The Tories have been trailing Labour in the polls for months but now things are starting to look really dire. The latest YouGov poll has them on 20 percent – a full 27 points behind Labour. What’s more, a seat projection based on this poll yields an overwhelming Labour majority, with the Tories winning just 12 seats. Electoral oblivion, in other words.
How did Britain’s ‘natural party of government’ lose the support of so many voters? Listing their policy failures certainly isn’t difficult: lockdown, vaccine mandates, Russia sanctions, Net Zero etc. But one issue really stands out: immigration.
After all, most of those other policies were reasonably popular with the party’s base. Many conservatives were in favour of lockdown, in favour of vaccine mandates, in favour of Russia sanctions and in favour of Net Zero. But one policy they’ve consistently opposed is mass migration.
Ever since David Cameron announced before the 2010 election that he would limit immigration to “tens of thousands a year”, the Tories have been promising to do just that. And they’ve utterly – utterly – failed.
Here’s a chart plotting net migration to the UK; four separate pledges the Tories have made to bring immigration down to the “tens of thousands” are highlighted. As you can see, these pledges were completely worthless. Net migration remained above 200,000 throughout the entire period. And as a matter of fact, it has since risen above 500,000.
When you promise to reduce immigration and then what you actually do is massively increase immigration, your voters aren’t going to be happy. Now, it’s true that Labour’s migration policy isn’t any different. But the public is closer to Labour on issues like housing and the NHS. So when they have to choose between two parties with identical migration policies, they’re going to pick the one they like more on other issues.
By repeatedly breaking their promises on immigration, the Tories have lost the trust of much of their base. Back in 2010, 45% of Britons said the Conservatives would be best at handling immigration. Over the succeeding 14 years, that number has fallen to just 16%. Today, more Britons say Labour would be best. And only 34% of Conservative voters say the Conservatives would be best at handling immigration – compared to 75% back in 2020.
We know that immigration matters. It’s the third most important issue to Britons overall – behind health and the economy. And it’s the single most important issue to Conservative voters (a position it has occupied for much of the last thirteen years). Conservatives have been voting Tory on the assumption that this time they’ll reduce immigration, and each time the Tories have let them down. After a while, voters start to learn.
It’s not as if reducing immigration is some enormous technical challenge, like developing nuclear weapons or landing a man on the moon. Czechia, Slovenia and Hungary manage to maintain much lower rates of net migration than Britain – and they don’t have the advantage of being surrounded by water.
The Tories simply refuse to implement their own policies. As Twitter user Lucius Winslow notes, “Even faced with electoral annihilation, with personal unemployment for many of them and humiliation for their leadership they *still* won’t act in the interests of their own base.” They may soon be replaced by a party that will.