Immigration limits are ‘playing with fire’

Sustainable? The population of the UK has grown by more than 5m since 2001.

A promise to cut migration into the UK to the “tens of thousands” will feature in the Tory manifesto. David Cameron made the same pledge, only to fail. Are politicians’ promises worthless?

Theresa May has indicated that a pledge to reduce net annual migration to the tens of thousands would feature in the Conservative manifesto ahead of the upcoming general election.

The promise was originally made by David Cameron in 2010. Every year he failed to meet his target.

May’s decision to stick to the promise was attacked from both the left and the right. The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called the target “artificial”, while UKIP slammed the Tories for failing to keep past promises on immigration.

Politicians who make bold promises know they are playing with fire. The Lib Dems’ pledge to oppose any increase to tuition fees, which were raised when they entered a coalition government with the Tories, led to furious protests.

Writing in The Spectator, Isabel Hardman believes that broken promises are a key reason why people, who have a “childlike sense of justice”, mistrust politicians.

But writing in The Atlantic, Brian Goldsmith points out that the majority of political promises are, in fact, kept. Barack Obama “delivered on about 70%t of his 2008 and 2012 campaign promises”.

Should the unfulfilled pledges dampen our faith in politics?

Let’s be honest

Yes they should, say many indignant voters. Politicians who make promises they do not keep are flat-out dishonest. Radical promises are easy enough to announce, but voters want to see action. If politicians scaled back their proposals to achievable goals, people would to trust them.

“Minds change, circumstances alter,” reply others. It is unrealistic to expect politicians to keep every single promise they make, and actually the vast majority are kept. Such scepticism feeds into a dangerous mentality that says politicians are all liars. They do their best, so let’s not hold them to impossibly high standards.

You Decide

  1. How much do you care about politicians breaking their promises?

Activities

  1. Class debate: “This house believes we should be less harsh on politicians.”

Some People Say...

“Politicians promise to build bridges even where there are no rivers.”

Nikita Khrushchev

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is understood that a pledge to reduce net migration to the UK to the “tens of thousands” will again be included in the Conservative manifesto. Migration to the UK has soared in the last 20 years, becoming one of the most divisive issues in politics.
What do we not know?
Whether the pledge really is achievable. Many insist that immigration is vital to the British economy.

Word Watch

Manifesto
The party manifestos — statements of proposed policies — are expected to be published next week.
Failed to meet his target
Net migration into Britain in 2015 was 332,000 — a record.
Protests
The focal point of the protests, which took place in November and December of 2010, was a series of marches in Central London. Outbreaks of violence at some of the protests were widely condemned in the media and divided the student movement over the use of such tactics.

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