2015 starts now: Tories get tough on scroungers and immigrants
Theresa May has infuriated the judges – but it's music to the ears of Tory election guru Lynton Crosby
THERESA MAY'S latest attack on judges – for making Britain's streets more dangerous by allowing foreign criminals to dodge deportation because they have the right to a family life - has produced the expected howls of indignation from the judiciary who accuse her of undermining the rule of law. But the headlines will have delighted David Cameron's election team.
On Thursday, Cameron is to hold a secret election planning summit at Chequers with Chancellor George Osborne, chief of staff Ed Llewellyn and his newly appointed Australian election guru Lynton Crosby, who has wants a crackdown on welfare scroungers and immigration to be at the heart of the Tory offer to voters in 2015.
Judging by May's intervention, Crosby is well on track with his strategy. May used an article in the Mail on Sunday to denounce judges for sticking religiously to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
May says the judges are ignoring new guidelines issued last July which made it clear that the right to a family life was only qualified. In a nutshell, she is complaining that some judges have "got it into their heads that Article 8 … is an absolute, unqualified right".
She accused them of subverting British democracy and vowed to bring in a new law to override the ECHR and make it clear that deportation should be the norm in all but the most "extraordinary circumstances".
The Home Secretary may have upset the judges, but she knows she has put her finger right on the G-spot for many Middle England voters who are sick of Daily Mail headlines saying foreign criminals cannot be deported.
May's attack brought an instant reaction from Baroness Helena Kennedy, the Labour-supporting lawyer and human rights campaigner, on the Marr Show yesterday.
Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice, also weighed in against May, saying in The Times today that here remarks were damaging and "undermined the rule of law".
These howls of indignation will be music to Lynton Crosby's ears.
Only last week, David Cameron announced at Prime Minister's Questions that the government will look at "every single one of our systems" to ensure that people he called "benefits tourists" are not taking advantage.
Yesterday, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith promised to "shut the door" to migrants wanting to come to Britain to live on benefits – even those from other EU countries, such as Romania.
IDS's proposed measures might include requiring people to show they have put down roots here before claiming state help. Under the "habitual resident test", migrants could be required to show they had leased a home in this country for a year before being entitled to benefits.
Duncan Smith also revealed that Britain is doing battle with Brussels over the "completely crackers" rules that see £1 million a week in welfare payments sent to children who live abroad while their migrant parents work in this country.
Speaking on the Marr Show, Duncan Smith said: "My view of life is simple – we make sure our door is shut to those who want to come and claim benefits and is open to those who want to come and contribute and work and make this economy good and strong."
Meanwhile David Cameron is travelling to India where he will make it clear that there is no bar to Indian students wanting to study in Britain and that visas will be given freely to Indian investors wanting to invest in UK businesses. In short, you are welcome to come to Britain if you have the money.
All of which has rung alarm bells with some Tory supporters who don't want the Conservatives to fight the next election as the Nasty Party.
Peter Hoskin, associate editor of the Tory grassroots website ConservativeHome, yesterday warned the party to "resist falling back on lazy and pernicious rhetoric about 'shirkers' and 'scroungers'. Not only does this overlook the broader truth of the situation… it also denies the moral impetus behind Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms, which is to help the workless back into the labour market."
Hoskin concluded: "There is a more general concern, too. Mr Cameron recently told his MPs that the Tories' focus at the next election will be on aspiration and on 'raising the nation up'. This can certainly overlap with a tough line on welfare dependency; less obviously so with immigration. There's a risk that an essentially positive message will be muddied, perhaps even overwhelmed, by something more negative."
Ed Miliband could not have put it better himself. ·