IN THE wake of the shocking net migration statistics and immigration levels announced on November 23, the Westminster village and attendant commentariat has completely flipped.
Not only was last year’s net migration of 606,000, announced in May, surpassed with the year to June reaching 672,000, but the number for 2022 was revised upwards to an astonishing 745,000. As Migration Watch UK founder Lord Green said in the House of Lords last week, over the past two years net migration has added up to about the population of Birmingham.
Until this point, the government (with a few exceptions, including Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick and Kemi Badenoch) had bizarrely been deluding itself with the notion that the public were unconcerned about the scale of legal migration. Can they really be so out of touch? Another explanation could be that they are only too aware of how people feel but don’t give a damn.
Indeed, this could be said of the bulk of the political class. Mr Sunak and most of his cabinet clearly thought they could pull the wool over the public’s eyes again on legal immigration if they could claim progress on efforts to Stop the Boats. As we have said time and again, thinking their efforts to stop the illegal crossings would fool people into believing legal immigration would also be tackled was utter poppycock.
Can the bombshell net migration numbers really have taken the Government by surprise? Migration Watch UK has warned again and again that it would happen. Yet all we got from No 10 was contradictory messages. Take, for instance, the PM’s reaction to the numbers a day after the announcement, when he was saying net migration was too high and should come down. Three days later, at an investment summit arranged at his behest, he was extolling the virtues of immigration routes that he himself had introduced. This strikes us as Pushmi-Pullyu immigration policy.
In the House of Commons last Tuesday, Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, said he had prepared a plan to cut immigration which could have been presented to Parliament over a year ago. This, of course, did not happen. Why not? Because, it seems, the Prime Minister and most ministers around the cabinet table did not believe lower immigration was necessary and that the public would accept it. How wrong he was.
Mr Jenrick went on to outline how immigration could have been reduced. But why weren’t the rule changes he described put in place? We can only assume that Mr Jenrick was not allowed to introduce them. The minister went on to say: ‘Net migration [at 672,000] places untold pressure on housing supply and public services and makes successful integration virtually impossible.’ This of course is precisely what MW has been saying for years.
The difference between the clear comments of Mr Jenrick and the obfuscation of his boss, James Cleverly, could not be starker.
According to our new Home Secretary, the Rwanda Plan is not the ‘be all and end all’. In other words, it wasn’t the only club in the bag even if there wasn’t a replacement plan for it in the pipeline. Days later, Sir Matthew Rycroft, the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, appeared to confirm this in saying there was no Plan B [to the Rwanda plan] when giving evidence to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee last Wednesday. Both could have been clearer as to what exactly was meant.
Sir Matthew’s deputy Simon Ridley made matters worse by admitting that they had no idea what had happened to 17,000 people who had withdrawn their asylum claims. Nor did they know how many rejected asylum claimants had been returned to their home country in recent years, foreign national offenders and Albanians aside. This clip from the session is worth watching.