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Ed Miliband apologises for Labour's immigration shambles

By Harry Phibbs
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During the General Election the defining moment for many in the Labour Party was when Gordon Brown was caught describing Gillian Duffy as "a bigoted woman" after she had raised concerns about immigration.They felt that it was the moment which showed Labour out of touch with many of its own supporters.

The Labour leader Ed Miliband is trying to make up for it. He has given an interview for The Guardian and will follow it up with a speech today where he will apologise for the Labour Government's record on immigration.

He concedes that Gordon Brown's rhetoric of "British jobs for British workers" was "to tell people things we can't deliver."

But he wants to look at new regulations to make it less attractive for firms to employ foreign nationals:

"In sectors where there is a problem, every medium and large employer that has more than 25% foreign workers – double the average share of migrants in the population – should have to notify Jobcentre Plus."

He also suggests tougher enforcement on the minimum wage with higher fines for firms paying below it - often using foreign labour. He says that Labour lifted restrictions on EU accession countries like Poland, too quickly. And he adds that he would consider keeping the cap brought in by the Government on immigration numbers, and consider supporting a change in housing allocation methods to give lower priority to immigrants.

Mr Miliband presents immigration as a class issue. Something where the middle class have benefited from cheap labour - including for plumbers and nannies. But where the working class have suffered as they have been priced out of work.

This indicates the influence of Jon Cruddas, the Shadow Cabinet member charged with a policy review. His critique has been that allowing in immigration on such a large scale was part of the Labour Government's capitulation to globalisation and market forces. Also the impact of Lord Glasman's Blue Labour thinking.

The class analysis gives advocating immigration control a socialist edge. There will also be some appreciation from the electorate that he is at least talking about the issue. But are those concerned about immigration really mostly worried about skilled workers from central Europe such as Polish plumbers? They don't tend to sign on the dole, or take council housing, or get involved in crime. The problem is not those who pay their way and play by the rules.

Mr Miliband will also have trouble when challenged on the credibility of the measures he outlines - especially given his view that the UK should remain a member of the European Union.