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Labour Candidates Claim Lack of Immigration Debate Cost them Votes

Andy Burnham: blaming immigration

Labour leadership candidates David Miliband and Andy Burnham have both insisted in separate interviews over the weekend that Labour’s lack of a national debate on immigration was a contributing factor to them losing the general election.

Burnham, who still needs 12 nominations from fellow MPs to reach the magic number of 33 to secure his name on the ballot, told Sky News: “immigration was a big issue, if not the biggest issue put over to us on the doorsteps.”

He rejected calls to limit incoming numbers as proposed by his competitor Ed Balls who wrote in the Observer newspaper.

Balls set out his stall as a pro European candidate but described his concerns about his party’s failings to limit migration from new European members states.

He wrote:

‘I have no doubt that immigration has been a powerful driver of both economic growth and cultural diversity in our country. In the public meetings I hold, it is only the BNP supporters who deny that our NHS and IT industries depend on immigration. Both Liam Byrne and Phil Woolas, as immigration ministers, did a great job in putting together our new points system, with strong controls on unskilled migration, alongside new citizenship requirements.

But neither our tough points system, nor the Tories’ flawed immigration cap, applies to migration within the EU. While it is true that one million British people do migrate to work in the rest of Europe, they are more likely to be working for higher wages in Brussels, Frankfurt and Milan than undercutting unskilled wages in the poorer parts of Europe. As Labour seeks to rebuild trust with the British people, it is important we are honest about what we got wrong. In retrospect, Britain should not have rejected transitional controls on migration from the first wave of new EU member states in 2004, which we were legally entitled to impose.’

However contender Diane Abbott has insisted that immigration was not the cause of Labour’s defeat and more attention should have been paid to economic factors.

‘The black and white working class are moaning about Eastern European immigrants,’ she told Sky News Sunday Live.

‘It’s a proxy for a lack of security on jobs and housing… It’s very dangerous to scapegoat immigrants in a recession.’

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