Ukip will be toasting these
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Why Labour’s anti-immigration mugs are a boon to Ukip

Not everyone is unhappy about Labour's anti-immigration mugs. Ukip are very, very happy.

Ed Miliband describes himself as a different sort of politician. This guy is different: he under-promises and over-delivers.

But evidently not when it comes to immigration. “Controls on immigration,” reads that mug. “I’m voting Labour.” There is plenty to object to about the mug, as Stephen has brilliantly explained. And there is another dimension too: it is a Ukip dream - “comedy gold,” as a senior Ukip source puts it.

The reason is simple. Any discussion of immigration helps Ukip, by raising the salience of the issue in voters’ minds – “it is our key breakout issue,” the Ukip figure says.

Talking about immigration legitimises Ukip. If even the political class accepts that immigration is such a problem, voters might think, Ukip really do have a point. If you are right to worry about immigration and feel let down by the last Labour government not imposing transition controls on Eastern Europe in 2004, and equally angry about the Conservative Party’s spectacular failure to make good on David Cameron’s promise to reduce immigration to “tens of thousands” then voting for Ukip seems completely rational. As Ed Miliband is opposed to a referendum on the current terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union, Labour’s stance is even more muddled. A vote for Labour is now a vote to address the ‘problem’ of immigration – except it’s one that, because the party does not want out of the EU, it is admitting that it cannot address. It’s the sort of slapdash policy that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, preventing opposition parties from being caught cold about the date of an election, should have consigned to history.

As I have argued before, the way to tackle Ukip lies in compelling policies to address education, housing and jobs: convince the electorate that you can tackle these problems, and clamping down on immigration seems altogether less pressing. Belatedly the message has got to the Conservative Party. When David Cameron outlined his six priorities in January immigration was conspicuous by its absence. Ukip have not nosedived since (the reasons for their success go much deeper than immigration) but the party’s support has ticked down as it has received less publicity. It is a lesson that whoever produced Labour’s anti-immigration mugs has not learned.

But the real boon to Ukip might not be in five weeks but in five years. Ukip will not win many seats this May, but the party could come second in up to 100 constituencies, giving it a base from which to launch a further electoral assault at the next election – the “2020 strategy”.

Most of Ukip’s second placed finishes will be in seats that Labour wins, especially in the north. Five years of a Miliband government – ideally, for Ukip purposes, propped up by the SNP – could create a perfect storm for Ukip. If the economy struggles, it will invite more Labour voters to defect.

Obviously Labour will hope that this scenario does not materialise. Yet a thriving economy will – perversely - leave Labour open to fresh attack from Ukip. If the economy ticks up, it is certain that, just as has happened in the last two years, immigration will rise with it; a rising number of immigrants are both a cause and effect of economic growth.

So if Labour can go into the next election able to prove that the apocalyptic fears of the economy under Ed Miliband did not materialise, they will still have stoked up trouble for themselves. Miliband’s Labour will join the burgeoning list of UK political parties to over-promise and under-deliver on immigration. Ukip, we can be sure, will not be shy to remind voters – and Labour will have further cause to regret failing to challenge the rightward shift on immigration this Parliament. Those mugs could cost Labour this May and far beyond.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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The UK is dangerously close to breaking apart - there's one way to fix it

We must rethink our whole constitutional settlement. 

When the then-Labour leader John Smith set up a report on social justice for what would be the incoming government in 1997, he said we must stop wasting our most precious resource – "the extraordinary skills and talents of ordinary people".

It is one of our party’s greatest tragedies that he never had the chance to see that vision put into practice. 

At the time, it was clear that while our values of equality, solidarity and tolerance endured, the solutions we needed were not the same as those when Labour was last in power in the 1970s, and neither were they to be found in the policies of opposition from the 1980s. 

The Commission on Social Justice described a UK transformed by three revolutions:

  • an economic revolution brought about by increasing globalisation, innovation and a changing labour market
  • a social revolution that had seen the role of women in society transformed, the traditional family model change, inequality ingrained and relationships between people in our communities strained
  • a political revolution that challenged the centralisation of power, demanded more individual control and accepted a different role for government in society.

Two decades on, these three revolutions could equally be applied to the UK, and Scotland, today. 

Our economy, society and our politics have been transformed even further, but there is absolutely no consensus – no agreement – about the direction our country should take. 

What that has led to, in my view, is a society more dangerously divided than at any point in our recent history. 

The public reject the status quo but there is no settled will about the direction we should take. 

And instead of grappling with the complex messages that people are sending us, and trying to find the solutions in the shades of grey, politicians of all parties are attached to solutions that are black or white, dividing us further. 

Anyone in Labour, or any party, who claims that we can sit on the margins and wait for politics to “settle down” will rightly be consigned to history. 

The future shape of the UK, how we govern ourselves and how our economy and society should develop, is now the single biggest political question we face. 

Politics driven by nationalism and identity, which were for so long mostly confined to Scotland, have now taken their place firmly in the mainstream of all UK politics. 

Continuing to pull our country in these directions risks breaking the United Kingdom once and for all. 

I believe we need to reaffirm our belief in the UK for the 21st century. 

Over time, political power has become concentrated in too few hands. Power and wealth hoarded in one corner of our United Kingdom has not worked for the vast majority of people. 

That is why the time has come for the rest of the UK to follow where Scotland led in the 1980s and 1990s and establish a People’s Constitutional Convention to re-establish the UK for a new age. 

The convention should bring together groups to deliberate on the future of our country and propose a way forward that strengthens the UK and establishes a new political settlement for the whole of our country. 

After more than 300 years, it is time for a new Act of Union to safeguard our family of nations for generations to come.

This would mean a radical reshaping of our country along federal lines where every component part of the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions – take more responsibility for what happens in their own communities, but where we still maintain the protection of being part of a greater whole as the UK. 

The United Kingdom provides the redistribution of wealth that defines our entire Labour movement, and it provides the protection for public finance in Scotland that comes from being part of something larger, something good, and something worth fighting for. 

Kezia Dugdale is the leader of the Scottish Labour party.