THE Prime Minister must ditch the pledge to bring net migration down to tens of thousands and instead focus efforts on curbing the number of low-skilled workers heading to Britain to stave off the threat from Ukip, former defence secretary Liam Fox has said.
Dr Fox warned David Cameron he would be guilty of “dangerous complacency” if he failed to address the damage Nigel Farage’s party could do at the ballot box.
The Eurosceptic called for the party to drop the “statistical nonsense” and develop a “clearer narrative” on immigration.
Dr Fox said the Ukip leader, was “personable and reasonable” and that many of his views were shared by “decent and patriotic people”.
It comes after migration experts and rival politicians accused the government of losing its grip on immigration policy as official figures revealed earlier this week that the net flow of migrants into the UK surged year-on-year by more than a third to 212,000 in the 12 months to September 2013.
Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said the figures were “good news for British workers” and showed that the Conservative drive to get net migration under 100,000 – which has never been accepted by the Lib Dem side of the coalition Government – was “unworkable”.
Meanwhile, the Conservative leader of Guildford Council said that he feared the borough would lose its Tory majority for the first time in 12 years and that MP Anne Milton would be defeated at the election because of government policies.
Dr Fox said: “If the Tories are to bring back enough of these voters to win an overall majority at the election, then there needs to be a clearer narrative on immigration, stressing not only the need to restrict numbers, but also to determine which individuals, with what skills enter our country.”
Dismissing the claims, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “In all honesty, whatever the government does to reduce the pull factors that draw people to Britain, as long as there is such an enormous disparity in terms of income per head, there will be an overwhelming incentive for people to move from poorer nations to richer states.”
Mr Farage said: “What Liam Fox and others are saying is baloney.
“Only a third of our vote comes from the Conservatives and when you poll Ukip voters and say, ‘if there was no Ukip candidate, how would you vote?’, less than one in five of them would even consider voting for the Conservatives.
“The reasons the Tories won’t win a majority at the next general election is not because of Europe, it’s because their own voters don’t see David Cameron as a Conservative.”