POLITICS

Ed Miliband's Big Immigration Speech Overshadowed By Controversial Leak

15/12/2014 11:31 GMT | Updated 15/12/2014 12:59 GMT

Ed Miliband's latest attempt to convince voters that Labour can tackle fears over immigration has been undermined by a row over leaked advice on how to win back voters tempted to vote Ukip.

The confidential briefing, detailing Labour's strategy to defeat Ukip, was sent to MPs in constituencies where the eurosceptic party threatens their electoral prospects next year, the Telegraph reported.

The 33-page Campaigning against Ukip document warns that having immigration become a major talking point on the doorstep "does not translate into electoral advantage for us".

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Some of Labour's advice on how to take on Ukip

"Immigration is the issue people most often cite when explaining support for Ukip," it explains. "It does not however follow that campaigning on immigration issues and emphasising our policies in our conversations with electors is always the correct response."

Alongside detailed constituency maps pinpointing areas where Ukip switchers are most likely to live, it warns that Labour supporters are being lured away because they "feel that the party has left them behind in pursuit of better-educated, middle-class, white-collar voters".

Demanding careful targeting of literature, it says proactively writing to voters about immigration who may not be concerned about the issue "risks undermining the broad coalition of support we need to return to government".

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves told the BBC that "those lines have been taken out of context", and also moved to distance the party from the document.

"I haven't even seen the document and I'm a candidate and a member of the Shadow Cabinet." she told the Today programme.

"But I know, in seats around the country like Great Yarmouth, where Ed is today, immigration is an issue that we're talking about. I'm talking about it in my own constituency and we've got clear policies, which is what I'm on to talk about this morning."

Meanwhile, a Labour spokesman said that the party saw immigration as a priority issue, noting that Miliband's speech on Monday will be his fourth major intervention on the subject.

Other figures went even further to disown the Labour briefing, with a source telling PoliticsHome that no-one in Miliband's office or on the Labour frontbench had seen the document.

Labour MP Frank FIeld, a frequent critic of the party over immigration, said: "I think this must be an April Fools' Day pack because not campaigning on immigration is exactly what Ukip wants us to do."

However, Labour's briefing to MPs does not mention anywhere that the party should deliberately avoid campaigning on immigration, and actually tells them to "reassure electors that we... are proposing policies to ensure effective integration".

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Speaking in Great Yarmouth, Miliband set out the party's commitment to stop businesses undercutting local wages by relying on cheap foreign labour.

Promising "clear, credible and concrete" solutions, the Labour leader warned employers who exploit foreign workers that they could face prosecution under Labour government.

The Labour leader has already pledged to make serious exploitation of migrant workers a criminal offence, promising in January to close a legal loophole used to exploit cheap foreign labour.

However, he signalled that wants to go further by adopting a German rule which would ensure a "clear discrepancy" between the terms and conditions of local and foreign staff could contribute to a prosecution.

Miliband accused the Tories and Ukip of "turning a blind eye to exploitation and undercutting because it is part of the low skill, low wage, fast-buck economy they think Britain needs to succeed".

"We are serving notice on employers who bring workers here under duress or on false terms and pay them significantly lower wages, with worse terms and conditions," he added.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage mocked the campaign document by posting what he said was "Mr Miliband's latest relaunch", a picture of the gesticulating Labour leader with a caption reading: "Immigration? Uh...quick, look over there!"

Chris Bryant, then shadow immigration minister, wrote in a blog last September on the HuffPostUK: "Exploitation of migrant workers and undercutting of local workers' wages is common in certain industries.

"Under Ed Miliband's leadership, Labour will tackle these problems, combat the exploitation and help end the unfairness."