Net migration figures present collision between facts and feelings for Sunak
Net migration figures have hit record highs – to the surprise of precisely no one.
Expectation management is a vital piece of the political toolkit. That much-touted 1,000-seat loss in the local election results was brought out in advance as an over-the-top figure designed to give the electorate a happy surprise – but, to the Conservative’s horror, it soon became a reality.
And just as the memory of that night begins to fade from public consciousness, another example of the perils of delving too far into the CCHQ crystal ball has emerged.
No matter what the spin – and the reality of a 606,000 figure is in fact much lower than the 1m prediction suggested by some outliers – the reality remains that if voters want to see numbers falling, a rise, never mind how small, undoubtedly represents a problem.
That is so even if it is not a problem for employers – some of whom are desperate for staff to work in agriculture, construction and hospitality – or for the wider economy, which benefits from downward inflation pressure and higher growth potential when the workforce is boosted.
But for politicians, who dwell in the plane of actual reality but also the somewhat woollier world of national imagination, the challenge is to weave facts and feelings into a coherent narrative.
The facts are we all suffer when vacancies go unfilled – our fruit is unpicked and our lorries slow to a standstill. Yet despite this, the feeling – for many in Britain – is that pledges to get immigration down have been broken. Blame Cameron, blame May, blame whoever you like, but what sticks in voters’ minds are unkept promises.
Notably more at home when faced with a pivot table than his predecessor, Mr Maths-to-18 will no doubt be keenly aware of this fact.
And while the Prime Minister is often dismissed as a merely managerial leader, the fact that Suank backed Brexit indicates that he is more politically savvy than he’s often given credit for.
Whether Sunak, who often emits the vibe of having been media trained by CBeebies, can communicate that contradiction effectively, remains the key question of his premiership.