Ed Miliband lacks ‘courage’, says former minister

Barbara Roche is adamant that Labour’s leader must confront Ukip on immigration – and soon

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Indy Politics

Ed Miliband must have the “courage” to take on the threat from Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party directly, or risk a setback for his party at next month’s European elections, a former Labour minister says today.

In The Independent on Sunday, Barbara Roche, chairman of the Migration Matters Trust and a minister in Tony Blair’s government, writes that Mr Farage has become “Labour’s Voldemort – he whose name cannot be mentioned” because Mr Miliband doesn’t want to tackle Ukip on immigration.

She believes it is a “tragedy” for Labour that the only British politician who has had the “courage” to take on Ukip is Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. While the Deputy Prime Minister was trounced in his two debates with Mr Farage, at least he had been “prepared to fight” for what he believed in, Ms Roche says. She advises Mr Miliband to make a positive, progressive case for immigration and acknowledge the benefits that migrants bring to Britain.

Opinion polls suggest that at the European elections next month, Labour and Ukip will fight it out for first place.

The continuing surge of Ukip in the polls and Mr Farage’s overwhelming triumph in the recent debates forced David Cameron to mention Mr Farage by name for the first time in a major speech when he addressed the Conservative spring forum last week. Yet, as Ms Roche points out, Mr Miliband has failed to attack Mr Farage or his party directly : “When it comes to the central contest between the two parties that most polls have in first and second place – Labour and Ukip – Labour has been wholly absent.

“In March, Ed Miliband mounted his biggest intervention to date on Europe, yet avoided any mention of Labour’s closest challenger. It’s as if Nigel Farage has become Labour’s Voldemort – he whose name cannot be mentioned. The reason is simple: immigration.… Battles don’t win themselves; they require politicians prepared to fight for what they believe in.”

Last week, Yvette Cooper, Labour’s home affairs spokesperson, made a speech on immigration, but Ms Roche said it was “convoluted” and failed to acknowledge that immigrants put more into Britain’s economy than they take out – a net contribution of more than 4p on the basic rate of income tax.

A ComRes poll for the IoS last week put Ukip on 20 per cent, their highest rating in terms of a general election prediction.