Ed Miliband will tell a meeting of Labour MPs on Monday night that he has a strategy to win the next election after his deputy, Harriet Harman, insisted: “We are not going to have a wobble or a leadership change”.
Labour officials, angry that the narrow retention of the Heywood and Middleton seat has been interpreted as a blow to the party’s election chances, are insisting that it is David Cameron who now has his road to a majority government blocked by Ukip.
Labour said it would not respond to the threat posed by Ukip by supporting unrealistic targets for net migration or proposing radical changes to the free movement of workers which would probably be rejected by the rest of the EU.
But officials promised Labour would say more on the issues of integration of immigrants, reducing their exploitation and ensuring they make a larger contribution before they receive benefits.
It seems widely accepted that Miliband has to speak more about immigration, but some are demanding a toughening of policy by making clear that Labour could impose targets for unskilled workers for the EU, and that it will do something to lift pressure on public services, especially new housing.
The Labour candidate in the Rochester and Strood byelection has expressed her concern about her party stressing the economic benefits of migration.
In comments at a fringe meeting at the Labour conference, just released on the website of Progress magazine, Naushabah Khan said she “agreed 100% about the positive economic impact of migration”, but added: “When you are talking on the doorstep people cannot relate to that. It does not affect their lives directly but they can see hospital waiting lists and housing waiting lists they cannot get on to.”
Rowenna Davis, a Labour candidate in the marginal seat of Southampton, said at the same meeting that doors would be shut in her face if she put some of the arguments advanced by the front bench.
She said Southampton had a tradition of being open to immigrants but added: “People talk about strong borders – there are no borders for eastern Europe any more. In Southampton our population increased by 9 % in six years. Our investment in schools, housing and doctors did not increase by 9 % in six years. It stayed level. When you have more people in the area, and the resources stay the same, it puts on pressure.
“Similarly wages in the construction industry declined from £130 a day to £60 a day. It may be of benefit overall to UK plc but for working-class people in Southampton very often the supply of labour increased and their wages went down. That is basic law of economics.”
She told the shadow immigration minister David Hanson she appreciated the hard task he faced but “if I gave the answers you have given on the doorstep that door is going to get shut in my face.
“These people are not racist. They have traditionally been Labour for generations, they very much have friends and family members that are migrants, but they feel let down and they feel abandoned.”
Urging the party to offer something more, she said: “I don’t see how we can plan public services for migrants or British citizens without knowing how many are coming into our country next year.”
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