Ex Red Wall MP says Labour ‘needs a plan’ to stop the boats if they want to win the next election

Like it or not, stopping small boats crossing the channel will be a big issue at the next election.

Rishi Sunak has made tackling the channel crossings one of his key pledges.

Ex Red Wall MP says Labour ‘needs a plan’ to stop the boats if they want to win the next election
Ex Labour MP Ian Austin says Labour needs to get tougher on stopping the boats

The system has been a shambles for decades but Home Secretary Suella Braverman looks like she is getting a grip.

If the government’s plans work, voters will start to listen to the Tories again and the poll gaps will close.

That’s why Labour need to show Sun-readers they have a plan for immigration too.

Even someone like me – the son of a 10 year-old refugee who arrived in Britain with just the clothes on his back – thinks the issue has to be dealt with, not least because children are drowning in the Channel.

Criminal gangs are making millions trafficking people on dangerous crossings. Everyone can see the government has to take difficult decisions and tough action to prevent that.

The vast majority of people believe we should help refugees fleeing war or persecution, floods and famine.

We have a proud tradition of helping Jewish refugees like my dad before the war, people from countries like Uganda, Kosovo, and Vietnam or more recently from Afghanistan or Syria.

The amazing response by kind-hearted Brits who opened their homes to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Putin’s brutal war proves that.

And research highlighted by experts at British Future shows this was not a one off. Lots of people would step up to help others too.

But everyone knows not all the people in the small boats are refugees.

That’s why the number of young men from Albania plummeted the minute Home Secretary Suella Braverman struck a deal to return people who arrived by boat instead of by the rules.

Her plan to house people who arrive illegally in Rwanda is designed to have the same deterrent effect.

And people are worried that we are not helping women and girls languishing in refugee camps in Africa or the Middle East. Let’s open safe routes to help some of them instead of people arriving illegally.

Polling also shows that most Brits are decent hearted people who support immigration and understand the contribution it makes to our country but believe there must be fair and clear rules that are enforced properly.

There might still be a few bigots, but the vast majority of people could not care less what someone looks like.

So the left need to stop calling anyone who dares raise the issue a racist.

That’s what happened when I raised the issue in Parliament.

I said the public don’t think people should be able to come to the UK and be unemployed, claim benefits until they have paid in or claim benefits for children that aren’t in the country.

Emails and letters showed the public thought that was plain common sense. But the Prime Minister at the time sneered and told me I shouldn’t be raising the issue. One newspaper even called me a Nazi. And the abuse from the woke Twitter warriors on the left was unbelievable.

This is one of the reasons mainstream politicians are scared to listen to voters and voice their concerns.

But elections are not won on Twitter or in student union debating chambers.

They are won by listening to ordinary decent Brits and coming up with fair and reasonable answers to their concerns.

People know this is complicated and difficult to solve, but they also want to know they are being listened to and taken seriously.

Keir Starmer and his team might be riding high in the opinion polls now, but no one thinks they will be 20 points ahead on polling day.

They need to ignore the hard left and come up with a convincing plan to tackle the people traffickers and increase the border force.

They should certainly back the government on deporting foreign criminals.

If there are jobs available, let’s make sure young people in places like Dudley get them so boost skills, and provide more apprenticeships. That way, employers won’t have to reply on people from abroad.

They should make sure you pay into the system before claiming benefits and promise to crack down on greedy bosses and dodgy landlords who exploit foreign workers.

Why not use taxes paid by well-paid American lawyers, French city traders or German bankers working in London to take the pressure off schools and hospitals welcoming refugees in other parts of the country?

That’s the sort of plan the public want to hear.

But If Labour ignore the voters they can wave goodbye to dreams of Downing Street.

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