Ed Miliband promises to listen on UK immigration

New Labour leader
Ed Miliband. (Image:

The new Labour leader Ed Miliband has delivered his conference speech in Manchester today, humbly admitting the errors of Labour’s time in office but offering himself as a leader of a new generation.

“Be in no doubt. The new generation of Labour is different. Different attitudes, different ideas, different ways of doing politics.

“Today I want to tell you who I am, what I believe and how we are going to do the most important thing we have to do - win back the trust of the country,” he said.

While Miliband did not make major policy announcements in his speech he did talk on a number of topics of importance including his family’s experiences as migrants to the UK, British economic policy, the national deficit, globalisation and UK immigration.

Humility, Mr Miliband said, was the most important word in politics for Labour.

“We need to learn some painful truths about where we went wrong and how we lost touch... We have to understand why people felt they couldn't support us. We have to show we understand the problems people face today,” he said.

One of the key issues for Labour in the last election was the appearance that the party did not understand voters’ concerns about UK immigration, and Miliband hopes to reconnect with the electorate on this issue.

“New Labour was right to be enthusiastic about the opportunities that come in a more connected world: the movement of goods and services, the chance to travel, the new markets for our companies.

“But this new generation recognises that we did not do enough to address concerns about some of the consequences of globalisation, including migration.

“All of us heard it. Like the man I met in my constituency who told me he had seen his mates’ wages driven down by the consequences of migration. If we don't understand why he would feel angry—and it wasn't about prejudice—then we are failing to serve those who we are in politics to represent.

“I am the son of immigrants. I believe that Britain has benefited economically, culturally, socially from those who come to this country.

“I don't believe either that we can turn back the clock on free movement of labour in Europe. But we should never have pretended it would not have consequences. Consequences we should have dealt with.

“We have to challenge the old thinking that flexible labour markets are always the answer.

“Employers should not be allowed to exploit migrant labour in order to undercut wages. And if we have free movement of labour across Europe we need proper labour standards in our economy, including real protection for agency workers," Mr Miliband said.

What this means for Labour's immigration policy, particularly in light of the difficulties experienced by employers in recruiting highly skilled non-EU employees under the Coalition's restrictive UK Visa cap, is not yet clear.

Ed Miliband’s full speech can be viewed in full here.

- Stephanie Bradley is Content and Communications Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.