Diane Abbott accused by Labour MP of pursuing ‘disastrous’ electoral strategy over immigration stance

The senior MP had rejected calls for the party to adopt a more hostile posture on immigration

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Diane Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary, has been accused of pursuing a “disastrous” electoral strategy over her immigration stance by one of her own parliamentary colleagues.

It comes after Ms Abbott, who also holds the party’s immigration brief, rejected calls for the party to adopt a more hostile posture in relation to immigration.

In an article for LabourList, Ms Abbott, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest allies in Westminster, also dismissed that doing so would allow the party to “win back supporters it has allegedly lost to Ukip or the Tories”.

She added: “The premise of these arguments is false. Labour voters have a net favourable attitude towards immigration. This means that if Labour were to adopt a more hostile stance in relation to immigration, it would alienate more of its current supporters than it would please them.

“In fact, Ukip supporters are the furthest from Labour in terms of their very attitude towards immigration. Conservative voters are the next furthest.”

But in a scathing response to her article, Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley North, said “not for the first time” Ms Abbott was attempting to prevent her colleagues engaging in a discussion about immigration by accusing them of trying to “outdo Ukip”.

“It isn’t just offensive nonsense – it is a disastrous electoral strategy too,” he added, claiming it is easy to “sneer and condemn” the debate on immigration but the party needed to listen.

Also writing in LabourList, he continued: “One of the reasons we lost the last election is that many people thought Ed Miliband was an out-of-touch member of London’s elite who hadn’t got a clue what ordinary people in the rest of Britain thought about issues like immigration or welfare. Diane’s strategy will make the drubbing he got last year look like a resounding triumph.”

“So Diane is patronising the public when she talks about a simple choice between being “favourable” or “hostile” towards immigration, and what’s worse is that she’s encouraging a public debate on immigration that is dominated by extreme voices like Ukip, so detailed discussion of serious and complex issues gets squeezed out.”

But a source close to Ms Abbott, responding to the article, told The Independent: “It is unfortuante that Ian Austin has decided to personally attack Diane. She has frequently explained that she has never called for open borders and that we have never had open borders. All Diane has proposed is sensible and progressive immigration policies, that benefit Britain and its economy – but reactionary elements do no want to hear this.

“Diane believes that we cannot slip into trap of 'post-truth' politics. Its talking about emotions that is patronising. We need to present voters with facts.”