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By Morakinyo Babajide-Alabi
As the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron has his works cut out. By the responsibility of the office, one can repeat the worn out saying of “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” for this young man.
In 2010, Cameron became the youngest UK PM in over 200 years. Although he could not win the desired majority, his party, the Conservatives, went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats to form a government. Cameron may be the youngest Prime Minister in modern day Britain, this has, however, not reduced the expectations placed on his tender shoulders.
Cameron assumed office at the time the world economy was slowly and gradually waking up from recession. This was a season when world leaders wish they could become magicians and turn the fortunes of their countries around by mere political abracadabra. It was not so.
Unfortunately for Cameron and his co-travellers in the new government it was also a period when the British public seem to have lost hope in their leaders. The apathy towards the politicians was highest, attributed mainly to the unsatisfactory long rule of the Labour party.
Apart from the out of shape British economy, Cameron inherited a series of problems that needed urgent attention. Among these were the issues of immigration and welfare. On benefits (welfare), majority of the hard working tax paying Britons were getting disillusioned by the lazy attitudes of some of their counterparts who revelled in milking the state of all types of benefits from their “inactive states.”
The attitude of the citizens to immigration was that of anger and disappointment on the various policies of the Labour Party that had encouraged mass immigration into UK in the thirteen years rule of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The resentment of the populace towards the “open door immigration” policies was historical. Realising this, Cameron knew he had no choice than to tackle it head long.
Immigration was a major issue pre, during and after the elections. As part of the manifestoes, Cameron promised a realistic approach to immigration, especially from non-EEA countries, in his desire to cut down the net migration number. Boldly, he said on BBC’s Andrew Marr show on January 10, 2010: “We would like to see net immigration in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands. I don’t think that’s unrealistic. That’s the sort of figure it was in the 1990s and I think we should see that again.”
Cameron did get down to business on assuming office, by reviewing within a short period, UK immigration laws, in his bid to to put action to his promise. He formulated policies and laws to effectively keep migrants from non-EEA countries out of Britain. Many immigration routes that allow migrants to stay on in the country or become citizens were closed, while toughening up on the few routes available now. Although at the end of the parliament in 2015, Cameron could not accomplish his desire to bring net migration down, he did try his best.
Pre-2010 elections, the clamour of Britons was to have a more secured border to keep non-EEA citizens without any clear cut business out of their shores, in 2015, the attention shifted to their European ‘friends’. Immigration within the European Union became a source of major headache for the citizens and their leaders. Cameron had promised a referendum date on whether to stay in or out of the EU in his second term.
Cameron won the General Elections with an unexpected majority votes that returned him to 10, Downing Street for another five years. Ever since his inauguration, he has been a very busy man going from one end to the other to reassure the electorates that they did not make mistake in voting for him, and that he was ready to deliver once again.
During this “second appearance” Cameron had kept to his promise of negotiating a better reform in favour of UK in the EU. Since April 2015, he has not relented in this bid to secure a better deal.
Cameron knows the yearnings of the British citizens. He knows what matters most to them. It would have been an easy task for him if his brief in this second term was just reassurance. Unfortunately for him, it is more than this. For him to leave a credible impact on the British politics and also earn himself a place in the history books, he knows he must deliver on his promise.
To politicians in this clime, manifestos are not just for winning elections, they are to be implemented. Although in British politics recently, we have witnessed some political “acrobatic” displays. An example is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg who while campaigning promised he would resist any increase in students tuition fees, only to go into a coalition as a Deputy Prime Minister and lost the plot. The electorates did not take it lightly and Mr Clegg and his party suffered a humiliating defeat at the last polls. No thanks to his policy somersault. Unlike Clegg, Cameron seem to understand the importance of honouring party manifestos.
The big issue in the UK, and all European countries right now is immigration. While the citizens of other Europeans countries are struggling with the effect of the influx of immigrants from war zones to their shores, the Britons are indirectly as a result of immigration deciding whether to stay in or out of the union. The average Briton is having sleepless nights over how migrants from EU are daily trooping into their “backyards” to take away their jobs and also take their benefits.
Unlike the government, the common man on the street knows where the immigration shoe is pinching him. He knows that his government’s portrayals of immigrants from the non-EEA as “parasites” is an error in judgement. He may not be able to publicly counter the government’s claim that immigration from outside the EU has little or no economic impact on the British economy, he knows his “enemies” are within and not outside.
He knows the immigrants who are “taking his jobs”, claiming part of his benefits, and making it difficult for him to qualify for a council or housing association property. Despite the harsh policies against non-EU migrants and the drop in their numbers, especially students, the British public did not let up on their clamour for “Britain for Britons”.
The “free uncontrolled movement” of European citizens has always been a source of concern to citizens. It, however, became more aggressive at the turn of the millennium when a few Eastern European countries were admitted to the Union. The hype that these new members were coming to take British jobs did not in any way soothe the nerves of the restless citizens.
David Cameron has been pretty busy visiting the key countries in the Union trying to sell his reform ideas in exchange for Britain’s continued membership. As expected this has not gone down well with other members.
The most contentious of the Prime Minister’s reform is Cameron’s plan to cap the number of EU’s workers in UK and also restrict access to benefits. Some of the EU leaders have publicly spoken against these reforms.
As expected of the Prime Minister, his reforms are borne out of patriotism. But as good as they are, will they harmonise or hurt the union?
Published in the Sunday Vanguard of February 7th 2016. CLICK HERE