UK General Election 2015 – What do the political parties have to say about Immigration?

With only 37 days left until the UK general election, swing voters remain undecided over party manifestos on the NHS and immigration. Immigration has become one of the hot topics in the run up to the general election, perhaps fuelled by the rise of anti-immigration parties such as UKIP, who won seats in Clacton, Rochester and Strood.

As a result, it seems that party leaders have increasingly become torn between remaining faithful to their party line and pragmatically swaying towards public opinion. So what do political parties have to say about immigration?

Conservative Party

As part of its immigration manifesto, the Conservative Party claims that it will cut ‘benefit tourism’ and only welcome hard-workers who contribute to British society, thus, appealing to anti-EU voters.

The Conservatives have pledged to abolish ‘bogus colleges’ and clamp down on illegal immigration by curbing access to benefits, housing and healthcare. David Cameron also wants to introduce a new citizen test.

Pro-immigration voters such as Sir James Dyson argue that curbing migration would do more damage than good to the UK since there is shortage of skilled workers in certain sectors.

Labour Party

In its manifesto, the Labour Party states that Immigration is crucial for Britain’s future since the British public should be proud of being a diverse nation where migrants contribute to the UK, whether it’s in business, healthcare or education.

Whilst the current manifesto does seem to maintain a pro-immigration undertone, it also mentions phrases such as “controlled immigration” and like the Conservatives, the Labour Party have also pledged to introduce smarter control systems, toughen border controls and only hand out ‘earned’ entitlements.

Liberal Democrat Party

Similar to the Labour Party’s tougher line on Immigration, the Liberal Democrats claim that they will introduce a fair but firm system whilst still valuing the fact that Britain is open to the social and economic benefits that Immigrations brings.

The Liberal Democrats argue that Labour has let Britain down by allowing Immigration to get out of control and that control needs to be brought back by introducing exit checks and ending the detention of innocent children.

UK Independence Party (UKIP)

Well known for its hard line anti-EU stance, UKIP pledge to leave the EU. Under UKIP’s manifesto, migrants would need to support themselves financially through private housing, healthcare and education. UKIP would introduce time limited work permits and a points based system for all future migrants.

UKIP has been criticised for focusing primarily on immigration and its original founder, Alan Sked, is dubious of the party’s morals.

 Public Opinion

It seems that the overall level of understanding regarding the scale of immigration in the UK remains low. Ipsos MORI carried out a survey in 2014 asking the public what they thought the percentage of foreign-born individuals in the UK was. The general public guessed that an average of 31% of people living in the UK were not born here. The actual estimate was more along the lines of 13%. This highlights the fact that voters don’t always vote on what they believe to be true. Voters are also swayed by their family, community and local media’s opinion.