Ed Miliband has ruled out toughening Labour’s message on immigration or Brussels in response to Ukip’s stunning performance in the European and council elections.
He said it was understandable that voters were worried about the effects of immigration, but said it was no answer to mimic Ukip’s approach of blaming “Europe and foreigners” for Britain’s woes.
Mr Miliband was speaking on Tuesday during a visit to Thurrock, where a surge in support for Ukip ousted Labour from control of the Essex council.
The town’s parliamentary seat is held by the Conservatives with a miniscule majority and is a must-win target for Labour at next year’s general election.
Mr Miliband admitted that Labour had become distant from many working-class voters and said that Nigel Farage’s party had exploited that sense of alienation.
But he was scathing about Ukip’s key demand for Britain to leave the European Union.
“This is not the answer for our country, this will never be Labour’s mission or policy under my leadership. Our future lies in looking outward to the world.”
He also refused to match David Cameron’s support for a referendum on British membership of the EU.
Mr Miliband said immigration needed to be properly managed and said a Labour government would take measures to tighten up the system.
“We have got to be willing as a party to talk about immigration. We can talk about it in a progressive way,” he said.
But he added: “A Labour government won’t make false promises, or cut ourselves off from the rest of the world because it would be bad for Britain.”