The Labour Party have said they would support moves by the government to further restrict the access that migrants have to state benefits, acknowledging that the immigration issue was causing public concern, reports the BBC.
The Deputy leader of the party, Harriet Harman MP, said that the Labour party understands public concern over immigration rules, and would support moves to provide a greater restriction on migrants’ access to benefits.
The announcement comes in a week when the UK Independence Party (UKIP) won its first seat at Westminster, after Conservative defector Douglas Carswell claimed a landslide victory in the Clacton by-election.
Commentators are viewing UKIP’s win with a dominant 60% of the vote as a sign that the UK public are tired of the main party’s policies on immigration and Europe.
However critics point to UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s comments over the weekend, that anyone with HIV would be refused entry into the UK if his party were in power, as a sign of the bigotry that has stymied UKIP in the recent past and could make them largely unelectable for the majority of people outside of the far right.
The Conservatives and Labour however are perceived to be running scared from UKIP, and the latest announcement that Labour would be much tougher on immigration is seen as a concession to the right in a bid to attempt to gain votes before next May’s general election.
Labour narrowly held on to their ‘safe seat’ of Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester in another by-election last week by just 617 votes, prompting one Labour supporter to say:
“We have had no real response to UKIP, who are now our main opposition in large parts of the north. We just assumed UKIP was the Tories’ problem. The worry is that it is a bush fire spreading everywhere” said the source, quoted in the Guardian.