whose review you can read here.
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