Ed’s aides failed him on anti-Ukip strategy

by Callum Anderson

Whilst Nigel Farage was throwing back pints of lager and glasses of wine and champagne on Channel 4, Ed Miliband and his closest aides were reeling from yet another awkward episode on immigration.

On a day that was supposed to represent an opportunity for the leader of the opposition to portray himself as the prime minister in-waiting, what instead occurred was a series of deflections by Miliband about that document, culminating in him entirely distancing himself from it.

In short, Miliband’s closest aides failed him.

Yet it wasn’t through actually leaking the 33-page private strategy document that failed him. It was the contents of that document which did.

Whilst the document correctly identifies immigration as the issue people most often cite when explaining support for UKIP, it makes several mistakes insofar as stating that any messaging around immigration should always be done in conjunction with other policy areas, such as health and housing. Doing this, the theory goes, will enable activists and candidates to tilt conversation away from uncomfortable, but frankly needed, exchanges about immigration, in favour of ‘comfort-zone’ topics of conversation.

Or, in other words, activists and candidates should do their best to entirely avoid the concerns of voters, and talk about traditional, safe Labour issues.

This is a dangerous game to play.

It is clear that Labour will always be facing an uphill struggle on immigration. The ultimately flawed policy of allowing the so-called A8 (i.e. the Eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004) to arrive without any initial border controls has tarnished Labour’s credibility on migration issues.

In turn, Labour’s general attempt to avoid, or refuse, confronting this has not only allowed the Conservatives to portray Labour as ‘soft on immigration’ and ‘scared of the voters’, but also allowed UKIP to become slowly legitimised within the UK political landscape.

Yet, Labour continues to be hesitant on what is essentially a relatively binary issue.

As Dan Hodges correctly observed in the Daily Telegraph, the debate on immigration is relatively simple. If you want to control immigration into the UK, the only way of doing this is by ending the free movement within the EU. There is no “third way” – there are either open borders or there aren’t.

Now, Atul Hatwal, Labour Uncut’s editor, and Ranjit Sindhu have already written eloquently on these pages why Labour should, and must, articulate a positive narrative of immigration to the UK.

Equally, I argued just over a year ago that One Nation Labour had to not only tackle the right of the Conservative Party and UKIP, but also the legitimate concerns of citizens, some of who have become concerned with the scale of immigration. By advocating what is essentially a ‘bury your head in the sand and talk about something else’ approach is unwise.

But even when these, as well as many other arguments are put forward, Labour has still been reticent to state exactly where it stands on immigration to the point that the strategy document on how to counter UKIP is allowed to be written and, presumably, distributed.

Unfortunately, such a policy merely proves to show that Labour hasn’t really changed.

And yet, there is a positive case for immigration that can be made to the silent majority of Britons, who want to hear the opposing view to UKIP.

Labour must be the advocate of that alternative voice, not its shackle. The days where Labour shirks those awkward and uncomfortable conversations about immigration must end. Continuing to do so will only serve to perpetuate the image of Labour as a party unwilling to confront the most controversial policy area.

With just six months to go before the general election, Miliband and his One Nation Labour cannot afford any more slip-ups or drama. As at all elections, Labour will be dependent on the enthusiasm and dedication of its grassroots activists – those who spend their knocking doors, harvesting as many votes as possible. But, at the same time, it is down to those within Miliband’s inner circle carve out a sensible and credible plan on immigration.

In light of the recent events, it’s time they stepped up their game.

Callum Anderson works at a national charity

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17 Responses to “Ed’s aides failed him on anti-Ukip strategy”

  1. swatantra says:

    A bad workman always blames his fools.

  2. Landless Peasant says:

    For myself, and many other people I know, immigration is a non-issue seen as the preserve of far-Right numbskulls and the ignorant, uneducated, members of the public who don’t know any better. For me the main issue is Benefits; the abolition of Sanctions, ending the ongoing illegality of under-paid benefits, and the restoration of our Welfare State – the questions and issues that Miliband and the rest of Labour shy away from answering or addressing at all. That’s why I’m voting Green.

  3. Tafia says:

    illegality of under-paid benefits
    You live in a largely irrelevant fantasy world. That statement is not true. Council of Europe rulings on the Social Charter are not legally binding. The Social Charter is not law – merely advisory /an ambition.

    preserve of far-Right numbskulls
    Again another untrue statement. It is a major issue with Labour voters hence Milband’s prevarication of the last few days and the disastrously badly handled deliberate leak of the 32 page Labour dossier.

    the restoration of our Welfare State
    Restoration? It’s never had so much money. It gets more in both quantity and as a share of GDP than it ever has. OBR estimates that spending on welfare actually amounts to £410bn a year, or no less than 57% of all public spending.

    That’s why I’m voting Green.
    I believe I mentioned fantasy earlier.

  4. wg says:

    @Landless Peasant – you have just displayed why people at street level are rejecting politics as the answer to their problems.

    What you are saying is that we shouldn’t worry ourselves about our communities, job chances, and environment – we “far-right numbskulls” should just go away and leave everything to those who put us in this mess.

