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Miliband on immigration: 'Proud of diversity, proud of Britain'

By Ian Dunt

Ed Miliband will try to carve out a unique position on immigration today, with a speech which promises tough action while also celebrating Britain's diversity.

The Labour leader is faced with the daunting task of voicing the anxieties of the party's core white working class voters without alienating its liberal supporters.

"We should celebrate multi-ethnic diverse Britain. We are stronger for it - and I love Britain for it," he will say.

"But at the same time we know there is anxiety about immigration and what it means for our culture.

"There are issues about the pace of change. The capacity of our economy to absorb new migrants has outrun the capacity of some of our communities to adapt.  The last Labour government made mistakes in this regard."

Miliband will try to bring together the notion of a confident, diverse Britain seen during the Olympics and this week's Census data with concerns around segregation, especially in northern cities.

"Some people say that what we should aim for is assimilation whereby people who have come here do so only on the condition that they abandon their culture," he will say.

"People can be proudly, patriotically British without abandoning their cultural roots and distinctiveness.

“But there is another idea we should also reject: the belief that people can simply live side by side in their own communities, respecting each other but living separate lives, protected from hatreds but never building a common bond - never learning to appreciate one another. We cannot be comfortable with separation."

Miliband will propose that people are barred from publicly-funded, public facing jobs unless they can speak English.

He will also call for English language teaching for newcomers to be funded ahead of non-essential written translation materials. He stops short, however, of calling for the reversal of cuts to English class for immigrants implemented by successive governments.

On housing, Miliband will pledge to crack down on criminal landlords who pack people into overcrowded accommodation via a beefed-up licensing system and harsh fines.

He will also promise to end the practice of using forced indebtedness and tied-in housing, which sometimes locks migrant workers into harsh conditions.

"It is far too easy for unscrupulous landlords to prey on newcomers to our country," he will say.

"The mayor of Newham, Robin Wales, says that the record is of one house with 38 people of whom 16 were children.

"Let's be clear: this is terrible for people living there and it also terrible for people in the neighbourhood. We can't expect people to embrace their neighbours, to build communities, if it means 38 people living next door."

On employment, Miliband will pledge a ban on recruitment agencies advertising only for workers from certain countries and tougher enforcement of minimum wage so foreign workers could not undercut domestic workers.

Miliband became leader of the Labour party intent on stemming the haemorrhaging of support it experienced in white working class areas during the 2010 general election.

The loss of the party's core supporters came from several reasons, but analysts are sure the perception of uncontrolled immigration was a major factor.

Many in the party were horrified when Gordon Brown responded to that perception by borrowing rhetoric from the BNP, notably when he promised 'British jobs for British workers'.

The new Labour leader, whose parents were refugees during World War Two, wants to take a different course by pledging reassurances to the core vote based on left-wing values.