Coffee House

Ed Miliband – as clear as mud on immigration

16 May 2014

Ed Miliband visited Airbus this morning, where he gave a clear headline message on immigration: never again will Labour abandon people who are concerned about immigration.  Alas, he became less clear the more he spoke.

At various points in an interview with The World at One earlier this afternoon, Miliband described immigration as a “class issue”; a concern of those people who are not getting a fair chance or those who are being undercut by cheap foreign labour exploited by predatory bosses. This fits neatly into his pre-packaged narrative about the evils of the modern market economy.

Miliband’s rhetoric on immigration from Europe is temperate; but, at base, his message is now not far from Nigel Farage’s. To put it crudely: an unskilled yokel is on his way to pinch your job, clog up your hospitals and schools and reduce your standard of living. The message is risible (as Miliband himself concedes when he says, as he always does, that immigration has been “good” for the country as a whole). But at least Farage is coherently risible: immigration cannot be controlled (in an exact sense of the term), unless one takes complete control of one’s borders.


Miliband won’t go so far on the EU. In fact, he won’t even go as far as the government on EU reform. Labour is committed to adjusting transitional controls – a policy objective first discussed at the 2011 Labour conference. But it is not the transitional controls of the future which are the problem; it is the transitional controls of the past. Freedom of movement is a sacred article of the European Union; yet it is not inviolable. There is scope for accommodation in the right circumstances; but it suits Miliband to say otherwise, and argue that David Cameron’s renegotiation plan (such as it is) is doomed to fail and that we must muddle on until such time as Brussels makes another grab for British sovereignty. Then we shall have a referendum!

His offer of a referendum in the event of another Brussels power grab is meaningless because the law already demands a referendum in such circumstances (though no thanks to Labour, which once described the ‘triple lock’ guarantee as an ‘unnecessary…political gesture’ – ho, ho).

Miliband also mentioned three instruments to control immigration:

1). Proper border controls to stop illegal immigration.
2). A cap on non-EU migration.
3). Reduce the “pull” on low skilled migration to Britain by inspiring a domestic skills revolution, enforcing the minimum wage and tweaking JSA rules for migrants.

Each of these instruments to control immigration is already government policy. Granted, he might administer them more effectively, although he doesn’t inspire confidence with his observation that immigration is a ‘class issue’ – immigration is rather more than that.

If you, dear reader, can discern a strategy – or even an objective – through the morass of Miliband’s tactical conceits and short-term plays on immigration and Europe, then you’re sharper-eyed than me.

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  • Dutchnick

    Labour have had a quiet lIttle success of their own with the thousands of Pakistan/Bangladeshi immigrants who have moved into predominantly Labour areas and guess what, they mainly vote Labour. Look at the situation of Mosques throughout the UK and you will see that Labour constituencies have have a near monopoly. With near 50% male and 75% female unemployment they have benefited from Labours Welfarefest. Not only that, they have moved on schools and voting irregularities have a common theme. Yes Labour let us hear what you intend to do, maybe saying sorry but as that has not happened with their wrecking of the economy I am not holding my breath.

  • Peter Stroud

    More muddled ideas from the Labour leader – he really is pretty hopeless. But what do we expect from a Party, that is in a state of total chaos. Short on policy: messing up on advertising: misspelling the name of its massively expensive, American advisor. And financially bankrupt. Hopefully, voters will never forgive the government, that included Miliband – that opened the floodgates to immigrants from the rest of the world.

  • Ostercy

    Just remind me what David Cameron’s policy on immigration is again?

  • Fergus Pickering

    He was absolutely clear. He will make soothng noises and do sod all about it. More votes for Nigel.

    • Kitty MLB

      ‘More votes for Nigel’ What about poor benighted Dave who will be tugging at his forelocks, his furrowed brow becoming more prominent. Beneath the pall
      of misery, at the thought of one of his devoted Cameroon’s wandering onto
      Nigel’s path. Dear Fergus, the Prime Minister will be besides himself.
      Remember that next Thursday.

      • Fergus Pickering

        I feel his pain. But not quite enough.

        • Kitty MLB

          Its good that you feel his pain. That you have not been totally
          politically anaesthetized by my little chums the purple plotters. Compassionate Conservatism explained by Jesse
          Norman might change your mind.

  • Conway

    The message that you need to control immigration is not risible at all; in order to ensure a sufficient supply of housing, school places, hospital beds, infrastructure, etc, you need to know how large a population you will be catering for. Unlimited, uncontrolled immigration makes such planning impossible. Open doors will soon make a non-contributory, free at the point of use, welfare state completely unaffordable. Miliband has been complicit in letting all and sundry in to rub the noses of the right in diversity. If immigration has been so “good for the country”, why has per capita GDP gone down?

