Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he understands people’s worries about the effects of immigration but ruled out making false promises in response to UKIP’s better performance in the just concluded European and council elections.
Mr Miliband, who has been visiting Thurrock council in Essex, said many people he had talked to were worried about immigration. “Builders from Eastern Europe, care-workers from overseas who sometimes don’t speak fluent English,” he said.
One of people he met in Thurrock told him: “The ordinary man in the street is not being heard enough anymore. They thought UKIP heard them.”
“Our embrace of openness made some people feel we didn’t understand the pressures immigration put on them,” Mr Miliband said. “Our embrace of economic change, on the one hand, and our determination to do right by the very poorest, on the other, led people to believe that we didn’t care enough about ordinary working people.”
UKIP, Mr Miliband said, blames Europe and foreigners for the country’s problems. “And they have an apparently simple solution: to get out of the European Union. I have to say: 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.”
Mr Miliband said closing the UK off from the world will never deliver for working people. “It won’t. It will harm working people. Think of all the jobs here that still rely on trade. That’s why our future lies in the European Union.”
The Labour leader who described himself as “the son of immigrants,” said he was proud of the contribution his parents made to the UK.
“I believe immigration benefits our country as a whole. But it needs to be properly managed,” he said. “I have changed Labour’s position on immigration since 2010 because it is not prejudiced to worry about immigration, it is understandable.”
Outlining his party’s immigration policy, Mr Miliband said: “Labour would have controls when people arrive and leave here, we will tackle the undercutting of wages, we will ensure people in public services speak English and people need to earn their entitlements.”
He however made it clear that “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.”
Mr Miliband said more than the right immigration policy was needed to meet the concerns people have.
He added that there was need to change the way the country’s economy works for the people.