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16 March 2015

When will Labour stop appeasing, and start fighting, Ukip?

Nigel Farage's latest outburst is pretty noxious. But Labour's response is just embarrassing.

By Stephen Bush

Nigel Farage has oozed back onto the scene with his latest outburst about a group he thinks it’s fashionable to bash – this time, the children of immigrants. Speaking to the Guardian, Farage said:

I wouldn’t foresee people coming into Britain immediately being allowed to bring children to go through the state system. Except for very high earners, it wouldn’t be very relevant.”

Ukip’s website, meanwhile, says that immigrants should have to wait five years before being able to use state services, including education. To put that in perspective: that means a newly-arrived five year old would miss out on all but the final year of primary school – and an 11-year old would never be allowed to attend a state secondary school.

An open goal, you might think, for Labour and Jon Trickett, who is one of the MPs tasked with heading up Labour’s anti-Ukip unit. This is the statement that Labour have put out today, in Trickett’s name:

This latest outrageous outburst from Nigel Farage is another example of how Ukip just make it up as they go along. Just like the Tories they want to prop up, they offer no sensible policies to help working people.”

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Hmm. Well, it’s certainly an “outrageous outburst”. But is the problem that Nigel Farage is making up the policy as he goes along? Certainly it may well be a problem with Ukip policies. But the big problem with this policy is that it would deny state services – schools, vaccinations, GP visits – to children, purely because of where they or their parents were born. That’s something that the Labour party would have had a problem with, some time ago.

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And of course, many do. Last week I interviewed Chuka Umunna, the most senior Labour politician to recognise – and to challenge – Ukip for what it is. But five months after Ed Miliband pledged to “take this lot apart” there is little sign that the Labour leadership has the courage to join in.