`Immigration was clearly the biggest issue at election’
24th May 2010: Labour’s attempts to silence the immigration debate during the campaign did not work for the party, believes former health secretary Andy Burnham.
In an interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he agreed his party ignored voters’ concerns about immigration, even though he felt their worries over the influx of migrants was the biggest issue at the general election.
He made it clear that failure to address concerns over immigration may have contributed to the party’s defeat. In another interview, he said people were not racist, but they believed immigration increased tension, stopped them getting access to housing and lowered their wages."
The comments came soon after former Cabinet minister David Blunkett announced Burnham’s name for the leadership, as he would "widen the field" and "provide a genuine debate".
The party hardly made a mention of the immigration issue in its manifesto. Burnham said he thought immigration was for him clearly the biggest issue at the election. Some people felt Labour was either in a denial mode or just didn’t want to talk about it.
One of four former cabinet ministers vying to be the next Labour leader, he said some parts of the country had changed rapidly; and Labour should have been addressing those concerns otherwise they leave a vacuum for those with more sinister intentions to come in and whip up fear and hatred.