JUST four per cent of Britons think Labour immigration policies have been a success for the country, in a fresh blow for beleaguered Gordon Brown. Three-quarters of voters believe 13 years of mass immigration have been a failure, in an exclusive eve-of-election poll for the Sunday Express.
The survey, carried out in the wake of the Prime Minister’s call for an “honest debate” on the subject, shows it is the top issue for one in five voters. The poll reveals that 42 per cent think Labour’s policies on immigration have been “generally a failure” and 33 per cent believe they were “more of a failure than a success”. Eighty-four per cent regard unlimited immigration as bad for Britain.
Fears about Britain’s recession-hit economy emerged as the key issue for 61 per cent but 20 per cent ranked immigration as their chief concern. It outstripped health (which was most important for 11 per cent of voters), education (ranked the number one concern for five per cent) and defence, which was the primary issue for just three per cent.
David Cameron has promised to put an annual cap on net immigration, bringing levels down from 147,000 in 2009 to Nineties rate in the “tens of thousands”.
The poll, carried out by Angus Reid Public Opinion, shows 41 per cent of people back the Conservatives as the party most likely to curb immigration, compared with just 12 per cent who endorsed Labour.
But it is not all good news for the Conservative leader, with 38 per cent of voters not knowing which party would be best at bringing immigration under control.
The Prime Minister reignited the immigration debate last week with a keynote speech urging the nation to conduct an “open and responsible debate” about “who comes to Britain”. His speech was overshadowed by a humiliating rebuke from the Government’s own watchdog, the UK Statistics Authority, which slammed the Prime Minister for misleading claims about immigration.
Mr Brown said voters should choose the party that could best control immigration, not “who can appeal to our worst instincts of nationalism and xenophobia”. His comments enraged the Conservatives and risked the charge of hypocrisy from a man who once pledged “British jobs for British workers” in order to win over the white, working-class vote.
The poll of 1,991 adults put the Tories on 38 per cent of the vote, a commanding 11 points ahead of Labour on 27 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats on 20 per cent. However, on a uniform swing that would still only give the Conservatives a majority of fewer than 10.
Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “I am not surprised that almost the entire country recognises the complete failure of Labour’s immigration policies.
“A Conservative Government would make a big cut in the amount of net immigration into this country every year. We would have a limit on work permits and would insist that anyone who comes here to get married must speak English. We would sort out the student visa chaos and would introduce a specialist border police to fight illegal immigration. “We will be explaining these policies to people over the next few weeks before the election.”
Whitehall documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act last month, revealed that Labour encouraged mass immigration even though it knew voters opposed it.
In his third immigration speech in three years, Mr Brown said last week: “The question is, who has the best plan to control immigration? Not who can appeal to our worst instincts of nationalism and xenophobia but who can appeal to our best instincts of a fairer Britain for all the decent, hard-working families across our country.”