Miliband insists voters’ immigration fears are ‘understandable’

Ed Miliband insists it is “understandable” people are worried about immigration as he promised to win back voters from Ukip.

Ed Miliband has said he remains determined to attract voters "from every walk of life" as he seeks to quell criticism of his party's local election results.
Ed Miliband has said he remains determined to attract voters "from every walk of life" as he seeks to quell criticism of his party's local election results.

After Nigel Farage’s party made significant gains in key Labour areas, Mr Miliband admitted that the concerns of working families on the issue had been neglected.

But he warned that Ukip’s approach of blaming “Europe and foreigners” for the country’s problems was “not the answer”.

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The comments came as Mr Miliband visited Thurrock and took questions from local people. The Essex town is a key target seat for the general election, but Labour failed to win control of the local council last week due to Mr Farage’s surge.

Mr Miliband argued that results in the European and local polls had to be viewed in the context of economic, social and political upheaval over the last three decades.

Although the last Labour government achieved much to help families, it had not been “enough”.

“Our embrace of the future meant that some people thought we didn’t respect the loss they felt from the past,” he said. “Our embrace of openness made some people feel we didn’t understand the pressures immigration put on them.

“Our embrace of economic change, on the one hand, and our determination to do right by the very poorest, on the other, led people to believe that we didn’t care enough about ordinary working people.”

He said Ukip had managed to “exploit” that alienation to boost its support.

“Labour was founded on standing up for working people. But for too many that link was lost,” he said.

“That is what Ukip has sought to exploit.

“We know what their appeal is. They provide a simple explanation of the cause of our country’s problems: Europe and foreigners.

“And they have an apparently simple solution: to get out of the European Union.

“I have to say: this is not the answer for our country, this will never be Labour’s mission or policy under my leadership. Our future lies in looking outward to the world.”

Mr Miliband said he was proud to be the son of immigrants, and believed immigration had “benefited our country as a whole”.

“But it needs to be properly managed,” he added. “I have changed Labour’s position on immigration since 2010.

“It is not prejudiced to worry about immigration, it is understandable.

“Labour would have controls when people arrive and leave here, we will tackle the undercutting of wages, we will ensure people in public services speak English and people need to earn their entitlements.

“But a Labour government won’t make false promises, or cut ourselves off from the rest of the world because it would be bad for Britain.”