Even by its recent standards, the government got itself into a monumental muddle with its botched figures a week ago on immigrants and jobs.
It's pretty clear that, first, it doesn't have a clue how many people are coming into the country and, second, that (however many of them there are) they're snapping up more than half the new jobs created.
As you know yourself when you try to find a plumber.
So Gordon Brown's injudicious statement at the Labour conference that he was about "British jobs for British workers" is looking ill-advised in the extreme.
All very good for David Cameron and the Tories, you might think, but not really.
Already he's had to fire an over-enthusiastic candidate who praised the late Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech (Enoch was a keen classicist, he was referring to the River Tiber in Roman times).
But immigration is exactly the kind of issue that will get Tory backwoodsmen pouring out of the forest rattling their prejudices.
Which is not good for Cameron as he tries to attract Labour and Liberal Democrat voters.
For the media, it's a tough one too because, despite some opinions to the contrary, the denizens of our right-wing press do not regard "extermination" as the answer to the immigrant issue.
For The Sun and the Mail and the Telegraph it's actually quite difficult.
They're perfectly happy to give the government a shoeing over its policy shortcomings and inability to count, but they're nervous of fanning populist hostility to immigrants.
It may sell a few more copies at the time but it doesn't read well after the event. And most of these people happily hire Polish plumbers and accept their life-threatening glasses of wine from Lithuanian barmaids.
As for the liberal papers (and the BBC) their instinct is to regard any discussion of immigration as the thin end of the wedge.
We've heard a lot about the "Israel lobby" recently, the well-connected group of people on both sides of the Atlantic who immediately condemn any criticism of Israel as racist.
Well it's a bit like that for the Guardian and the Indy with immigration. Where will it all lead, they wonder?
It would be nice to think that the two views could somehow meet in the middle, with the rightwingers veering towards calm and moderation and the lefties admitting that there may be a bit of a problem, with the UK looking at a population of 70m-80m in a couple of decades' time.
Immigration also puts the London papers on the spot to a degree. London is a multicultural society and rubs along pretty happily for the most part.
The Tory shires, however, are anything but. On a visit last week to the Dorset coast and manicured Sherborne in the heart of the county, I didn't see a single black face.
So the old conundrum about how much you lead your readers and how much you follow them is a real issue in the immigration debate.
It would be handy if the government could come up with a credible policy that everybody could, to a degree, rally behind (even the Torygraph and Mr Cameron).
Now there's a challenge for Gordon Brown and his "vision".
This article was first published on brandrepublic.com