Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Michael Howard on immigration

The policies the Tories are putting forward on immigration prove two things. The first is that they do not expect to win the forthcoming general election. The second is that Conservatism, as a coherent political philosophy, is just about dead in Britain. Let me explain.

In order to put into place the annual limit on people granted asylum he proposes, Howard - by his own admission - would have to withdraw from the 1951 United Nations Convention on refugees. Equally, the BBC reports, a spokesman for European Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini has said that the plans would contravene EU asylum policy and the UK could not simply refuse to hear an asylum case.

No doubt it would break many other treaties too. This is not a sign that Britain is now ruled from Brussels or by the UN. It is a sign that. Unless it is North Korea or Hoxha's Albania, then any nation will have taken on numerous reciprocal obligations with other nations that it cannot wish away over night.

Michael Howard is aware of this, of course. Which suggests that his policy is not designed to be put into practice in a few months' time by a Conservative government after the next general election, but is intended to rally the core vote and limit the scale of his defeat.

He should be careful though. Benjamin Netanyahu, much to his surprise, was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1996 on a just such a manifesto and his premiership was a failure as a result.

Then there is the death of Conservatism as a philosophy in Britain. If Conservatives really do believe in the family, the centrality religion and the preservation of established authority, then they should be enjoying an enthusiastic reception for their views from many immigrant communities and renewing themselves from the same source.

As it is, the Conservatives seem to have nothing to say to those communities. This confirms the impression that the Tory Party exists to enable the wealthy to stay wealthy and to pander to the less attractive prejudices of their dwindling membership.

And, as I never miss an opportunity to point out, it is all Mrs Thatcher's fault.

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