Following a disastrous defeat at the general election on 11 December 2020, in which the Labour party lost 59 seats, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has announced he will resign. The new leader of the labour party will be announced on 4 April, but the question is, who will replace him? And perhaps more importantly, what will their position on immigration be?
Jess Phillips – We must start celebrating immigration
As of writing Jess Phillips has just announced that she will be quitting the leadership contest, but she nevertheless was a progressive voice on immigration changes. Philips is a Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, who has taken constant pride in the diversity of her constituency and spoke out in favour of immigration.
In an op-ed for the Independent, she argued that far too often Labour politicians have been willing to pay lip service to xenophobic ideas of the right and that instead, we need to celebrate immigration. She further called for;
- A lifting of the ban which prevents asylum-seekers from gaining employment in the UK.
- Abolishing immigration detention
- Ending the deportation of child refugees when they turn 18
- People to have the right to stay who have lived in this country for many years without fear of being pursued by the Home Office
Lisa Nandy – Freedom of movement has flaws
Lisa Nandy is one of Labour’s few MPs in the North, she is seen as on the right-wing of the party and has been seen as pushing “sensible immigration policies”. Nandy briefly served as Shadow Energy Secretary from 2015 to 2016 and has served as MP for Wigan since 2015.
Nandy has defended free movement but insisted that Labour must recognise the issues with free movement. She has further stated that the Government have used free Labour to “cover up a lack of investment” in terms of training and technical skills, particularly in the North and deindustrialised areas.
Rebecca Long-Bailey – Continuing freedom of movement
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the MP for Salford and Eccles and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has opposed Nandy’s position arguing instead that the idea that an influx of migrants depressed wages was a lie and that she did not see any evidence for this claim.
In the past, Bailey has argued in favour of free movement and remaining within the single market; however, this was articulated before the December 2019 general election; hence her views may have shifted.
When questioned on her commitments to freedom of movement, she has been less clear.
Keir Starmer – Immigration should be reduced
Keir Starmer is the MP for Holborn and St Pancreas and the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Starmer is currently the front runner for the Labour leadership and has been a prominent member of the cabinet.
In the past, Starmer has stated in contrast to the Labour leadership that immigration was too high, and amendments to the free movement rule would be needed.
If the Labour leadership wishes to stand a chance in the next general election, they must have a strong, consistent and clear position on immigration. The defeat of 2019 can, in part, be attributed to the Labour’s weak position and attempt at ‘tactical ambiguity’. When it came down to a vote those, who feared immigration were concerned that Labour would not take action, whereas those who favoured immigration did not feel that Labour would not provide sufficient protection.
All of the candidates for leadership of the Labour party have a strong record of voting against stricter immigration rules and voting for greater protections to be offered to asylum seekers and refugees. The debate is on the right to free movement across the EU. Here it is clear that Jess Phillips has laid out a clear pathway to a more humane immigration system.
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