MP accuses UK Labour of 'pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment'

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Diane Abbott, the long-serving Labour MP, has criticised her party for 'pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment'. Ms Abbott had just been sacked from the Labour front bench team where she had served as a shadow health minister from 2010.

Ms Abbott said 'I have long despaired of the downward spiral of Labour's rhetoric on immigration'. She added 'Unfortunately, the people around Miliband (Ed Miliband, the Labour leader) are terrified by the polling on immigration and have convinced him that we have to move right on the issue. My settled view is that there are no votes for the Labour Party in pandering to anti-immigration sentiment'.

Ms Abbott became the first black woman to become an MP in the UK when she was elected MP for Stoke Newington in north London in 1987. She is, herself, the child of immigrants from the Caribbean. She grew up in Harrow, a town north of London and was educated at Cambridge University.

Ms Abbott is on the left wing of her party and, even as a shadow minister, occasionally spoke out against Labour policy. She disagreed publicly with Labour's toughening stance on immigration several times this year, most recently in August.

More message discipline

As you would expect ministers and shadow ministers are expected always to publicly endorse party policy. Ms Abbott told the BBC that Mr Miliband 'probably wanted more message discipline'.

All the major political parties in the UK have vied to appear 'tough on immigration' in the last two years. They are led by opinion polls which suggest that immigration, particularly low-skilled immigration from eastern Europe, is one of the public's major concerns.

The three major UK parties, the right-of-centre Conservatives, the centrist Liberal Democrats and the left-of-centre Labour Party are worried about a rise in support for the anti-European, anti-immigration UK Independence Party. They are therefore attempting to prove that they are 'tough on immigration' to win back support.

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