Are you thinking what we are thinking?
Remember that slogan from the 2005 election? The Conservative Party could not say out loud what the right-wing was saying about immigration, so they used this phrase to try and nudge voters into thinking that the Tories would do what the right-wing thought but could not utter. That strategy failed. We all know of someone who has said "I am not being racist but..." and then go ahead and say something racist, but this is just another version of the Tories' 2005 slogan on immigration.
The current Conservative policy on immigration is deliberately vague, partly because the bulk of the immigration over the last decade has been from the EU accession states and any controls on this immigration would require that Cameron open the Pandora's Box that is marked "Europe". On EU immigration the Conservatives say they would "apply transitional controls as a matter of course in the future for all new EU entrants" which is very much a non-policy. On non-EU immigration the policy talks about "making eligible for admission those who will benefit the economy" which is essentially government policy anyway, and "an annual limit to control the numbers admitted".
A recent survey by ConservativeHome showed that their candidates for the general election placed immigration as a middling issue: more important than "help for marriage and the family" but less important than, say, "reducing welfare bills". Further, the Conservatives campaign for new voters, "Ten reasons to vote Conservative" does not list immigration at all. In response, Tim Montgomerie, the editor of ConservativeHome remarked "I'm disappointed it doesn't mention immigration".
It is clear that the right wing of the party regard immigration as a hot topic. There is also a sinister meme working its way around Conservatives that immigration over the last decade has been a deliberate act of gerrymandering by Labour. The idea started at the right-wing pressure group Migration Watch, and propagated by the Daily Telegraph who said "Voting trends indicate that migrants and their descendants are much more likely to vote Labour." Lord Tebbit, on his Telegraph blog, goes a step further, saying:
"All the evidence is that immigrants from the Third World are more likely to vote NuLab than Conservative. So is that what it was all about? Was it the most cynical dirty act of vote-rigging in our history. Was it part of an effort to change the very nature of British society?".
The right-wingers at ConservativeHome illustrated this meme with the image of a line of asylum seekers with the caption I've never voted Labour before, but I will be soon.
Tebbit, of course, was not impressed with Cameron's attitude to immigration. And neither are the grassroots Tories (The Sun survey indicates that 43% of its readers who responded thought that "immigration and asylum" was the most important issue in the election).
With the Tories slipping in the polls, Damien Green, the opposition spokesman on immigration has sought to shore up the Conservative message on immigration by saying that immigration "is out of control", and:
"If you look at the general immigration picture, it shows all the government policies and tough rhetoric are having no affect whatsoever"
He still cannot give the right-wingers the red meat that they desire, but his statements are another take on the "are you thinking what we are thing?" slogan. Green does not say what the right wing want him to say (namely tough restrictions on all immigration including from the EU, and actions to reduce the number of "illegal" immigrants already here), but he is saying "we hear you, trust us, we want what you want".
Are you thinking what I am thinking about what the Conservatives policy on immigration and immigrants will be should they win the election?