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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Labour 'in denial' over immigration

Labour 'in denial' over immigration

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham said today that a failure to address concerns over immigration may have contributed to his party's General Election defeat.

The former health secretary, who earlier highlighted his "ordinary upbringing" as a way to win back disgruntled Labour supporters, claimed the party had been "in denial" about the issue.

His comments came after former Cabinet minister David Blunkett announced he was nominating Mr Burnham for the leadership, saying he believed he would "widen the field" and "provide a genuine debate".

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Burnham said: "We were in denial. We were behind the issue all the time, and myths were allowed to develop. There's still an ambivalence among some in Labour about discussing immigration. I've been accused of dog-whistle politics for doing so.

"But it was the biggest doorstep issue in constituencies where Labour lost. People aren't racist, but they say it has increased tension, stopped them getting access to housing and lowered their wages."
He also warned that the tough new expenses rules could make family life more "dysfunctional" and risked driving talented people, particularly women, away from politics.

Yesterday, the leadership candidates sought to highlight what marks them out from their rivals.

Diane Abbott played on her position as the only black or female contender, saying the other hopefuls "could have run in the 1950s".

Mr Burnham drew attention to his northern roots and "ordinary upbringing", insisting: "My background is different."

And veteran left-winger John McDonnell reiterated his call for British troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan - challenging his rivals to adopt his stance.

They were speaking as former Labour leader Lord Kinnock came out in support of Ed Miliband, telling the Observer that he had the "X-factor" needed to bring voters back to Labour.

Meanwhile, David Miliband enjoyed a massive lead among voters in a newspaper poll.

Along with former schools secretary Ed Balls, the four MPs are battling to be elected Labour leader in September.

A YouGov survey for The Sunday Times showed David Miliband has 23% support among voters but surprisingly put Ms Abbott in second place on 9%, with Ed Miliband on 8%, Mr Balls 6%, Mr Burnham 4%, and Mr McDonnell 2%