Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cameron triangulates Labour on immigration

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.


Anonymous said...

Despite the general balls up CCHQ make over things, they DO have some very smart people. The line on immigration is merely the start of a series of " lines" that effectively take away the possibility of Labour attack

Anonymous said...

(I'm the one that posted that article on Labour Home)
I think you're right about the clever way in which Cameron framed the debate, but I still think my point stands. This is the first test of whether Cameron's detox of the Tory brand - has he done enough for people to bring themselves to listen long enough to notice the framing?

It's not like Michael Howard was calling for deportation or banging on about ""bloody immigrants diluting our Britishness" in 2005. He framed the immigration debate in exactly the same way - around pressure on public services and housing. But the Tory brand was so toxic (and compounded by the posters which, admittedly, wont happen next time) that people didn't listen long enough to notice Howard's framing

dizzy said...

I disagree with your assessment of Howard. In 2005 the debate was framed around the poster campaign "it's not racist to talk about immigration". By mentioning race it instantly opened the way for the charge of secretly being racist, which was evident in the graffiti campaign against the posters.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what you're saying, I just think that people see the framing through the prism of the brand. The "Not racist to talk about immigration" posters weren't about the framing, they were meant to address the brand ("We know you think we're racist, but we're not"). Unfortunately (for the Tories) they simply reminded people about what they disliked most about the brand.

After all, if Labour had put up those posters, there wouldn't have been nearly the same backlash since, due to their brand, people would be more likely to give Labour the benefit of the doubt over race.

Chris Paul said...

That's right Dizzy, we're always saying Cameron is a disgusting Combat 18 race warrior.

What we do say is:

"you dog whistle if you want to, LOL is not for dog whistling".

dizzy said...

OH ffs, you're such a tit. Thanks for proving the point with the dog whistle crap though.

Anonymous said...

So it's OK for Margaret Hodge (Labour MP for Barking and its BNP Cllrs) to talk about problems with immigration, but it's dogwhistle stuff if a Conservative does?

Anonymous said...

Is it Paulist to ask for Chris Paul's deportation. The guy is one serious arsebore.

. said...

Was a bit disappointed recently and the press coverage was poor (as you'd expect with this time of year). I feel a lot more positive now after this interview and can't wait for the party to get down to business after the recess.

James Higham said...

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.

I think this is on the money and can't go along with jm above about the brand.

Anonymous said...

Just highlighting the ignorance of BBC journalists:

About 20:20, the interviewer says something like

"...but by saying you want to tear up the Human Rights Act, aren't you telling the other members of the EU that you don't believe in the ideals of the EU."

That would be valid, but the HRA, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights is a Council of Europe document and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the European Union.

Anonymous said...

i wrote to DC and suggested this strategy 2 years ago. its not rocket science

Anonymous said...

It's a shame Tim 'Look at me, look at me, I'm the official voice of the Tories!' Montgomery is going around saying this is a shift to the right. Well done, Tim, let's do Labour's work for them.

kinglear said...

cc - precisely. Quite rightly they have kept their heads down during the "Brown bounce" - almost certainly gone now. And the Tories do better in the polls when DC is out front. I think the next lot will be most interesting. Brown has fired all his best shots to get the bounce. What does he do for an encore? Try to shore up the economy would be a good trick.

Anonymous said...

Damn right. Cameron handled all those tricky questions in a calm and moderate way.

Hopefully people will read the small print and take in the bit about public services.

Ralph said...

Pauline: 'That's right Dizzy, we're always saying Cameron is a disgusting Combat 18 race warrior'.

Any party that attacks a Jew whose grandmother died in Auschwitz with lines like ‘whiff of the gas chambers’ has lost any high ground.

Mountjoy said...

Brilliant analysis, as always, Dizzy.

The 'Four Assassins' sent to slaughter Mr Cameron on Newsnight last night were unable to get their arrows out of their quivers. When they did, the Flanders "I'm a loan parent" arrow missed. The immigration arrow didn't penetrate the Cameroonian Armour, and he played a blinder in response, as you rightly point out.

I read the Labour Home article yesterday and though, gosh, that's sympathetic: because he's not taking the Michael Howard approach. This week we've seen David Cameron at his finest and he has shown the public that he would make a splendid prime minister.

Which is the last thing Labour, the Beeb and the Grauniad wanted!