Are those Home Office vans targeting illegal immigrants universally disliked? The outcry from when the vans first took to the streets — notably #racistvan on Twitter — would suggest so but new polling from YouGov shows a disconnect between what those in politics and media think and the rest of the country. Over half of those polled this week support the vans, up eight points when last questioned in July:
Two thirds also stated they disagreed that the vans were racist, up five points since the last batch of polling, while only 34 per cent thought they were offensive and stupid. The campaign group Liberty were certainly offended; they were disgruntled enough to commission their own van. Liberty’s van drove around the Home Office building on Marsham Street last week, with a speaker blaring out their concerns:
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) August 6, 2013
David outlined some of the reasons why those in and outside of Westminster were averse to the vans and the logic behind them. Whatever the Home Office’s original purpose was, the vans may have simply preached to the choir on both sides. Those who take a tough view on illegal immigration — of which the polling suggests there are quite a few — will approve and those who think the Tories are evil will have that view reinforced. Danny Kruger, David Cameron’s former speechwriter, has bemoaned the loss of the Prime Minister’s compassionate conservatism, in exchange for this sort of headline grabbing:
‘What was wrong with the vans was that they were not aimed at the people they claimed to be aimed at, but they were plainly aimed at voters. That was objectionable. They have settled for mere headlines: tough on crime, tough on immigrants, cutting taxes.’
With the news that the government will ‘consult with local communities before embarking on such campaigns again’, it appears the naysayers have won, since the Home Office vans won’t be running any more. But this level of support for the vans suggests they were not entirely pointless. Voters now think the government is doing something about illegal immigration, regardless of whether the vans have actually encouraged anyone to ‘go home’. So if voters were the intended audience, then the vans have had their desired effect.