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Amol Rajan

Amol Rajan is Assistant Editor on the Comment desk at The Independent. He was previously a news reporter and Sports News Correspondent, and writes columns for The Liberal and The Salisbury Review.

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I understand tomorrow night's Panorama will reveal that, according to academics at the London School of Economics, the number of illegal immigrants in the UK has risen drastically to 750,000.
 
It will be interesting to examine the methodology behind this alleged increase.  The new figure compares strikingly with a 2005 Home Office estimate of 430,000.
 
The show is presented by Raphael Rowe.  He is one of the M25 Three, wrongfully imprisoned for 12 years following a spate of murders in 1988.   His show tonight will examine the case for giving an amnesty to illegal immigrants in the UK, as he explains on his blog.
 
This issue has acquired enormous attention partly because Boris Johnson, the Mayor London, made a promise last year to London Citizens to support their Strangers into Citizens campaign.  

It was London Citizens' Living Wage campaign that Johnson also adopted as his own.  Both campaigns had been championed by Johnson's predecessor, Ken Livingstone, and the unlikeliness of Johnson's support for them is testament to the increasing influence of the grassroots charity, part of the Citizen Organising Foundation, in our capital. 
 
The case for an amnesty has been eloquently put in The Spectator by London Citizens' Austen Ivereigh and, more recently, in The Independent by Johnson's head of policy, Anthony Browne.
 
I understand Johnson has given Rowe an extensive interview in which he makes clear his support for the campaign.  It's worth bearing in mind, of course, that Labour are strongly opposed to the idea, and David Cameron has said repeatedly and on the record that he thinks amnesties merely store up problems for the future.

At London Citizens' mayoral public assembly last April 9th I asked Johnson if he would talk to Cameron and his team about the idea.  He responded: "Dave's guys are full of common sense, you know. I'm sure we can work something out".

Johnson has a habit of placating journalists with unrealistic assertions.  It's part of the immense and genuine charm that makes him such an asset to the Tories.  On this issue it seems he has calculated that the personal cost of a split with senior Tories is heavily outweighed by the political benefit of keeping London Citizens' very large constituency base happy.  Plus, of course, he may think it's just the right thing to do.
 
Only the Liberal Democrats, of the three main parties, support the idea.
 
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