Labour must come clean on immigration

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks with students
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks with students

As the Safety of Rwanda Bill makes its way to the House of Lords, Rishi Sunak has warned peers against attempting to block the legislation, saying that to do so would be an attempt to frustrate the will of the people.

Mr Sunak is correct that resolving the small boats crisis is an urgent priority for many voters. However, while the Labour Party has made much of its opposition to the Rwanda scheme, it has been noticeably quiet in offering its own proposals for dealing with the situation in the Channel.

This is, regrettably, of a piece with Labour’s approach to immigration in general. For all that the party is willing to talk about the economy – see the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, appearing in Davos to shake hands and hint at tax cuts – on the issue of immigration Labour can barely bring itself to say anything at all.

Net migration is at near-record highs, and it has been estimated that voters in nine out of every 10 constituencies wish to see the numbers cut. It is increasingly clear that Britain’s current course is putting intolerable strain on public services, infrastructure and the housing market, let alone the social fabric binding our democracy together.

However, when Labour has been pushed for precise plans, none have been forthcoming. The suspicion must be that many Labour MPs are considerably to the Left of the public on this issue, and that Sir Keir, who has worked hard to make his party politically palatable again, is eager to keep this radical streak from view.

This would be understandable, particularly when it is considered that mass migration appears to have been particularly damaging to many groups that Labour purports to stand up for. Young people have faced increasing competition for a heavily constrained housing stock, watching rents soar and house prices spiral out of reach, while workers in lower paid manual and service industries have seen the prospect of their wages being undercut as living costs rise.

With the country potentially just months away from a general election, the public is entitled to know what Labour Party policy actually is on this issue. It is one thing for Sir Keir to say that immigration is “shockingly high”, but what does he believe the correct level to be? How does he propose to lower the numbers arriving?

Until we have answers to these questions, Labour’s position on immigration lacks any credibility.

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