THE COALITION was thrown into confusion last night after business secretary Vince Cable came out to criticise Prime Minister David Cameron’s stance on immigration and then later said he backed government migration policy.
Cable said that Cameron’s promise to limit immigration to “tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands” was “very unwise” and “risks inflaming extremism”.
Asked if this meant that he did not support his own government’s policy of an annual 20,700 visa cap for non-EU workers, Cable backtracked, saying: “We are completely united behind the immigration policy.”
The business secretary’s intervention comes as top Tories and Liberal Democrats seek to position themselves for local elections on 5 May.
A spokesman for deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also criticised Cameron: “It’s not the language the deputy Prime Minister or any Liberal Democrat would use in a speech about immigration.”
The coalition partners are keen to distinguish themselves and appeal to their bases during the campaign, with Cameron telling voters in Hampshire – a key Tory/Lib Dem battleground – that “for too long, immigration has been too high”.
But he added: “Our country has benefitted immeasurably from immigration.”
After business criticised its original policy earlier this year, the government decided to exempt those earning over £150,000 from its visa cap.