Labour will not buckle to populism and take an imitative stance on immigration, regardless of Ukip's recent victories at local and European elections, according to the Shadow Home Secretary.
Writing in the Guardian, Yvette Cooper dismissed talk of her party pandering to the right, seeking cheap headlines on immigration, while rejecting the "arms race of rhetoric" likely to follow the Farage party victories.
The MP said that Labour would engage in the immigration debate, but only with a measured tone, looking to introduce better immigration controls, including tighter border security, while tackling the problem of migrant exploitation, which serves to drive down regional wages.
"Where does politics go from here?” wrote Cooper. “Ukip is preying on people's fears. We won't imitate it, we'll take it on - especially when it promotes hostility, division and isolation.
"The Conservatives are still clinging to their failing target without realising that simply ramping up rhetoric undermines consent. And all the other parties are failing to take seriously employers using migrant workers to pursue a race to the bottom - their policies mean those on the lowest incomes and most worried about immigration are at risk of being left further behind.
"When people are worried, and when the system is under strain, it is easy to seek cheap headlines or to exploit fears. And it can be simpler to try to pretend the problem will go away - even though that leaves a vacuum for extremists to exploit.
"Neither political approach is right. That's why the Labour party has to take the harder course - talking, listening, debating, putting forward sensible, fair reforms. Only that way can we win the argument and secure our future."
Cooper warned that a "reactionary conservative approach" to immigration was not the way forward for Britain, adding: "Each generation faced challenges over how to manage and control migration - to get the benefits, but cope with the pace of change, to make sure the system is fair and keeps public confidence.
"The biggest challenge has always been to avoid becoming divided and to remain an optimistic, outward-looking nation.
"Right now, that is under threat. Public anxiety has grown steadily. Low-paid workers see deep injustice in the way employers exploit cheap migrant labour to undercut wages. Communities are worried about public services as budgets are cut. Yet hi-tech businesses and universities are troubled that we aren't getting the skills and investment we need. It's becoming the worst of all worlds.
"A reactionary conservative approach to immigration - closing all the borders to keep the world at bay - can't work for our trading nation. But a laissez-faire free-market approach - opening all doors in the interests of cheap labour - won't work either. Both these right-wing approaches fail Britain."