06 May 2010

UK immigration a “sleeper issue” in election

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UK immigration as be declared a “sleeper issue” by UK election watchers in the close 2010 campaign.

The Conservative Party in the UK has promised “a big society”, while the beleaguered Labour Party pledges that no child will live in poverty by 2020.

UK immigration is being described as “a sleeper issue”, with both parties drawing policy ideas from Australia although neither party is talking about the severe budget cuts likely after the election, because of the massive government deficit.

Dr James Jupp at the Australian National University, a seasoned British election watcher, recently appeared on the Australian radio station ABC discussing the election along with Dr Frank Bongiorno of the Menzies Centre of Australian Studies at King’s College London.

In the article “Immigration, race and the British Election”, published on inside.org.au, Dr Jupp raised the history and context of modern UK immigration debates.

“In general elections political issues are often reduced to just a few: the competence of the sitting government; the state of the economy and especially of unemployment, health and education; the personality of national party leaders; and a few random issues raised during the campaign, mainly by the media. Since the 1950s that last category has often included debate about the level and origins of immigration and consequent changes in the ethnic composition of the population,” Dr Jupp wrote.

“These concerns often erupt unexpectedly and the major parties try to sidestep them as too combustible and unpredictable.”

Unusually, the 2010 UK election have seen British politicians and bureaucrats finally acknowledged the muddle in immigration policy and advocate adopting an “Australian” approach – requiring a points system emphasising skills, like the one used in Australia since 1979, and a registration system for arrivals and departures used in Australia and many other countries.

This change to a more rigorous control over immigration should alleviate anxieties , and will be implemented by whichever party wins office on 6 May, Dr Jupp wrote.


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