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Michael Howard's desperation

Posted by Richard Monday, January 24, 2005

The Scotsman today is rather scathing of the advertisement taken in the Sunday Telegraph by the Tory leader, Michael Howard, to announce plans for a limit on immigration. It is proof, says the paper, that the general election campaign has begun and also proof that Mr Howard is steady under fire.

But it believes Mr Howard’s choice of battleground smacks a little of Tory desperation and that, on the immigration issue itself, Mr Howard is being misleading.

Firstly, the paper says, with the population of many parts of the UK in free fall (including Scotland), and with the UK population living longer, there is a strong economic case for encouraging skilled or entrepreneurial young people from abroad to settle in the UK.

In that light it would be more appropriate if the Tories hammered away at the need for a proper and transparent Green Card system of quotas, covering the skills and country groups who could come legally to the UK, rather than concentrate on the artificial - and border-line racist - issue of absolute numbers.

But the killer point made reveals the famous "elephant in the room" about which this Blog is often so voluble. Mr Howard, says the Scotsman, might also own up to the fact that EU citizens have an automatic right to work in the UK, which rather undermines his claim to being able to cut immigrant numbers to only 15,000 per year.

Is Mr Howard going to own up, or is he going to pretend that the UK still has control over which people, and how many, the British government can admit to the UK?