Immigration and asylum policy under Cameron's Conservatives
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This article draws on party documents and media coverage in order to consider the degree to which ‘modernisation’ is evident in Conservative immigration policy during the last decade, separating that policy into four areas: economic, students, family and asylum. It concludes that, after nearly two years of virtual silence on the issue intended to help David Cameron ‘detoxify’ the Tory brand, the outstanding feature of Conservative immigration policy since late 2007 has been the ratcheting up of hard-line rhetoric and policies – this despite an initial stress on distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigration designed to placate both traditionalists, on the one hand, and modernisers and business backers, on the other. The move towards restriction accelerated after the party entered government and as concerns about UKIP mounted. Family migration policy is hardly a shining example of ‘compassionate Conservatism’, although aspects of the latter are clearly visible in the government’s treatment of particular groups of asylum applicants. Meanwhile, chronic internal tensions on both economic and student migration remain unresolved. Moreover, despite its increasingly restrictive measures, the party missed its target of reducing net annual migration ‘to the tens of thousands’ – in part because it was ultimately unwilling to abandon freedom of movement within the EU.