According to one MP, the first meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party seemed like Groundhog Day.
If so, that person should blame their colleagues for putting up silly questions to Jeremy Corbyn, rather than getting on with the business for which they were elected.
It seems these people have been paying more attention to the tabloid newspapers than their own shadow cabinet with the nonsense claim that Diane Abbott and Sir Keir Starmer are at cross-purposes over immigration. They are not.
Both want to see immigration reduced, not according to some arbitrary figure plucked out of thin air by a Tory, but by reducing the need for migrant workers in the first place – a need that has been created by silly Conservative policies.
In his interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday, Sir Keir pointed out that many migrant workers are employed in the UK because we have a shortage of skills which is a direct result of the fashion for outsourcing among neoliberal UK governments.
The answer, of course, is to get UK-based businesses to overcome their reluctance and actually train local people to do the work they need. In the relentless race for profit over the last few decades, firms have considered training to be a waste of resources.
Ms Abbott, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, said she supported Sir Keir’s call for UK-born workers’ skills to be boosted, removing the need for foreign-born workers.
So where’s the conflict?
Emma Reynolds’s claim that constituents in the Midlands and the North were calling for a clampdown on freedom of movement fails to take into account the fact that those people are concerned about immigrants using up services that have been rationed by Conservative austerity.
With an upskilling of the UK-based workforce and the reintroduction of Labour’s Migrant Impact Fund to ensure that the arrival of people from foreign countries does not affect the ability of British people to claim services and benefits, these tensions should ease off.
Also, of course, certain categories of foreign visitor should not be classed as immigrants. Students come here to learn, then return to their own country. Refugees should not be classed as immigrants because the intention must always be for them to return home at some point.
This Writer would also like to see restrictions on “economic migration”, in which workers from foreign countries move to the UK because we pay more than they would receive in their own land.
This issue arose after eastern European countries were allowed to join the EU; their economies were less well-developed than those of the rest of the EU, and they should have been required to use EU economic improvement programmes, bringing themselves up to a similar level as the others, before free movement was phased in.
That is something that could be included in future immigration rules, usefully. It would also help end the undercutting of wages.
All of the above are issues that should be known to members of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
The fact that some members are asking questions indicates ignorance on their part – not a lack of unity or leadership from the shadow cabinet.
Jeremy Corbyn was challenged about his position on Brexit and questioned over his sacking of Rosie Winterton as chief whip, as he faced his party’s MPs for the first time since his re-election as leader.
The Labour leader was pressed by colleagues after the party’s shadow secretary of state for exiting the EU, Keir Starmer, appeared to set out a different line on immigration policy than the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott.
Emma Reynolds called on the leader to consider taking a more robust position on freedom of movement because of the demands of constituents across the Midlands and the north of England.
A spokesman for Corbyn told journalists outside the meeting that Starmer’s call for immigration numbers to be reduced was not at odds with Abbott or Corbyn himself.
“Jeremy has made clear chasing after impossible targets or caps doesn’t work and inflames divisions,” he said. “But the case he was making during the referendum campaign was for decisive action against the undercutting of wages and the exploitation of migrant workers. If you take effective action … you will reduce numbers.”
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