The Labour party has promised that it will implement “tougher controls” on UK immigration if this is what is needed to win key seats at the next election.
Speaking to politics.co.uk, shadow chancellor Ed Balls recognised that the previous Labour approach to immigration had been too relaxed. “I think people need to know here that Labour recognises we didn't get everything right and will have tough controls. That is important,” he said.
He also acknowledged that there are a number of minor reforms that the party could introduce, such as preventing employment agencies from only recruiting overseas workers.
The comments come at a time when the public is debating the efficacy of the Coalition's approach to immigration and whether or not it is being too restrictive in access to UK work permits.
Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant suggested that there is definitely space for a party to send a positive message about immigration rather than perpetuating that idea that it is a wholly negative issue.
The shadow chancellor added that Labour's approach to immigration is just one of a number of issues that will need to be reassessed in order to convince the public that the opposition party has something genuine to offer.
“People want to know the economy's going to work for them, that the government will be on their side," he said. “They want us to show on immigration that we'll have tougher controls, we'll make work pay.”
Mr Balls was speaking to the news site from Stevenage, which was one of the seats Labour lost to the Conservatives at the last general election. Taking a closer look at what the public is looking for could help Labour take back seats such as this but on matters like immigration, the party will need to strike the right balance between the overly soft approach of the previous Labour government and the hardline of the Coalition, which the public recognises is posing a threat to the economic recovery.