Letter from London - That Van

The Home office recently conducted a pilot scheme which they claimed was to encourage illegal immigrants to surrender themselves or face arrest and deportation. The campaign involved huge advertising boards on vans which were driven around busy London boroughs with significant ethnic minority populations. Six boroughs were involved in the pilot: Barnet, Hounslow, Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, Brent and Redbridge.

The scheme, promptly dubbed #racistvan on twitter has opened divisions in the coalition government with the deputy PM Nick Clegg insisting that not a single member of his Liberal Democrats party was involved in or knew anything about the pilot. His fellow senior Lib Dem, Vince Cable said the whole thing was “stupid and offensive”.

There are observers who see in this Home Office plan a clever ploy by the Conservatives to woo back the voters that they have lost in recent years to the UK Independence Party. It does the Tories' poll ratings no harm if they are portrayed as being actively responsive to voters' genuine concerns over immigration. It is also said that Home Secretary Theresa May remains ambitious for conservative leader's position. Her vans will shore up her support among the new right of the 2010 Tory intake.

Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems may also benefit from this plan. They were quick to distance themselves from this government measure and this should play well with the many voters who abandoned them when they joined the coalition.

The Labour party under Ed Miliband is portrayed as weak in failing to effectively challenge a government scheme that has brought much anger in traditionally Labour supporting boroughs. The party has a tight rope to walk as it tries to attract white working-class voters who may have gone over to the BNP and other ant-immigration parties

The Government will study the results of the study and hope to roll-out the advertising campaign across the country in the next few months...

Random facts

The Office for National Statistics said that immigration accounted for just around 40 per cent of the year-on-year-growth, with almost 520,000 foreigners moving to Britain the 12 months to June 2012.

Overall there were 813,200 births, the highest number in a single year since 1972.

More than a quarter of the 813,200 newborn babies have a foreign-born mother compared with only one in six a decade earlier.