Labour challenged on immigration

Delegates at the Labour Party's conference at Manchester Central
Delegates at the Labour Party's conference at Manchester Central
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ED MILIBAND’s key election aide has said flag waving by the white working class is a call for help the party is ignoring.

Michael Dugher, the Yorkshire MP given a key campaigning role by Mr Miliband, has said the party needs to start talking about immigration or risk saying goodbye to its core vote.

Mr Dugher laid into Labour for dismissing immigration as a “far right concern” and urged a new era for the party.

The Barnsely MP added that Labour must now think of its core vote as a target vote instead because research continues to show traditional voters are drifting away from Labour.

His immigration focus comes as Ukip prepares to host its annual conference in Doncaster ahead of a 2015 General Election in which the party will seek to take Yorkshire seats.

Many Ukip members are already identifying Grimbsy as their key Northern target, with Rotherham another potential seat.

Mr Dugher, the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, said that Labour had no intention of backing down from the immigration debate in 2015.

He said: “David Cameron gave a speech, maybe in 2005, that said we are not like the Americans, we don’t fly the flag on the lawn, well, in my constituency they do it. And when they do, it is not just an identity thing, it is a cry for help, it is saying things are not working for me anymore.

“Understanding the strong sense of identity in white working class areas is very important. We have to remember that and take on Ukip here. We in Labour sometimes put our fingers in our ears and say ‘Ukip is not our problem, it’s a Tory problem.’ Well it is our problem.

“We need a culture change in Labour. We used to regard a set type of voter as our core vote. We should not do that anymore, we have to think of them as our target vote, as swing voters, we have to start looking to earn every vote, even in traditional white working class areas.”

He added that the party could no longer pretend immigration was not a core issue for Labour voters.

Mr Dugher said: “Immigration is often a proxy for other grievances but it is still a big issue. We as a party have just not talked about it, we say ‘that’s what the Tories do, that’s what the far right does’, even though the people who are really struggling in the face of all this change are working class hitherto Labour voters.

“But from ten years ago we just decided we won’t talk about it, we’re the Labour party, it’s not the sort of thing we mention in polite north London dinner parties.”

Mr Dugher will this week lead the Labour counter-attack on Ukip as party leader Nigel Farage heads north.

Labour MPs will be pushing the message that Ukip are more right wing than voters realise.

He said: “UKIP claim to be on the side of working people, but the truth is they’re more Tory than the Tories. UKIP is a party of Tory people and Tory money.

“Now they want to go even further than the Tories by giving another tax cut to millionaires.

“This multi-billion giveaway to the very richest at a time when families are struggling exposes Nigel Farage’s fraudulent claims to be a friend of hard-working families.

“Ex-Tory, ex-banker Nigel Farage is showing his true colours.”

Mr Farage is set to make a keynote speech on Friday in which he will attempt to win over disillusioned Labour voters.