Starmer and Long-Bailey: Front-runners in Labour Leadership’s Stances on Immigration

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Labour suffered a painful electorate defeat as the results rolled in on Friday 13th December 2019, sparking a serious need for reflection within the party and among its members. Its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, made a decision to step down as leader after a cooling period of reflection. Whilst honourable, as clearly the wider electorate was not engaging with Corbyn enough to vote for Labour, it has left Labour activists torn. Corbyn undoubtedly inspired thousands with his unapologetic compassionate, socialist policies but Labour is a political party, and as Corbyn himself said when asked, ‘Corbynism’ does not exist: socialism does. 

As the Labour leadership race picks up pace, two MPs are emerging as key contenders. This includes Keir Starmer, Shadow Brexit Secretary and MP for Holborn and St Pancras and Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles. Looking at their respective voting records and statements on immigration is crucial, as many experts put the Conservative majority win down to a clear stance on Brexit, specifically in delivering it. 

Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn & St Pancras and Shadow Brexit Secretary
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Earlier this year, Starmer called for a potential ‘softer’ approach to immigration. The Shadow Brexit Secretary said: “I actually think we get stuck on the freedom of movement discussion too early without saying what does a principled, effective and fair immigration policy look like?” He pointed out he was “not setting one [an immigration policy] out” but spoke about his experience as Shadow Immigration Secretary prior to taking on the Shadow Brexit Secretary role and referred to the “obviously different” views on immigration from the general public.

…many experts put the Conservative majority win down to a clear stance on Brexit, specifically in delivering it.

In 2017, Starmer took to twitter to criticise Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ in light of the discriminatory treatment the Windrush generation experienced under May’s rule. Such an environment has impacted all migrants regardless of immigration status and, shamefully, British born BAME individuals and communities. From LGBTQ+ asylum seekers forced into homelessness to migrant workers in the arts industry, the hostile environment emboldened racists and bigots across the country. Starmer taking a clear stance against this can invite hope for those wanting a Labour leader to act with greater empathy and stand against division.  However, Starmer is bound to have an updated outlook on the topic of immigration, especially in light of the election outcome but this is yet to be disclosed.

Rebecca Long-Bailey could be Labour’s first female leader, surely something the party would welcome. Her voting record highlights a pattern of voting against a stricter asylum system for those fleeing persecution and war as well as voting against stricter enforcement of immigration rules. Long-Bailey describes herself as “proud socialist” as seen in her Twitter bio.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford & Eccles
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Such an environment has impacted all migrants regardless of immigration status and, shamefully, British born BAME individuals and communities

As one of the world’s richest countries and one of its key world players, the UK must be a beacon of hope and safety for those experiencing the worst of humanity. Long-Bailey’s record suggests she would fight for Labour to carry forward a sensitivity around the struggles asylum seekers and refugee face, something was okay was explicitly addressed in Labour’s election manifesto.

A majority Conservative Government under Boris Johnson cannot be underestimated in terms of the damage they can inflict on the country’s most vulnerable. Whoever emerges victorious in the Labour leadership election, they will have a vast and crucial job in uniting the various splinters of the party.