Chart of the day: Cameron's migration headache

By adopting an unachievable target, the PM set himself up for failure.

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One of David Cameron's most memorable pledges at the last election was to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands" a year. But as Matt Cavanagh noted earlier on The Staggers, he's made little progress towards that populist goal since.

Today's figures from the ONS (see graph) show that net migration - the difference between the number of people entering and leaving the country - was 250,000 in the year to June 2011, little lower than the peak of 255,000 seen in September 2010.

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The problem for Cameron is that the high level of net migration is driven by two trends - a fall in emigration and a rise in EU immigration - over which he has no control. Had Cameron merely promised to reduce immigration he would have had a good chance of succeeding. Contrary to the claims of the right-wing press, immigration has been stable since 2004. Instead, by adopting an unachievable target, he set himself up for failure.

George Eaton is senior online editor of the New Statesman.