Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has admitted that the Labour Party doesn’t “have a mature and honest debate about immigration.”
Addressing the Labour Party Annual Conference 2013 in Brighton, Ms. Cooper said their party do leave the debate on immigration “to the divisive politics of the right.”
“That’s why we have set out practical policies,” she said. She however made it clear that she “will not join an arms race of rhetoric on immigration.”
Ms. Cooper affirmed that the Labour Party “will never use immigration to play divide and rule.”
Outlining some of the major contributions of immigrants, Ms. Cooper said: “Britain has benefited from those welcomed to our shores across the generations – building our biggest companies, working in our NHS, winning us Nobel prizes and Olympic medals.”
Observing that immigration will continue to be important to the UK’s future as the country competes in a global market, Ms. Cooper said there was need of a controlled system “with proper limits and fair rules in place.”
“The free market right wants wide open borders – in the interests of free trade and cheap labour. The conservative right wants the drawbridge closed – to keep away outsiders and shun change. Neither of these right wing positions will ever work for Britain or ever be accepted by Labour,” Ms. Cooper said.
She admitted the Labour Party’s failure in handling immigration while in Government.
Ms. Cooper said the Labour Party supports measures to bring immigration down, adding that “as long as the evidence supports it we will keep the cap.”
She then proceeded to criticize the way the Tories were handling immigration saying they “are getting things wrong too.”
“Border controls have been reduced. Electronic checks delayed. Searches for stowaways stopped. Fewer foreign criminals sent home. The number of people refused entry at the border has halved. Yet top business visas are being delayed. And university students – bringing billions of investment in – have been put off. While human trafficking is going up,” said Ms. Cooper.
She called for a strict law to stop people getting round the minimum wage, with stronger enforcement and increased fines.
“Unlike the Tories, we won’t do checks at London tube stations, asking British people to prove their immigration status, targeted at people for the colour of their skin. Unlike the Tories, we won’t do Ad vans sent to the areas with the highest black and minority ethnic British communities. Borrowing the language of the 1970s National Front,” Ms. Cooper said.
The Shadow Home Secretary asked the government to stop divisive gimmicks describing them as “an utter disgrace.”
While the Government is busy dividing communities, Ms. Cooper said the Labour Party must promote unity and “build the politics of hope.”
Ms. Cooper paid tribute to Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack 20 years ago. She described Ms. Lawrence as “Someone who has fought for truth and against racism and injustice. Whose determination changed the face of policing. Whose community work through the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust is helping new generations of young people overcome prejudice.”
She added that the Labour Party was privileged that Ms. Lawrence “will join the Labour benches in the House of Lords to continue her work.”
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a