Sebastian Payne

Labour conference: Chris Bryant admits Labour’s immigration policy was flawed

‘Intellectual laziness’ — that’s how Chris Bryant described the left’s bashing of the Tories’ tough stance on immigration. The shadow immigration minister spoke this evening of his ambition to shape a new immigration policy for Labour in the role he personally requested from Ed Miliband:

‘By the next general election, I want to build a coalition of the rational on immigration. Last time, immigration hurt our vote…we failed to explain our policy. It’s not racist to say that talking about immigration is the most important political matter we face’

In his quest for a new rational policy, Bryant presented two key messages for Labour activists to take to the doorstep in 2015. Firstly, the party needs to stress that ‘foreigners are human’. Bryant retold a tale from his days as a curate — regarding a black woman being vilified on her first visit to his church — to highlight the need to tackle racism that is still sometimes found in British society. The second message is that ‘immigration is absolutely vital to economic success.’ Bryant admitted that Labour had ‘not always got it right’ but reminded the assembled crowd that ‘people drive economies’.

The shadow minister also discussed the role that businesses need to play in balancing out migration in some industries. Citing the hospitality industry as a example, he posed the question of why there aren’t more British receptionists welcoming guests at British hotels? The solution, says Bryant, is for hotels to take a more active role in training British workers with the necessary skills

Bryant acknowledged the challenge of taking this message to the country, warning activists against ‘lecturing people’ because most of the electorate will not be ‘interested in a rational debate’. But this apparent break from the past will go some way to aid the sale of a new Labour immigration policy to the nation.

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