By Ian Dunt
The Conservatives are planning to announce a new attack on immigration or benefits every single week ahead of the general election, under plans formulated by election strategist Lynton Crosby.
The right-wing Australian election chief was reported by the Daily Mail to be pushing for the party to play up its populist credentials with a steady stream of anti-immigrant messaging.
It comes as new plans were revealed to strip benefits from anyone who cannot speak English, with separate efforts to end the printing of welfare information in foreign languages.
The prime minister is also understood to want to end translation services in benefits offices.
The plans were blocked by the Liberal Democrats behind closed doors, clearly prompting Conservatives sources to leak them to the Daily Mail in a bid to drum up support ahead of a planned announcement next week.
Iain Duncan Smith is understood to already be working on them.
"The principle is a good one but it needs to be introduced in a way that’s fair and reasonable," Tory backbencher Liam Fox said.
"If it is, it will meet with general public approval. The ability to speak English is one of the most empowering tools in the labour market and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to learn it."
The scheme comes amid plans to curb benefits for EU migrants who have just arrived in the UK.
The government clearly feels it has tapped into a strong vein of popular thinking on immigration and benefits and it may be tempted to keep up with Crosby's weekly timetable.
But there may be legal challenges against the plans if people are being kept from receiving their entitlements on the basis of their language capability.
Benefits offices currently deal with 140 languages. The Department for Work and Pensions spends £5 million on language services every year.
Plans to focus on the government's increasingly tough anti-immigrant message come despite warnings that a reduction in immigration would make it harder for Britain to pay back its national debt.
Last week, a long-awaited report into benefit tourism also had to be secretly shelved because it failed to find any evidence of it.
By Ian Dunt