Tony Blair talks with Ed Miliband during a Loyal Address service to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Hall in London on March 20, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Miliband will follow Blair's advice on an EU referendum but not on immigration

He has broken unambiguously with the open borders stance adopted by the former PM.

"The Master", as some Conservative ministers like to refer to him, emerged on the Today programme this morning to offer his response to Ukip's "political earthquake". Tony Blair advised Ed Miliband to "stay firm" by refusing to match David Cameron's guarantee of an in/out EU referendum and implied that the Labour leader was wrong to have apologised for his party's failure to impose transitional controls on eastern European immigration.

He said: "I personally would very strongly support the position we took, both in Europe and in immigration more generally. Remember, I fought the 2005 election on a campaign against immigration from the then Conservative leader."

Miliband certainly agrees with Blair on the first point. As I've previously reported, he will not bow to pressure from some Labour MPs to change his stance on an EU referendum (which is to only hold a vote in the unlikely event of a further transfer of powers to Brussels). Miliband rightly believes that he would derive little or no political benefit from doing so (the issue is not a primary concern even for Ukip voters) and is not prepared to risk the opening years of his premiership being dominated by a referendum that he could lose (an event that would almost certainly force his resignation).

But he will not be taking Blair's advice on immigration. Miliband has abandoned the globalist, open borders stance adopted by Blair in favour of a Blue Labour position that supports greater regulation of labour markets as well as of financial markets. Having apologised for Labour's failure to control eastern European immigration in the past (an issue that rose dramatically in significance after Blair's departure from office) , he has pledged to apply the "maximum transitional controls" to future member states. Alongside this, he has vowed to ban recruitment agencies from only advertising for migrant workers and to require large domestic firms to train a British apprentice for each worker they employ from outside the EU.  The stance advocated by Blair - a full-throated defence of the benefits of high immigration and EU integration - is identical to that taken by Nick Clegg; it would prove politically suicidal for Labour.

Where Miliband has also departed from Blairism is in supporting greater market intervention to address the problems - stagnant wages, extortionate prices and excessive rents - for which anxiety over immigration is frequently a proxy.  Expect to hear more on the need for change when the Labour leader gives his first substantial response to the local and European election results in Thurrock (the scene of a Ukip victory over Labour last week) today.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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