Labour MPs told to avoid immigration and 'move the conversation on' with voters

A leaked document outlines the party's campaign strategy against Ukip

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Indy Politics

The Labour Party has warned its MPs not to focus on immigration in the lead-up to the General Election, as revealed in a leaked document outlining its plans to woo back voters from Ukip.

The confidential strategy pamphlet titled “Campaigning Against Ukip” was published by the Telegraph. It has been sent to dozens of MPs in constituencies Nigel Farage’s Eurosceptic party threatens to rob the Opposition of the votes needed to return to power in 2015.

Over the course of 33 pages, the document advises MPs on patterns in Ukip support across Britain and how to identify and target potential “switchers”.

It urges Labour candidate to “mov[e] the conversation on to issues where we have clear policy” when voters express their views on immigration during doorsteppping.

“Immigration is the issue people most often cite when explaining support for Ukip,” the document states.

“It does not however follow that campaigning on immigration issues and emphasising our policies in our conversations with electors is always the correct response.”

While it was important to listen to concerns, it went on, “our focus instead must be moving the conversation on to issues where we have clear policy which tackles the problems people are worried about, whether they express those concerns through the prism of immigration or not.”

Campaigners should identify Labour strengths and “encourage them to think more about this ... than immigration”.

Demanding careful targeting of literature, it says writing to voters about immigration who may not be concerned about the issue “risks undermining the broad coalition of support we need to return to government”.

 

Published just hours before Ed Miliband is due to make a speech, the leak is a huge embarrassment. It is expected that the Labour leader will seek to convince the public that his party has the solutions to fears over the issue - including a proposed new legal crackdown on undercutting local wages.

He will say the party offers “clear, credible and concrete” solutions on an issue that remains high on the priority list for many voters.

However, the document tells a different story, exposing the level of disquiet that exists at the top of the party over the threat posed by Ukip, not least in former Labour strongholds in coalfield communities.

Alongside detailed constituency maps pinpointing areas where Ukip switchers are most likely to live, it warns that Labour supporters are being lured away because they “feel that the party has left them behind in pursuit of better-educated, middle-class, white-collar voters”.

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.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage mocked the campaign document by posting what he said was “Mr Miliband's latest relaunch”, a picture of the gesticulating Labour leader with a caption reading: “Immigration? Uh...quick, look over there!”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said she had not seen the document.

“This is clearly something that Labour is talking to voters about, and it is our second pledge after our pledge on the deficit last week,” she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“I haven't seen the document but my understanding is those lines have been taken out of context.”

Ms Reeves pointed to policies such as counting migrants in and out of Britain, and barring incomers from receiving out-of-work benefits for two years.

“We have clear concrete and considered policies on issues immigration. It's something that myself and other MPs and candidates are talking about every day,” she said.

“Some people have immigration as their number one concern. Other people do not. I think it is important when we are out campaigning that we focus on the issues that people are raising with us.”

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