  • Lady Magdalene

    Why on earth WOULD the pampered, privately educated “toffs and millionaires” leading the Labour Party know anything about the impact of immigration on the working classes.
    The champagne socialists have never come into contact with anyone who actually has to toil for a living.

  • Smithersjones2013

    You cannot control immigration unless you control EU immigration. End of story Miliband’s prevarication makes him as much of a liar as Cameron. As for his point three. What utter bollocks. Unless he somehow is going to miraculously abolish low skilled jobs (and I assume he still needs someone to clean the toilets at Labour HQ) then its just another brazen lie.

    • HJ777

      That may be true, although the majority of immigration under Labour was from non-EU countries (contrary to popular belief).

  • right_writes

    “…but it suits Miliband to say otherwise, and argue that David Cameron’s renegotiation plan (such as it is) is doomed to fail…”

    There’s always a first time I suppose, but I never thought that Miliballs would ever be right…

    It just goes to show.

  • Denis_Cooper

    So any idea of controlling immigration is “risible”, whether it’s controlling the quantity or controlling the quality.

    Presumably this is why those leading the Tory party only pay lip service to doing so?

    Oddly enough, that isn’t the view of the great majority of the citizens of this country; but who cares what they think, it’s not as if it’s their country or anything like that.

    • starfish

      I think most normal people think:

      “hang on, we live on an island, why can’t we control who comes in and out of the country”

      The liblabcon response is either

      a) “you’re waaaysist” for denying the unwashed of the world complete carte Blanche to come here and do what they please, potentially bankrupting the welfare state while they do it”


      b)its good for jobs/employment/business/my prospects of employing avcheap nanny/getting cheap ethnic food/ cleaners etc

      quite how either benefits any of the indigenous population, regardless of ethnic origin, is left unsaid

      • HookesLaw

        The govt have a policy to restrict net immigration to 100k. They recognise the issue of immigration and are acting on it. Large numbers in the immigration statistics are temporary students and the govt have tightened up on the scams labour allowed and which has reduced numbers from places like India.
        Back in Feb the govt published the statistics whoich showed that net non British migration from outside the EU continued to fall and was now at the lowest level since 1998. The figure was 140,000 a year. To listen to kippers you would get the idea that its half a million. The figure is even lower for EU – to listen to kippers its millions.

        There is a rational argument to be had on immigration but you will not get it from kippers who simply want Lenny Henry to go back to Africa.

        • Colonel Mustard

          “The govt have a policy to restrict net immigration to 100k.”

          Not going very well so far. Net immigration in the first eight months of last year was more than double that, three years after this government was formed. And next year there is a good chance they won’t be the government.

          Don’t try to defend the indefensible. The majority of English people have had enough of it.

        • jj155749

          Immigration has been one of the big FAILS of the current government, and they will pay for that abject failure at the ballot box.

        • Conway

          They may have a policy, but it isn’t working, is it? You can hardly say they are acting on the issue of immigration because they are determined to keep us in the EU which means we are totally unable to control the numbers entitled to come here. By the government’s own admission net migration has gone up, not down.

  • RavenRandom

    Miliband has no policies about anything, that becomes clearer everyday, certainly he cares noting for the concerns of the ordinary working person.
    Every now and then he says “Ohh that’s expensive Labour will ban it” and then that falls apart because he hasn’t thought of the consequences.

    • Paul Adams

      “Every now and then he says “Ohh that’s expensive Labour will ban it” and then that falls apart because he hasn’t thought of the consequences”

      That’s the exact opposite of what happens – everyone attacks his ideas the moment he announces them and when they fail to fall apart start running round like headless chickens and in the end you can’t find anyone who admits to disagreeing with him!

      • First L

        I disagree with him. He doesn’t have a single policy worth the name.

      • MikeBrighton

        …and I disagree with him, he speaks utter and total tosh. I think people still disagree with his silly policies like rent control.

  • tres66

    He is going to lose the election for Labour.
    He is not the leader who can ask for a second chance and get it.

    • telemachus

      With the help that UKIP will give the Tories Labour could put up one of Lowry’s matchstick men and win

      • monty61

        That would appear to be the strategy ….

      • Smithersjones2013

        That’s why they chose ‘The Misfit’ as their leader isn’t it?

      • Colonel Mustard

        I think he is made of plasticine not matchsticks.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Not what the polls say, old fruit.Or don’t you care for polls?

  • Ruth

    The photo sums him up.

    • telemachus

      He is honest
      And he does not lace the immigration issue with racism

      • Cyril Sneer

        British jobs for British workers.

      • Holly

        No, because it’s YOU that does that.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Miliband is preposterous, incoherent and dishonest.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Then why do you lace the immigration issue with racism on his behalf?

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