Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central today told the Times Newspaper that “it is clear to me that the UKIP fox is in the Labour henhouse, and we have to make a decision about what we want to do about that fox.” His take was on the UKIP Party after Paul Nuttall was elected leader of the party earlier today. Nuttall, who is the third leader of UKIP in a year said: “I want to replace the Labour Party and make UKIP the patriotic voice of working people.” Speaking to the BBC, Nuttall highlighted his party will be “speaking the language of ordinary working people… we’re going to move into the areas the Labour Party has neglected”, dismissing Labour leader leader Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and Diane Abbott as part of “a North London Islington set”. He said: “We will be focusing on the issues that really matter to working-class people on doorsteps – immigration, crime, defence, foreign aid, ensuring that British people are put to the top of the queue in the job market.”
I don’t think UKIP will wither away as many people have predicted after the Brexit vote. Yes, they stood on taking Britain out of the EU as their aim but they will mould themselves in a wave of right wing euphoria across Europe and the USA and take on causes of a hard Brexit, immigration, identity politics and white working class aspirations, something which critics of the Left say have been put at the back of the queue.
Jarvis is right about the UKIP fox in the Labour henhouse, however how do you get rid of the Fox? Sadly difficult conversations over immigration, race and identity are still frowned upon amongst some Liberal circles without any alternatives are being shown. Upon knowing Nuttall was elected as leader, the Labour social media team attacked him on his stance over the NHS:
— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) November 28, 2016
With all due respect, I don’t think people voted or supported UKIP due to their concerns about the NHS, or will really bother about what he thinks about the NHS. Again, Labour need to take Nuttall and UKIP head on and show you don’t need to “out UKIP UKIP on immigration. Labour will have to accept that Nuttall will have more appeal to working class Labour voters than Nigel Farage. His northern background and humble origins is somewhat a different world to the life of a city banker tweed wearing Farage who now it seems will be relishing a life in a Trump USA.
The Labour party I feel currently don’t know what the solution is in relation to Immigration. While some say the party should “out UKIP UKIP,” the likes of Diane Abbott believe that appealing to those who considered UKIP would come at a disadvantage of losing current voters. Labour does need to go beyond London and urban cosmopolitian places, as sadly I have heard more anti immigration arguments coming out of established immigrant communitities which has resulted in a few of them to vote Conservative and had voted for Brexit. The debate of immigration is no longer a race issue, however Labour needs to show the positives of immigration while at the same time accept it is a voter concern, especially in a time leading up to Brexit.
In my views I think Labour needs to show patrotism and left wing solutions do go hand in hand and embrace nationalism in the same way the Scottish Nationals and Plaid Cymru did in Scotland and Wales. Similarly Labour should engage in a honest debate about immigration, rather than just bury their heads in the sand or refuse accept the change amongst voters. Having a talk on immigration would keep people within the Labour Party and see them as the natural party of working class aspirations.
According to research done by former Miliband pollster James Morris, Labour could lose if it does not address the threat from UKIP. Based on research he did in Greater Manchester, he found that immigration was the central concern of voters who had previously supported Labour but who now favoured UKIP. In an article he wrote for LabourList, Morris said that “if the Labour Party doesn’t stand for cleaners, care workers, joiners and warehouse pickers, it’s hard to know what the point of the Labour Party is”, referring to the people he interviewed in his research.
So it’s there, UKIP has a new leader who doesn’t sound posh and is from Bootle and will be determined to show UKIP does have a life post Farage and Brexit. Elements within the Labour Party have to understand that there is a growing number of white (and other) working class voters who want answers and solutions on immigration. Holding discussion on immigration doesn’t make people racist however it could make them pragmatic with the right messaging and policy ideas.
Please do note, I for one don’t feel we should curb immigration or ‘out UKIP UKIP,” but at the minimum the left should defend our perspectives, listen to those who had once voted Labour and hold some difficult conversations. Reaching out is needed more than ever and Labour has to rise.