Labour MPs should take on Ukip by trying to talk more about the NHS, housing and education than immigration, according to a leaked strategy document.
The confidential guide, called Campaigning Against Ukip and dated last month, makes clear that Labour is concerned it could lose votes to Nigel Farage’s party.
It warns that Ukip could attract former Labour supporters “who feel that the party has left them behind in pursuit of better-educated, middle-class, white-collar voters”.
The document, which was obtained by The Daily Telegraph, says: “Immigration is the issue people most often cite when explaining support for UKIP … It does not however follow that campaigning on immigration issues and emphasising our policies in our conversations with electors is always the correct response.
“When we embark on policy messaging around immigration, which is not an area where Labour has the strongest lead over other parties, we should ensure that this messaging is always done in conjunction with other policy areas.
Who's next? Conservative MPs who could defect to Ukip
Who's next? Conservative MPs who could defect to Ukip
1/8 Chris Kelly
Won Dudley South with majority of 3,856 in 2010 but is standing down next May. Has been wooed by Ukip, which is targeting his seat, but insists he will not join Nigel Farage’s party. Has declined to say why he is leaving Parliament
2/8 Mark Pritchard
Former secretary of the influential Tory 1992 Committee. MP for The Wrekin. Majority 9,450. Photographed with Nigel Farage at an event recently but said it was just a “friendly photo"
3/8 Philip Hollobone
MP for Kettering. Majority 9, 904. He said in 2013: “So many constituencies are now marginal because Ukip is now providing a fourth dynamic into what has previously been a three-party dynamic. I think we could end up with a situation where in selected seats, where the Conservative candidate or member of Parliament is in favour of leaving the EU, they would endorse him in those seats"
4/8 David Nuttall
MP for Bury North. Majority 2,243. Outspoken right-winger. Has said it would be “beneficial” if the Tories and Ukip could agree a “common programme” in order to unite the right in British politics
5/8 Nadine Dorries
MP for Mid Bedfordshire. Majority 15,152. Lost Tory whip after appearing on ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here,” but later reinstated. Has said her constituents some constituents feel a "huge amount of empathy with Ukip". Hinted at standing on a joint ticket but denied she will defect
6/8 Jacob Rees-Mogg
MP for Somerset North East. Majority 4,914. Independent-minded like Douglas Carswell. Has called for an electoral pact between Tories and Ukip. “There are many members of Ukip who are very close to the Conservative Party and there are many Conservatives to whom Ukip looks favourably,” he said in May
7/8 Gordon Henderson
MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Majority 12,383. Wants Britain to leave the EU and admits he has been “sounded out” by Ukip. But insists the party has “no principles,” saying: “I’d sooner lose than be a turncoat”
8/8 Peter Bone
MP for Wellingborough. Majority 11,787. Independent-minded backbencher who hates the Coalition. Has said: “Somehow the Conservatives and Ukip have got to work together and have some sort of [electoral] pact or accord”
“The purpose of this is to raise the salience of those issues in which Labour has a much clearer lead and stands to benefit more from their prominence with the electorate.”
It describes immigration as a “complex issue” but adds that Labour Party policies “tend to be accepted as common sense” once they are explained.
“However, writing to electors proactively (ie without evidence the elector is concerned about it) about immigration risks undermining the broad coalition of support we need to return to government, for the following reasons: as a general rule, a higher salience for the issue does not translate into electoral advantage for us,” the document says.
Sending leaflets to everyone in an area would “inevitably be hitting some people for whom it is unhelpful to raise the salience of immigration as an issue”.
But when people raise the issue, the strategists say the party “must reassure electors that we understand concerns they raise on immigration and are proposing policies to ensure effective integration” and “deliver a clear message on the threat that Farage poses”.
“Above all, we must remind potential UKIP supporters of the threat UKIP poses to the NHS in their local area and encourage them to think more about this, and other areas of Labour Party policy, than immigration,” the document says.
Frank Field, a former welfare minister, said: “I think this must be an April Fools' Day pack because not campaigning on immigration is exactly what Ukip wants us to do.”
A Labour spokesman said: “This document sets out clearly how candidates and activists will explain our policies on immigration and seek to explain how they fit into an overall vision for a country that works for everyday working people not just a few.
“Today Ed Miliband will deliver his fourth major intervention on immigration and publish our second key election pledge which is also on immigration.
“This reflects the priority which he and the Labour Party attaches to an issue on which the Labour Party and many voters have deep concern.”Reuse content