  5. BenM says:

    Miliband is a very lucky general.

    Immigration has split the Right and now, 4 months from a campaign and 5 from the election itself, there is no way back for the Tories.

    Immigration despite the threats from the xenophobic tabloid press won’t make voters swap sides at this late stage.

    Let’s face it, if you’re daft enough to have your values so skewed that you’re virulently anti-foreigner you’ve already decamped to UKIP or theTories.

    The incoming Labour administration should be planning to defuse migration as an issue as it begins work in May. By making positive noises about it – supported by all the academic research – and leveraging the 5 year fixed term parliament to offset Tory tabloid bluster that would inevitably arise.

  6. Madasafish says:

    Landless Peasant

    When you descend to denigrating your opponents and making ad hominem remarks about them ( “numbskulls and the ignorant, uneducated”) you show that you have lost the argument (and the plot)..

    I still expect Labour to have most seats at the next GE although Ed and his less-than-professional team are working very hard to ensure that is not so…

  7. Michael Worcester says:

    the document was extremely interesting and full of facts. One I noticed is the second column of figure 6. The people on benefits (J) are the ones that are switching fastest from Labour to UKIP at the highest group (from a lower base). I expect this because they are the ones that have suffered most from immigration and think Labour have shouted down their concerns over decades never mind addressed them. I don’t like UKIP’s policy on immigration as they would stop the beneficial EU migration and have non-EU migration as equal value. I don’t like Labours approach either as they concentrate on talking about EU migration which is lower in number and not controllable due to treaties but have said very little about non-EU migration (no comment on the minimum income rule for example). I think Labour could have argued more convincingly if they used the figures to help form policy. My home town is Birmingham and looking at the Labour councillors see biradani politics as the new militant tendency for Labour that prevents many issues (in Birmingham it is unaddressed grooming and spending on Madrassa in Pakistan whilst part closing the central library). In the new council elections expect loss of control of many UK cities as ordinary people will not automatically vote Labour anymore .

    Ex-Labour non-UKIP now floating voter

  8. Dave Roberts. says:

    Well summed up Tafia, for once I have nothing to add!

  9. swatantra says:

    A Vote for the Greens is a Vote for UKIP, and Tory-UKIP- Lib Dem coalition.
    EU Immigration is a hot topic and will not go away. I think ‘controls’ is the opperative word here. Allow Europen Free Movement but restrict the right to Benefits which most don’t claim; restrict access to council housing which most don’t apply for being obliged to rent privately sharing with 10 others; and restrict right to welfare sending child benefit home to Poland which few would be entitled tp since most are young able bodied and unmarried. Some people really do live in a fantasy world peopled by fairies elves and pixies. Happy Xmas!

  10. Michael Worcester says:

    Look at the second table of figure 6. J which is people on benefits are the ones turning to UKIP fastest (from a low base). I suggest this is because Labour does convince the poorest in our country that it will help them to improve their life (but will add competition for jobs and services through immigration).

    Labour’s policies seem mostly about having guards to count the immigrants in and out, they also seem to be anti EU migration which is beneficial to the nation and assiduously avoid discussing the costly and socially divisive non-EU migration (what’s the policy on the minimum income rule for example, Vaz says it ie too high). UKIP banging on about EU migration whereas even Farage admits that the figures show that it benefits the country is their weak point but Labour doesn’t exploit this open goal but in order to do this Milliband has to state clearly what is Labours policy saying ‘trust me’ isn’t and never was enough.

  11. Dan says:

    “That’s why I’m voting Green”

    Interesting, I saw a video on this very theme recently;


  12. Landless Peasant says:

    LOL so I’ve lost the argument by calling a spade a spade? Fascists are wrong. End of.

  13. Madasafish says:

    So now we are facists?

    No attempt at argument.. just more name calling.

    Which rather proves the point of anyone who argues with you: you cannot. Conflating name calling with argument explains why the argument of immigration has largely been lost by the Left.

    And continuing name calling convinces no-one of your case.

  14. Tafia says:

    Latest Ipsos-MORI poll:-

    CON 32%
    LAB 29%
    UKIP 13%
    LDEM 9%
    GRN 9%

    Individual constituency polling shows Brighton staying Green
    GRN 38%
    LAB 28%
    CON 21%
    UKIP 8%
    LDEM 5%

    More worryingly for Labour it shows 4 Labour seats as under extreme risk to UKIP – Dudley North, Plymouth Moor View and Rother Valley.

  15. Tafia says:

    and Great Grimsby

  16. John Reid says:

    Landless Peasant,Unless you under stand what a far right numbskull or a fascist is, calling someone doesn’t make it so, even if you say it is, then put end of, Tafia has given description of Fascism, and Ukip is far removed from it

    Not wanting cheap I migration to drive doen wages, and leaving the EU were policies Tony Benn said for years

    Madasafish, sorry couldn’t resist
    a facist,is that someone against face sitting

  17. Tim says:

    The reaction to Landless Peasant’s post only proves his or her point: even on a Labour message board most are racist numbskulls. And the same people accuse the SNP of nationalism!

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