EXCL Clive Lewis attacks Stephen Kinnock's 'potentially dangerous' immigration remarks

Posted On: 
2nd December 2016

A senior Labour frontbencher has accused one of his party's own MPs of using "potentially dangerous" language on immigration after he described British employees as "indigenous workers".

Clive Lewis has attacked Stephen Kinnock's comments on immigration
PA Images

Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis said his party was "never going to out-Tory the Tories on immigration [or] out-Ukip Ukip".

He was responding to comments made by Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock in the wake of Paul Nuttall's election as Ukip leader.

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Mr Kinnock refused to say that immigration numbers should come down, but he added: "It is about having a system in place which says ‘we’ve done an analysis of what our economy needs and we’re going to have a system in place which gets us to those numbers'.

"Now, those numbers may well be below where we are now, but if on a sector-by-sector basis you come to the view that actually we’ve got a gap here which can’t be filled by indigenous British workers, we need that much immigration.

"It’s about having the immigration that the country needs, which is also able to be absorbed within our public services to make sure that we have an immigration system that works for all."

But in an interview with The House magazine, Mr Lewis hit back: "What would you define as ‘indigenous’? I find the language potentially dangerous. 

"There are lots of things going on, there are lots of forces at work at the moment. People are trying to cast about for a coherent narrative which the Labour party can lock on to and build together a broad coalition in England, Wales, and Scotland, and I don't think it’s ever been so difficult.

"Yes, you have to talk about immigration. But that’s not how you’re going to win people over, because you’re never going to out-Tory the Tories on immigration, you’re never going to out-Ukip Ukip."

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Lewis also revealed how senior Labour figures had told him to "shut up" for suggesting Labour should form a "progressive alliance" with parties like the Greens and the SNP at the next election to defeat the Tories - but he had refused to be silenced.

"There are various people, I can think of a few, who tell me to ‘shut up’," he said. "At the end of the day, I have not come into politics to be shut up if I think something’s right.

"I just want to win, I want to stop the Tories. It’s not about saying ‘Hey, we’re all one big happy family’, it’s down to sheer mathematics in a first past the post system with Scotland in a not very good place for the Labour Party. 

"Politics is changing and we’re in flux. The playbook is changing and we’ve got to change with it."