How can Cameron appeal to two audiences at the same time?
Whenever pollsters ask about the main issue that concerns voters then immigration invariably comes top of the list. In the latest Ipsos-Mori poll 41% of those interviewed said, unprompted, that “race relations/immigration/immigrants” was amongst their top concerns.
Politicians of all parties know this and are ultra-careful when they move into this policy area – but peddling what appears to be a highly populist anti-immigrant line can have its own dangers. – and the person facing the biggest challenge is David Cameron.
For the section of the electorate most likely to be sensitive by a tough anti-immigrant stance are Lib Dem supporters including many, now doubt, who have switched their allegiance to Cameron’s liberal conservatism since the general election.
Could straying into this territory, as the Tory leader did to today, be a turn-off to many of those whose support he has managed to win in the past two years?
All this allowed the Lib Dem home leadership contender and home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, to accuse Cameron of “pandering to the right wing in his own party and claims that immigration numbers should be cut without having the faintest clue as to how that would happen”.
Labour have to be very careful in this area too. The Michael Howard-style approach adopted by John Reid was doing the party no good amongst this key group of centre voters.