What to do about a problem like migration?

Posted on 5 October 2012

The troubled political terrain that is immigration policy is not going away, writes Max Wind-Cowie, Head of the Progressive Conservatism Project at Demos.

The cap – designed to be the answer to our collective concerns about the level of inward migration – does not look set to succeed in its central task.  What’s more, it can never – could never – do anything particularly about either the question of what happens about immigration from within the EU (over which we have no control) or what we can do to ease some of the cultural tensions that have been caused by two decades of massive and sudden new arrivals.  Even were the Government to achieve its ambition of ‘tens, rather than hundreds, of thousands’ it’s unlikely that the doorsteps of 2015 will be free from worries about immigration.

So what is to be done?  What, in particular, can the Conservative Party take to the British people in their next manifesto to address those concerns?  If the cap does work there will be unanswered questions about integration.  If the cap doesn’t work (which seems likely at the moment) there will be even less trust in the ability of politicians to get to grips with this most thorny issue.  The truth is that the Conservative Party – rather than the coalition Government – needs to start the conversation about what more we can do, and whether we should do it, now.  It’s no good waiting till 2015, that may well prove too late.

That’s why Demos and British Future are co-hosting a unique event at Conservative Party Conference.  On the evening of Monday the the 8th we will be running a ‘Dragon’s Den’ on immigration and integration.  Policy suggestions from a host of thinkers and writers on these issues – including Ed West, Patrick O’Flynn and Ruth Porter of the IEA – will be debated and deliberated on by leading Conservative Party MPs and Peers – including Gavin Barwell MP, Kris Hopkins MP and Lord Popat of Conservative Friends of India.  We’ll also be inviting suggestions and ideas from the audience.

This isn’t an event aimed at the usual suspects from pressure groups and vested interests.  It’s aimed at real, campaigning Tory members – the kind of people who knock on doors and know all too well what irks and troubles voters about immigration and integration.  This is an event about what kinds of policies and messages the Conservative Party can take to voters.  It’s about what’s really desirable, achievable and believable.  And if you have a smart idea about what the Conservative Party needs to say and do on immigration then you are more than welcome to come along, pitch it and have it tested by our ‘Dragons’.

 Max Wind-Cowie is Head of the Progressive Conservatism Project at Demos.

Find out more details about the event here.

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