Labour leadership split over immigration after UKIP gains

Douglas Alexander and Ed Balls

Splits over Labour election campaign were aired in public today as Ed Balls insisted the key to heading off UKIP was to talk “loudly” about immigration and borders.

He spoke hours after Douglas Alexander, the Labour election co-ordinator, played down the threat saying the issue would not be won in the TV studios but “doorstep by doorstep”. He did not acknowledge that Europe and immigration were the reasons behind the UKIP surge.

Allies of Mr Alexander want Labour to make the positive case for immigration rather than copy UKIP rhetoric.

The disagreement came as a number of Labour MPs attacked the campaign. John Mann singled out the “pointyheads” at top of Labour for “disastrous strategy.” “People like me and voters I represent are not being heard,” he said.
Even senior figures inside Mr Miliband’s office, such as Greg Beales, who oversees strategy, and James Morris, who does the party’s polling, were suggesting greater focus on immigration, according to sources.

He said: “UKIP is winning votes from all parties because people feel angry that things aren’t working in a fair way for them. It could be about energy prices and jobs, it could be about incomes, it could be about the way the banks have acted.

“But it’s also because people think that we don’t have the right kind of border controls and immigration controls and they want reform in Europe.

“I think all of us have to say loudly and clear that to walk away from Europe – which would be the Nigel Farage policy – would be disastrous, but we’ve got to have reform in Europe.

“To shut our borders would be disastrous but we need tougher controls on the borders and tougher controls on the way the labour market works and tougher controls on new countries.”