Immigration might be the most important issue facing the country but it isn’t the only issue

Immigration might be the most important issue facing the country but it isn’t the only issue

If UKIP and Leave want to make further progress and win the referendum they need to talk about things other than immigration.

We see in the Ipsos Mori issues index (and in other polling) on a regular and consistent basis immigration/immigrants as the most important issue facing the UK yet if immigration/immigrants really was the most important issue then UKIP would have picked up more than one seat in May as David Cameron’s spectacular failure to cut net immigration in the last parliament would have damaged the Tory Party’s electoral prospects at the general election.

My own belief is the voters don’t focus on just the main issue when choosing how to vote, they look at a range of issues and judge which side has the best overall policies on these issues, I suspect the EU referendum will be no different. Another factor is when the question is asked slightly differently by YouGov And which of the following do you think are the most important issues facing you and your family? Immigration falls to third place behind the NHS and the economy.

The other way the Tories got around the immigration issue at the election was to pretty much ignore the issue and focus on other things. During the election campaign the Tory themes were nothing to do with immigration, but about the economy, the extra funds into the NHS, competence versus chaos, and of course the SNP. In ‘The British General Election of 2015’ book, Philip Cowley and Dennis Kavanagh noted

But the [Tory] party leadership calculated any attempt to win back the majority of Ukip supporters might alienate more moderate voters.

The book reads: “In 2012 an internal note for the Prime Minister noted: ‘There is nothing we could realistically say to persuade Ukip considerers that David Cameron’s Conservative Party shares (or even sympathises with) their general sense of cultural threat and anger about the pace of change in modern society.’

“Or rather, there was, but only at the cost of driving away other voters ‘upon whom our prospects of electoral victory depend’.”

This week it was reported about the recent failed talks between The Leavers People’s Front and The People’s Front for Leave to unify the two Leave camps

During what is described as a “cordial” meeting, Mills and Hodson were frank about their reservations. They cited what they see as Banks’ “erratic” behaviour and his determination to put immigration at the heart of the Brexit campaign as key barriers to a full merger. They also raised the thorny question of the role to be played by Nigel Farage, over which the rival campaigns disagree. (Vote Leave believes Farage is too divisive and politically damaged to lead the campaign, whereas believes he must be at the forefront.)

So if are designated the official Leave campaign then expect them to focus a lot on immigration during the referendum campaign, this would be a mistake. One of the reasons I expected UKIP to do poorly in terms of seats was the polling prior to the general election showed the voters saw UKIP as the most extreme party and UKIP were more likely to have candidates with racist or offensive views than other political parties.

Farage’s HIV comments (as in the above video clip) might have reinforced those perceptions and put off the voters UKIP needed to win parliamentary seats, frankly it came across as nasty. You can understand why some voters might have voted tactically against UKIP in some seats.

There are arguments for Brexit other than immigration such as, inter alia, on economic grounds, protecting the City of London and on sovereignty grounds. 27% might be enough to win the European elections, but it won’t be enough to win a referendum. A referendum is a glorified First Past The Post election and UKIP have a poor record in First Past The Post elections, for those wanting to see Brexit, they most hope Leave doesn’t make the mistake UKIP did in May.

To win Leave needs to not keep banging on about immigration but present a positive and non nasty view about what Remaining in the EU/Brexit means for the future of the UK. Focusing solely on voters whose only issue is immigration will not win the referendum for Leave, there just aren’t that many type of voters as the results in May showed.


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