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Having One's Cake and Eating It Too: Cameron's Conservatives and Immigration
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-08, 09:24 authored by Tim Bale, James HampshireJames Hampshire, Rebecca Partos
The May 2010 general election represented a change in tone on immigration and asylum policy for the Conservative party. Although its manifesto still contained a promise to limit numbers and expressed concern about the abuse of student visas, the Party's previous fixation with asylum seekers had disappeared. This article considers the rationale for these developments in the light of David Cameron's election as leader in late 2005 and his efforts from then on to reposition his party. Cameron's initial silence on this issue and his appointment of a moderate as immigration spokesman were part of an attempt both to shift the focus onto the economic impact of migration and, more broadly, to ‘decontaminate the Tory brand’ in order to gain ‘permission to be heard’ by small-l liberals who were critical to the Party's electoral recovery but alienated by hard-line stances. That said, immigration was never entirely forgotten even in this early period and was always seen, so long as it was carefully handled, as an issue capable of benefitting the Tories. As such, it was skilfully factored back into the Party's offer from late 2007 onwards. In government, the Conservatives may have the upper hand on immigration over their junior coalition partner, but this is no guarantee that they will be able to deliver the outcomes they promised.
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