Currently the significant success of the eurosceptic UKIP party in polarising the British voter in several social issues, like immigration, has set the agenda for other parties to follow. David Cameron and his conservative party has long seen that his electorate gets substantially motivated by anti-immigration campaigns. This is of course part of the general framework of the “UK exit” promise. But now, 6 months before the UK elections, we see also the labour party remarkably shifting to that direction.
It was only yesterday that Rachel Reeves, shadow work and pensions secretary of the UK Labour party, announced a significant change in their policy on immigration, particularly EU immigration. Currently the European citizen that has moved to the UK in her quest for a job needs to wait for 3 months before she is able to apply for the job seeker’s allowance. Mrs Reeves, instead, stated that the Labour party, if of course in power, would make those three months two years. Is this expected to raise Ed Miliband’s chances to win May’s elections?
Mrs Reeves goes like this in yesterday’s statement: “the UK social security system was never designed for the levels of migration we are now seeing”. She is seeing a hell of EU immigrants apparently but most of all she is seeing Labour voters to be shaky. Later she continues: “I will never pander to those who would deny the positive contribution that immigrants have always made to our country or the economic benefits we gain from our membership of the EU … but I also believe that we have to listen to the real concerns that people have about how immigration is being managed.” And that is where the Labour partisan wants to differentiate Labour party from the Tories and UKIP. According to the Labour shadow work and pensions secretary, “We don’t need to walk away from Europe to put the principles of work and contribution at the heart of our system. We can deliver these changes through negotiation and reform and we will.” So, she wants to be inside the EU but without sharing common EU immigration policy. Not sure if Brussels would be happy about that.
Overall, the Labour announced policy against EU immigration, which is even harder that what David Cameron had in mind to propose, has been heavily criticised. Mrs Reeves decided that she is “ready for a fight with the European Commission”, but it seems that there is no fight to be given but an attempt to further engage her voter a few months before elections. The advantage of the Labour party is very slim over the Conservatives in the recent polls and the last 6 months are considered to be decisive for the outcome. Currently both Cameron’s Convervatives and Labour are exploiting the popularity of the UKIP extremists to steal votes by “rationalising” pro-independence sentiments. It is interesting to quote here Ed Miliband’s words of last week that came as a “self fulfilling prophecy” in Mrs Reeves’ plans, that Labour would be “talking more about immigration as a party”, but “always on the basis of Labour values, not UKIP values”.
Beyond EU immigration
However, this Labour policy shift seems to expand beyond EU immigration. Simply because stimulating eurosceptic sentiments is different than stimulating general anti-immigration sentiments. The Labour party is eager to “catch” both profiles of voters. But this attempt when it is performed in a non organised manner and under time pressure it is bound to show weaknesses. Yesterday Mrs Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary of the Labour party, announced some rather controversial general plans of her party to limit immigration in the UK.
Mrs Cooper yesterday added that “the next Labour government will introduce exit checks so we can count people in and out” and that “it isn’t racist to be worried about immigration or to call for immigration reform”. Particularly the Labour party executive states that she would increase border control personnel by 1.000 people. And that the resources for that would be gathered by making any immigrant to the UK pay 10 pounds per entry. Of course as weak this idea sounds to our readers as weak it sounded to the Conservatives and UKIP that criticised widely the “fragility” of this measure.
To end with, interestingly Mrs Cooper argued in a very strict manner: “Ukip are exploiting peoples’ fears, fuelling anxiety and division, and David Cameron is racing to catch up”. But how different is really the UK Labour party in its electoral campaign 6 months before the General Elections? The answer is to be given by our readers.