If Nigel Farage can mobilise voters around immigration issues, the unseating of Conservative MPs will be the least of our worries (Senior Tories risk losing seats if Nigel Farage returns to politics, experts say, 25 December). Postwar Labour governments have been easily spooked by agitation on immigration.
The groundwork was laid in Harold Wilson’s white paper Immigration from the Commonwealth. Thereafter, Labour participated in the “dutch auction” on immigration, passing the 1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act and the 1969 Immigration Appeals Act. Labour was drafting the explicitly racist measures which became the 1971 Immigration Act under the Ted Heath government.
Tony Blair’s government gave us the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act, followed by four more acts on asylum and immigration, while the 2004 Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act brought the border inland to define eligibility to services. Meanwhile, Labour built three new detention centres for migrants and asylum seekers.
Whatever benefits flow from the loss of Tory seats at the next general election, the ending of the downward spiral on immigration policy will not be one of them.
Emeritus professor, department of sociology, social policy and criminology, University of Liverpool