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No false promises from Labour on immigration targets, says Corbyn

Published 19/11/2016

Nigel Farage and Donald Trump's recent political successes will be addressed by the Labour leader
Nigel Farage and Donald Trump's recent political successes will be addressed by the Labour leader

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted Labour will not make "false promises" on cutting immigration as he accused Theresa May of being complicit in "whipping up hatred" against migrants.

The Labour leader warned against sowing division by pandering to anti-migrant sentiment, claiming it has consequences with hate crime rising in Britain and the United States following the Brexit vote and Donald Trump's election as president.

Both the Leave campaign and Mr Trump made cutting immigration central to their pitch to voters and were criticised for what many saw as alarmist rhetoric.

Mr Corbyn derided the "fake anti-elitism" of Mr Trump and interim Ukip leader Nigel Farage, whom he described as "rich white men", but stressed that the vote to leave the EU and Mr Trump's election represent "the most important moment in politics for a generation".

He said Labour must choose hope and never "accommodate hate", adding that when Asian and Caribbean migrants came to Britain in the mid-20th century, wages were not undercut because workers were protected by strong trade unions and employment rights.

Rejecting some Labour MPs' calls to commit to net migration targets, Mr Corbyn told the party's national policy forum in Loughborough: "We have to choose a different path; there can be no accommodation, now and never, with hate."

He went on: "We will not make false promises on immigration targets as the Tories have done or sow divisions, but we will take decisive action to end the undercutting of workers' pay and conditions, reinstate the Migrant Impact Fund to support public services, and back fair rules on migration."

He attacked the Tories, who have "fanned the flames of fear over immigration, whipping up hatred in the referendum campaign - egged on by their Ukip sidekicks.

"This is a Government led by Theresa May who, as home secretary, authorised taxpayer-funded vans to tour the streets emblazoned with 'Go Home'.

"Who, as home secretary, made up stories about being unable to deport foreign criminals because they had a pet cat.

"Who was part of a Government that called disabled people on benefits scroungers, shirkers, and skivers - we will never use that language.

"It is this culture in which rising levels of hate crime have occurred; far-right views are now being presented as part of the mainstream, egged on by sections of the media that publish the most hateful and dishonest bile on a routine basis."

In a direct pitch to Brexit supporters who are sick of the status quo, Mr Corbyn said only Labour can "take back real control", echoing the Leave campaign's slogan.

"Politicians and political parties have a choice in this age of understandable cynicism," he said.

"Do we play on people's fears and anxieties? Or do we take what might be the more difficult approach: to restore hope?

"We can see the choice taken by politicians on the hard right - to whip up division against migrants, Muslims, Mexicans, women, LGBT people, people with disabilities.

"The fake anti-elitism of rich white men like Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. It's farcical at one level, but in reality it's no joke at all.

"We've seen a similar phenomenon in the US since last week's presidential election as we saw after Brexit: an appalling rise in hate crime. Saying anything to win a vote has consequences on the ground afterwards."

Mr Corbyn added: "So it is down to Labour to restore hope - and give people the chance to take back real control."

The Tories claimed Mr Corbyn's comments amounted to an attack on voters concerned about immigration.

Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani said: "Labour could not be more out of touch with the British people if they tried. Jeremy Corbyn has said in the past that he is not concerned about reducing immigration - and today he is attacking voters who want immigration to be controlled.

"Only the Conservative Party can deliver the right deal for Britain as we leave the EU - and that must mean controls on the number of people that come to our country."

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