It’s the economy, stupid.
That was the crude message once delivered to the American electorate, but surprisingly, the economy may be relegated to second place in this country at next May’s general election.
Immigration could now become the principal issue. Jose Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European Union, had this blunt message for the Prime Minister; that a cap on migration within the EU was incompatible with EU law, and would not be allowed.
Barroso also said if Britain did withdraw from the EU its influence in Europe would be “zero”. Tory politicians have been saying this is merely the sort of response you would get from these stubborn, intractable Brussels grandees, whose object in life seems to be to reduce the powers and influence of the British Parliament to that of a mere cipher. Even so, it does demonstrate David Cameron has a mighty and seemingly impossible task to persuade the Brussels mob of the wrongheadedness of their case.
What right have they to tell us that we should accept, uncomplaining, swarms of eastern Europeans to our shores, flooding the jobs market and, in some cases, demanding housing ahead of native Britons? The whole principle is so obviously wrong yet the grandees of Brussels seem totally immune to the logic and common sense with which they are presented on this. Kenneth Clarke has appealed to the Prime Minister to make the economy, rather than immigration, the main issue when the nation goes to the polls. But if Cameron wants to keep the Conservatives in Government, he will ignore this appeal.
Welfare Minister Lord Freud’s clumsily worded remark at a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party conference that some disabled people were probably not worth the minimum wage predictably produced howls of rage and hand-wringing from the do-gooders in our midst. What Miliband and co. failed to think through though was that companies, if they employ disabled people, are compelled to pay them the minimum wage even when these people, through no fault of their own, are incapable of earning it, and therefore could be in danger of going out of business.
Not only that but just as importantly, this might mean fewer disabled people will be employed at all.
However, if Lord Freud makes this point again, he would be well advised to get his words in the right order.