Diane Abbott has recently repeated her assertion that “Labour can’t out-UKIP UKIP”, something she has said on numerous occasions since UKIP’s rise to prominence.
It’s a surprising expression because no one has suggested Labour “out-UKIP UKIP”. Labour moderates merely suggest that Labour pledge to reduce the scale of immigration in response to the fact that 77% of the public want to see immigration reduced.
Recent polling shows that Labour is behind: 42% of the public say they would vote Conservative; just 28% say they would vote Labour.
Many traditional Labour supporters abandoned the party to vote UKIP in the 2015 General Election. Many more voted Leave in the 2016 EU referendum. Labour appears to be paying a price for seeming content to allow record levels of immigration to continue without protest.
Moving right “won’t save seats”
Abbott has claimed that Labour wouldn’t benefit from bringing its immigration policy in line with public opinion:
The idea that moving right on immigration in post-industrial Britain will save us seats is I think misconceived.
But unless Labour can provoke a wholesale change in public opinion, this seems distinctly unlikely.