Deborah Mattinson, pollster and electoral strategist for Gordon Brown:
‘Immigration, perhaps more than any other issue, illustrates the disconnect between the voter and the Westminster Village. … Anyone watching or conducting political focus groups for the first time would often come back shocked at the voters’ vehemence about immigration. …
I think it is important to be clear here that the strength of feeling I witnessed night after night in front rooms around the country does not mean that most people are racist. This is one of the gravest misunderstandings between the voter and the political classes. Quite simply it is that middle ground voters felt he economic security of their own families to be permanently under threat.
I fed back voters feelings as faithfully as I could, as often as I could, but it was never top of anyone’s agenda, and there was never much of an appetite to listen or act. Politicians seemed in paralysis: unwilling either to make the positive case for immigration or to do anything about it. [Pgs 132-4]
If that was true during the last government, is it true now? Mehdi Hassan was arguing on 10 O’Clock Live on Thursday that this is a complete myth: we do nothing BUT talk about immigration: the first question in the first ever televised leaders’ debate was about immigration, we now have a government that has promised to bring immigration down to the “tens of thousands“, and Ed Miliband is making speeches about how Labour “got it wrong” on immigration.
60% of people currently think immigration has been bad for the country. If politicians are only just starting to have the guts to talk about the downside of immigration, they certainly don’t have the guts to talk about the good side. Until they do, that number won’t change.