- David Cameron promises to slash immigration – Daily Mail, 22 November 2010
- Theresa May reiterates promise in the House of Commons – Financial Times, 19 April 2011
- David Cameron backtracks on immigration policy – Daily Mail, 20 April 2011
David Cameron promised to reduce immigration to ‘tens of thousands’ annually in the Conservative manifesto. The Coalition Agreement stated that the government would introduce a cap on migration, but did not say give a figure.
However, Tory ministers were happy to continue to talk about reducing immigration to tens of thousands after the government was formed, gaining plaudits from the right-wing press in the process. So, for example, in November 2010, the Daily Mail reported:
“David Cameron last night promised to slash immigration by cracking down on rampant abuse of the visa system. He reiterated that he would stick by his election promise that numbers would be cut to ‘tens of thousands’ a year….
“Yesterday the Prime Minister said he was sticking to his promise to reduce net migration to Britain – the difference between the number of migrants arriving and those leaving – to ‘tens of thousands’.”
The Prime Minister allowed other ministers join the bandwagon, as the Financial Times reported:
After repeated pressing on the issue in November  from Labour MPs, Theresa May, the home secretary, even adopted the persona of a character from ’Allo ’Allo!, the television sitcom set in wartime France, to tell parliament: “Listen very carefully. I shall say this only once: we aim to reduce net migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands by the end of this parliament.”
However, the policies impracticalities eventually caught up with Cameron, and the ‘promise’ had to be downgraded in April 2011:
“The PM was asked to confirm on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme whether the ‘tens of thousands’ figure was an aim rather than a policy because it was not mentioned in the coalition agreement.
“He said: ‘I’m not arguing with you about that.’
“He went on: ‘That is the ambition. The coalition agreement is clear about the policies and the policies are concerned with things like how do we stop bogus colleges and bogus students, how do we stop claiming family reunion entry when that’s not really what they’re doing…
‘There are a series of policies – I believe if those policies are put in place, we’ll get back to the levels of immigration we had in the ’80s and ’90s, which is tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands.’”