Ed Miliband: Labour made mistakes in tackling the "realities of segregation"

The Labour leader will tackle immigration, assimilation and his party’s legacy in government in a speech later today.

Ed Miliband will admit that the Labour government made mistakes on immigration and the “realities of segregation” in a speech in south London later today.

“Too little” was done to help people settle in Britain integrate into society, he will say, while also stressing how proud he is of "multi-ethnic, diverse Britain".

The speech will contain proposals for how a new Labour government would tackle these issues. At the centre of his plan is language – every citizen should know how to speak English, and staff in publicly-funded jobs who interact with the public should be able to demonstrate proficiency in the language.

The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt reports that the Labour leader will propose that English language teaching for newcomers be prioritised over funding for “non-essential written translation materials” and that “statements on English language learning within Home School Agreements” to share responsibility for children’s language learning between parents and schools.

Miliband will also emphasise that this set of proposals is part of the “One Nation” framework he set out in his party conference speech earlier this year and not a “dog whistle” attempt to prevent Labour defections to the BNP. He will say:

"We can only converse if we can speak the same language. So if we are going to build One Nation, we need to start with everyone in Britain knowing how to speak English. We should expect that of people that come here. We will work together as a nation far more effectively when we can always talk together."

 

The Labour leader will say how proud he is of "multi-ethnic, diverse Britain". Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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