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6 June 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:18am

Balls goes for the Duffy vote

But is a tough line on immigration enough to revive the Labour Party’s fortunes?

By James Macintyre

Almost all of the candidates for Labour’s leadership have emphasised immigration — wrongly, in the view of people like my colleague Mehdi Hasan and myself — as an issue on which Labour lost out at the election and must do better. Evidence — from the BNP’s trouncing, that the Tories had the same “cap” policy and lost in 2005, and that even Gillian Duffy’s seat was retained by Labour — suggests this is a bit of an easy myth.

Despite all that, Ed Balls seems to be echoing Mrs Duffy’s particular concerns about immigrants from eastern Europe today in a BBC interview, following up his Observer article on which I touched earlier.

He claims to have warned Gordon Brown against “brushing immigration under the carpet”, despite the tough rhetorical stance and points system introduced by the former prime minister.

To be fair, at least focusing on eastern European immigrants is less racially toxic than focusing on non-European immigrants. And of course, it is entirely understandable that Balls, who received unlikely words of praise from Alastair Campbell today, should want to position himself as a traditionalist on some of these issues. But he must also know that merely a tough stance on immigration is not enough to win over some lost Labour voters, let alone the many Lib Dems who voted for the Lib Dems, not the Tories.

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