Immigration: Cameron's team finally summons up the courage to use the 'i' word
By BENEDICT BROGAN
Last updated at 10:48am on 28th February 2008
David Cameron put immigration at the heart of his election campaign for the first time last night.
The Tory leader lifted a ban imposed under his leadership by using the “i-word” in a Tory advertising blitz that promises to tackle the issue.
It is part of an ambitious drive to recruit more supporters, which will also use the internet.
New direction: David Cameron cycles to work yesterday. He has to tread a fine line between attracting more supporters by tackling the issue of immigration without the party being seen as racist.
All mention of immigration was removed from Conservative promotions when Mr Cameron took over in 2005, for fear of encouraging claims that the party is racist.
Last night, in the pages of the Daily Mail and elsewhere, the Tory leader broke the taboo with the slogan “Reduce the pressure: Proper controls on immigration so our public services can cope.”
The poster, reproduced on billboards, on the internet and in films, is one of a series of ten promoting Tory policies on a range of issues including the economy, health and crime.
(One of the new series of Conservative Party posters featuring a happy family and the slogan based on the Jimmy Cliff song You Can Get It If You Really Want)
It will delight many in the party who have been clamouring for a more robust message on traditional Conservative concerns.
They were heartened when Mr Cameron spoke out on immigration for the first time last summer by saying he wanted to see migration levels fall.
His willingness to put sensitive issues such as immigration at the centre of his campaign will be seen as proof that he is confident the public is now willing to listen to the party.
The posters are part of 500,000 blitz ahead of the May elections.
It also includes an audacious plan to use the internet as a recruiting sergeant for an army of 1 “Friends of the Conservatives”.
The package is backed by the reggae anthem “You can get it if you really want” by Jimmy Cliff, used to close Mr Cameron's speech to conference last year.
The package of newspaper advertisements, billboards, web messages and a new election broadcast by Mr Cameron promote what he claims is a shift away from “old politics”.
The Tory leader used Prime Minister's Questions to put himself at the head of a public clamour for a clean-up at Westminster.
He lambasted Mr Brown for not doing enough to tackle the problem of MPs' expenses, and challenged him to a televised debate – an offer Mr Brown immediately refused.
Mr Cameron backed the message with an internet appeal released last night on the social networking site Facebook.
It was produced by the Hollywood director Matthew Vaughn who produced the gangster film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
He has been recruited as the party's “creative consultant” as part of a 500,000 ad campaign.
The posters, which use human silhouettes through which blue sky and clouds can be seen, echoes fashionable advertising campaigns like the one to promote the iPod.
The ten themes highlighted by the posters include the economy, the NHS, education, green energy, crime and inheritance tax.
The Tories feel confident for the first time to make a virtue of their economic policies after years of being hesitant to remind voters of Black Wednesday.
The economy poster says: “My money in safe hands: An end to economic incompetence and no more reckless borrowing.”
Under the recruitment scheme, voters are offered a chance to get involved with the party without going to the lengths of becoming a full member and paying the current 25 annual fee.
They can pay as little as 1 to become a Friend of the Conservatives, in what will be seen as an attempt by the party to boost its registered supporters. They will not have voting rights.
Membership is believed to have fallen since Mr Cameron became leader amid growing public disillusionment with politics.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, the Tory campaign supremo, said the idea was to wean the party from its reliance on major donors by developing the kind of grassroots support used in America that has been a particular feature of Barack Obama's campaign.
An unlikely voice for the Tories
Born into poverty, and famous for playing a gun-toting Jamaican drug dealer in a film, Jimmy Cliff hardly makes an obvious lyricist for David Cameron's Tories, not least for his support for legalising cannabis.
Last year his reggae song You Can Get It If You Really Want was played after Mr Cameron's conference speech and it seems to be turning into something of a theme tune for the party.
But its uplifting lyrics don't reflect its use in a shockingly violent gangster movie.
Born James Chambers in rural Jamaica in 1948, by the late 1960s Cliff had built up a considerable following in his home country, Britain and America with a series of successful albums and singles.
This led to his starring role in The Harder They Come, in which the song adopted by the Tories features alongside others by Cliff, such as Many Rivers To Cross.
Released in 1973, when David Cameron was seven years old, the film features Cliff as a reggae singer who comes to Kingston, Jamaica, in the hope of finding fame but is sucked into life as a murderous drug dealer whose notoriety brings him the hit records he craved.
Despite the film's bleak message, a Tory spokesman explained the party's enthusiasm for Cliff's song rested in its message that “if the public really want change, they can have change”.
Cliff, now nearly 60, was less than impressed when informed of its adoption last year, saying: “I'm from the lower class of society and I tend to support them rather than the upper class.”
As far as policies are concerned, he said: “I don't think marijuana should be against the law.”
Mr Cameron will be hoping the message in the lyrics will prove prophetic: “Rome was not built in a day, opposition will come your way; but the hotter the battle you see, it's the sweeter the victory; you can get it if you really want.”
The first political group to adopt the song were the left-wing Sandinistas in Nicaragua, driven from power in the 1990s.
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