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Labour must start talking about immigration to fight Brexiters on their own terms, a top union boss warns today.
GMB General Secretary Tim Roache, made a passionate call for Jeremy Corbyn ‘s party to “confront the real issues” in working voters’ minds.
And instead of fighting free movement people should point out the migrants who are teachers and doctors, he claimed.
Mr Corbyn will give a fresh EU speech this morning but will focus on workers’ rights, saying Brexit would leave low-income workers at the mercy of the Tories.
Read more: EU referendum morning briefing: ‘Reluctant’ Corbyn urged to step things up
Mr Roache, whose union has 600,000 members, told the Guardian: “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.
“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.”
He added: “These people don’t come here to sit on their backsides and claim benefits, they come here to work.
“It’s alright when people’s children are being taught by economic migrants, or when people’s parents are being looked after in hospital by economic migrants.”
Labour MP Mary Creagh also voiced her fears today after a poll showed nearly half of Labour voters don’t know the party supports the EU.
“I’ve had emails from my constituents saying ‘I’m a Labour voter but what’s the Labour position'”, she told the BBC.
Defending his leader, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith called for a “strong and distinct Labour case” in the debate.
“The truth is people have seen the Tories banging on about this for the last 30 years and Labour is having to work doubly hard to make our voice heard,” he admitted.
He insisted it was right for Mr Corbyn not to join up with Tory ministers on the campaign trail, despite the exposure it would bring.
He said: “All of us in the Labour party feel we’ve got a rotten Tory government here.
“We don’t get rid of the Tory government if we go out of Europe and we end up potentially with even worse people – Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Iain Duncan Smith – these people who want to shred workers’ rights.
“I’m no fan of David Cameron but I tell you, he’s not the worst of the Tories.”