Despite the Tories' high-profile "economic launch", the polls still show that, on the economy, Labour is miles ahead. No wonder even Lynton Crosby, the Tories' campaign boss, is reported as saying that they have no chance of winning the next election.
Michael Howard also knows that he can't win, but desperate men take desperate measures. So we had his "immigration" announcement. This had nothing to do with race at all. We know this because no one in the Labour government said that it did. It was a depressing response. "Howard
can't do this because of the cost" has to be one of the most ineffective rebuttals new Labour has come up with. It was left to people like my ex-student comrades Trevor Phillips and David Aaronovitch to put the case against the Tory leader properly. Tony Blair has surrendered all ground on this issue to sections of the media that once thought Hitler was a good thing.
Howard chose his words carefully so that he could claim he wasn't playing with race. But we all know that "newcomers" means black and Asian people. I'm a "newcomer" to the Scottish Highlands, as are thousands from eastern Europe and Asia. Without these people the Highland economy would grind to a halt, as would Scotland's as a whole. That is why most politicians north of the border don't hide from putting the case for immigration.
I was being driven in a minicab in London the other day by one of Howard's "newcomers" and he said: "What I would really love is for there to be a general strike of all first- and second-generation immigrants. The whole country would close down and Howard and every racist bigot would be forced to shut up." You don't often get common sense from a cabbie.