New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
  2. UK Politics
27 November 2023

Labour needs proper answers on immigration

If the party enters government it will face the same problems as the Tories.

By Freddie Hayward

Labour is trying to beat the Conservatives at their own game. Since he became leader, Keir Starmer has ceded few topics to the Conservatives. He’s keen to reclaim Brexit, economic growth and low taxation as “Labour issues”. That includes immigration. Starmer has said last week’s migration figures – which placed net migration last year at 745,000 – are “shockingly high”. He thinks the number reflects the government’s failure to train British workers and is concerned about the hotel bills the government is incurring for housing asylum seekers.

Although Labour will not specify its own target, it claims to want fewer people coming in. That’s the only logical conclusion to be drawn from a spokesperson saying over the weekend that the party hopes its policies will lead to a fall in net migration. This type of rhetoric is not new: “let’s prioritise British workers and proper wages over Britain’s immigration dependency” was essentially Starmer’s message to the Confederation of Business Industry last year.

This explicit call for training and workforce plans makes Labour, in some ways, more restrictionist on legal migration than the Conservatives. Or at the least, Labour’s promises have slightly more credibility because it hasn’t had the opportunity to break them in the past 13 years.

That might change after the next election. The question for a Labour government is whether it’s willing to dedicate money to delivering on its promise to reduce immigration. Take social care, for instance. Labour wants sectoral bargaining to increase social care workers’ pay and therefore decrease the reliance on cheap foreign labour. Is Labour also going to give councils more money to pay for the rising costs of providing social care? And is it going to increase taxes to fund that? Labour claims it wants to take a different path to the Conservatives on immigration. But the party will face the same dilemmas in office.

This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; receive it every morning by subscribing on Substack here.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

[See also: The Tories’ secret workforce: record immigration]

Content from our partners
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit

Topics in this article : ,