Steven Swinford and Matthew Holehouse, Telegraph, October 12, 2014
Quotas for European immigrants must be considered to help win back Conservative voters who have turned to Ukip, Boris Johnson says.
The Mayor of London says in an article for The Telegraph that people are “furious” because the immigration system is “out of control” and has become a “magnet for the hordes at Calais”.
Mr Johnson says most UK Independence Party voters, or “kippers”, aren’t “wicked” or racist but simply want to end the “madness” of Britain’s lack of border controls. He says David Cameron is the “only man” who can deliver the changes that Ukip voters want by restoring control over Britain’s borders.
His intervention comes after senior Conservatives warned Mr Cameron that he could face a leadership challenge if the party loses a second seat to Ukip next month. A Cabinet minister said defeat in Rochester could prompt a vote of no confidence in Mr Cameron, leading to a “damaging” leadership challenge in the run-up to the general election in May next year.
Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, increased the pressure after he warned that the by-election could cost David Cameron or Ed Miliband their jobs.
Polls at the weekend suggested that one in four people could vote Ukip at the general election after the Tories suffered a bruising by-election defeat in Clacton, Essex. Research suggests that four Tory MPs would be more likely to retain their seats next May if they defected to Ukip.
The Eurosceptic party has predicted further defections by Tory and Labour MPs in the run-up to the election.
Mr Cameron will head to Rochester this week to galvanise Tory support ahead of the by-election next month, brought on by the defection of Mark Reckless.
His visit will mark the start of six weeks of frenetic campaigning in Kent. The Tories are expected to “throw the kitchen sink” at the seat in an attempt to head off the Ukip surge.
Unlike Clacton, where the Conservatives were resigned to defeat, the party believes it can win Rochester.
However, opinion polls have put Ukip nine points ahead in the by-election.
Mr Johnson’s intervention is the first stage in a tough new message from the Conservatives on Europe and immigration designed to stop Ukip stealing more of their support base.
The proposals are likely to be at the heart of the Conservatives’ plans to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union ahead of a proposed in-out referendum in 2017. Mr Johnson says that under current laws Britain is powerless to prevent large numbers of people from all over the EU coming to Britain. He says: “The voters aren’t fools. They have spotted the incoherence–and what they object to is not so much the immigrants themselves; what makes people angry is the sense that the whole thing is out of control.
“Britain is now the America of the EU; the place people want to come; the magnet for the hordes at Calais.
“It is only reasonable for us to have some kind of further protections–involving points or even quotas, agreed with business–so we can manage that pressure.
“It would be madness to close our borders to talent; but it is also madness to continue with a system that means we have no idea how many are coming or what burdens they place on the state.” The Mayor of London says that “kippers” are not “automatically racist” because they are concerned about immigration.
He said: “It is true that the kippers are fed up with things as they are, and it is true that the number one issue they mention–publicly and privately–is immigration.
“I am not sure it follows that they are all racists who want to kick everyone with a brown face and send the last Polish plumber back to Poland.”
He says most Ukip supporters would speak favourably about the Albanian family that runs a restaurant which does a “nice spaghetti alle vongole”, the construction workers who build homes and the nurses on whom the NHS depends.
He says that the concern of Ukip voters is not about immigrants who “come here, work hard, learn to speak English and make their lives in this country”.
However, they are concerned about the “speed of change” and politicians who “keep dissembling”.
He says Tony Blair is the “first and biggest culprit” for failing to implement border controls when eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004.
“The surge of energy and talent was, of course, a boon to British business and industry but it was a direct attack on Labour’s core vote,” he says.
“Workers found their wages suppressed and were accused of bigotry if they complained.”
In an interview on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC 1, Mr Johnson suggested that Mr Cameron had committed a “deception” by claiming he could reduce net migration to “hundreds of thousands” of people a year.
The Mayor of London said it was “critical” that the Prime Minister made ending free movement from the Continent “number one” in his renegotiation of EU membership.
He said the Prime Minister should win an opt-out on free movement and introduce an Australian-style points system for immigrants.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has been warned that he could face a “bloodbath” tonight from his own MPs after his party came within 600 seats last week of losing the seat of Heywood and Middleton to Ukip.
Labour MPs have accused Mr Miliband of failing to reach out beyond his “north London comfort zone” to address the needs of ordinary voters.