Lots of people are talking about the 45-minute interview with David Cameron on Newsnight which can be watched here. I watched it yesterday and I was quite impressed with the way he handled himself, and when Stephanie Flanders asked him about the married tax allowance thing his response was well handled.
However, it appears that the headline stuff from the interview across the papers is all about his comments on immigration. Most of the coverage is positive and there appears, at least to me to be very little of what you would normally expect when a Tory leader talks about immigration.
As most people know, there is a very quick knee-jerk tendancy on the Left and amongst Labour supportered to say that whenever a Tory talks about immigration they are actually doing so because of latent racism.
In the 2005 the party shot itself in the foot by saying "it's not racist to talk about immigration" because whilst the statement is true, it highlighted the subject of race at the same time, which I think, for many people actually had the opposite effect.
There's no doubt that the conflation of of immigration and racism whenever a Tory talks about is intellectually lazy but also politically expeident to do, but its interesting to note that even LabourHome have not started screaming racist (yet) and are wondering whether Cameron has detoxed the party brand enough to make it through.
The thing is they're actually missing a trick on this one I think. It's not about whether Cameron has made the brand better and so can talk about it. You have to look at what he said to realise that actually, it was a brilliant piece of triangulation against Labour and the traditional Left.
Cameron's decision to frame the question of immigration around the idea of its potential impact on the public services makes the possibility of the instant knee-jerk charge of racism very difficult for Left to do. After all, if they just reject his comments out of hand they are effectively saying they don't care about the quality of the public services, and they're not going to do that now are they?
What Cameron has done is take the immigration question, quite rationally, into the Labour heartland and framed it entirely around their totemic policy areas and goals. Asking what the impact of too much immigration has on the service quality of hospitals, schools, and housing - whilst simultaneously stressing that the question is not about current immigrants but newcomers only - puts the Labour Party in a very difficult position to disagree.
The result is that, the answer to the question LabourHome put of "Can Cameron hold onto the centre-ground whilst talking about immigration?" is undoubtedly, yes. The position he has outlined is one not based on "bloody immigrants diluting our Britishness" but "what will lack of control on these numbers do to our vital public services?".
It's a classic traingulated and centrist position, and an excellent piece of manoevering to nullify the intellectually lazy charge that whenever a Tory mentions immigration he must secertly be a member of Combat 18.