Voters Swing towards Tories over Immigration Policy
Peter Riddell and Rosemary Bennett, The Times (UK), Apr. 6
TONY BLAIR comes under fresh pressure on immigration today as a Times poll shows that threequarters of the public want new restrictions on the numbers entering Britain.
As the Prime Minister prepares for an emergency meeting to try to restore public confidence in the system, the Populus poll for The Times indicates that support for more immigration depends on the Government introducing tight conditions on entry.
The public rejects both a completely open-door policy and an absolute closed door.
This afternoon’s Downing Street meeting is intended to show that ministers are getting a grip on the system and ending the abuses that have cost one minister her job.The poll was taken over the weekend, after Beverley Hughes resigned as a Home Office minister. The issue threatens to wipe out progress that the Government has made with voters on cutting asylum numbers.
Support for Labour has slipped by two points since early March to 34 per cent, its lowest since the last general election. This is level pegging with the Tories, who are unchanged this month. Michael Howard’s rating as Tory leader has risen sharply in the past month although he is still behind Mr Blair.
The poll also shows the Conservatives more in touch with the public mood on immigration than the Government. The Tories are just ahead, on 24 against 22 per cent, as the party closest to the public’s views on immigration and asylum. The Liberal Democrats stand at 11 per cent.
Tory policies are preferred by middle class groups. Tory supporters (72 per cent) are more enthusiastic about their own party’s immigration policies than are Labour voters (53 per cent) about Government policies. This is a potentially serious area of vulnerability for Labour.
Populus mentioned the British National Party but only 4 per cent said that it was closest to their view. This includes 6 per cent of unskilled workers and of Lib Dem supporters. Restricted immigration was supported by 73 per cent. This divided equally between those arguing that “Britain should welcome all new immigrants as long as they can support themselves” and those saying “let in a small number of immigrants with specific skills our economy needs”.
Tory voters are more inclined to favour the specific skills option (44 per cent) over letting in all new immigrants able to support themselves (33 per cent). Less than a fifth of voters (18 per cent) believe in an absolute closed-door policy but this includes a qaurter of both unskilled workers and those aged over 65.
Just 6 per cent favour a completely open-door policy welcoming all who wish to come here. Middle class people are slightly more favourable to this than working-class groups.
Populus interviewed 1,045 adults by telephone between April 2 and 4.
The Populus poll is online here.