Labour divided over threat posed by Ukip
Tony Blair calls party ‘nasty and unpleasant’ while Ed Miliband says concerns about immigration are not prejudiced.
Labour divisions over the threat posed by Ukip have been thrown into the open after Tony Blair defended his government’s record on immigration as Ed Miliband said many people rightly believed politicians had failed to understand their concerns on the issue.
The former prime minister described Ukip as “pretty nasty and unpleasant” hours before Miliband said that many people who voted for the party loved Britain and did “the right thing” in their communities.
Miliband, who said people who raised concerns about immigration were not prejudiced, delivered his conciliatory message to Ukip voters in the marginal seat of Thurrock in Essex after Nigel Farage’s party captured five council seats, depriving Labour of control of the council. A continuing Ukip presence in the seat could pose a threat to Labour, which should capture the seat with a swing of just 0.1% from the Tories to Labour.
“Immigration has been changing communities fast, including here in Thurrock – a growing west African community, people coming from eastern Europe. The pace of change is quicker than it has ever been,” the Labour leader said. “Over the last decades there were big changes happening in our country and fewer and fewer working people thought that anyone in politics was getting those changes, that anyone in politics could do something about them.”
Miliband said Ukip’s triumph in the local and European elections could be explained by Farage’s success in exploiting concerns that he had highlighted since he became Labour leader. Often referred to as the “blue Labour agenda” associated with the academic peer Lord Glasman, these are a sense of dislocation in a rapidly changing world and the struggle to make ends meet after such a deep recession.
The Labour leader said: “Some of the people who voted for Ukip came from that part of working Britain who do the right thing, who work hard for a living and are really, really struggling to make ends meet. They are in tough jobs but life is a real struggle for them.
“They are people who love our country but they are people who are saying the country is not working for me. They feel left behind by what has happened to Britain – some people who in years gone by would have been Labour till they die, some people whose parents have always been Labour, whose grandparents have always been Labour.”
- The Guardian,