Labour should be “more bold” in making a positive case for immigration, according to a major trade union leader.
The GMB’s Tim Roache has said that immigration is a “real issue” for working people and has urged Jeremy Corbyn not to be silent on the topic, ahead of the Labour leader’s speech on the EU referendum today.
Post-general election research has shown that Labour was not trusted by the public on immigration, but many believe that Corbyn’s victory in last year’s leadership contest were because he was the candidate most willing to make a pro-immigration argument.
Ahead of the GMB’s conference next week, Roache has identified immigration as a major part of the debate in the EU referendum, and says Corbyn should be “more brave in taking on the issues in working people’s minds”.
“We have to confront the real issues in the minds of working people, and whether we like it or not, that is immigration and the free movement of labour,” Roache told The Guardian.
“I think Labour needs to be a bit more bold, it needs to be a bit more brave, in taking on the issues in working people’s minds, rather than keeping silent about them, and I think that’s what Labour’s done for too long.”
And the GMB General Secretary also said that Corbyn is a “half-hearted” supporter of the EU in an interview with the BBC – although he said the party “is starting to do more” to make the case.
Speaking on the referendum today, Corbyn is expected to concentrate on workers’ rights, as he makes the case to stay in the EU.
“Several leave supporters have stated clearly they want to leave Europe to water down workers’ rights, to rip up the protections that protect work-life balance, that prevent discrimination and prevent exploitation and injustice,” the Labour leader will say.
“That is why we say, the threat to the British people is not the European Union – it is a Conservative government here in Britain, seeking to undermine the good things we have achieved in Europe and resisting changes that would benefit the ordinary people of Britain.”