KEIR Starmer has said that voters who want lower immigration should “vote Labour” as he continues his aggressive pursuit of Conservative voters.

The Labour leader also underlined how much the party had changed since he took over from Jeremy Corbyn – pointing out the former leader would not be standing as a Labour candidate at the next election.

Making a speech in Milton Keynes on Tuesday, Starmer tried to paint Labour as being tough on immigration – a marked difference from how the party approached the issue under his predecessor.

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He said the Conservatives were not the party of “common sense” and said they were not “Churchill’s Tories anymore”, adding: “If anything they behave more and more like Donald Trump. They look at the politics of America and they want to bring that here.”

Towards the end of his speech, Starmer said: “If, in short, you want lower migration and higher wages, or even if you just want a government committed to economic stability, the rule of law, good public services, restoring Britain’s standing, making family life more secure, and putting the country first, then I say again, this is what a changed Labour Party will deliver.”

It comes ahead of a crunch vote for  Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (below) in the Commons on Tuesday on the unlawful Rwanda scheme.

The National: Rishi Sunak

He could see a humiliating defeat, if right-wing MPs moved in sufficient numbers to block a new bill designed to remedy problems with the previous legislation which was struck down by the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The right of the Tory party is concerned the bill does not go far enough to prevent asylum seekers from appealing deportations.

Asked about the scheme on Tuesday, Starmer said the Rwanda deal “doesn’t work, it will cost a fortune… and it is against our values” – but said a Labour government would try to “break” criminal gangs trafficking asylum seekers over the Channel.

He said: “We will oppose the scheme this evening for a number of reasons – it doesn’t work, it will cost a fortune… and it is against our values.

“That does not mean we don’t recognise the challenge that there is of crossing on small boats across the Channel. We have to stop that, we have a duty to stop. But stopping that means not gimmicks, but rolling our sleeves up with a practical plan that will actually work.”

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Starmer also would not rule out schemes employed by other countries which see asylum seekers’ claims processed abroad.

“There are various schemes, as you know, around the world where individuals are processed, usually en route to their country of destination, elsewhere,” he said.

“The Rwanda scheme isn’t one of those. This is a straight deportation scheme in relation to people who’ve already arrived.

“Other countries around the world do have schemes where they divert people on the way and process them elsewhere. That’s a different kind of scheme.

“And look, I’ll look at any scheme that might work.”

'Unworkable, immoral and extremely expensive' 

But the LibDems urged Starmer not to "make the same mistakes as the Conservative party". 

Christine Jardine, the MP for Edinburgh West, said: "The Rwanda policy is completely unworkable, immoral and extremely expensive.

"Every day spent by the Conservatives infighting over a failing policy means less and less time tackling the huge asylum backlog.

“It’s time for the Conservative Party to understand that the Rwanda policy is utterly flawed and should be scrapped immediately.

“Keir Starmer shouldn’t make the same mistakes as the Conservative Party.”

Alba's Westminster leader Neale Hanvey added: "Anyone that thinks a Labour government led by Sir Keir Starmer will be better for Scotland isn't paying attention.

"His comments on immigration completely ignore the fact that Scotland needs more immigration to sustain our declining population and support our public services.

"A Keir Starmer government has pledged to be tougher on immigration than the Tories, deny Scotland’s right to self-determination, keep in place the Tory bedroom tax and two child benefit cap and it will continue to back the Tory level of tuition fees.

"Only with independence can Scotland free itself from the moral vacuum of Westminster leadership.” 

The National:

The Scottish Greens said Starmer's stance was "disappointing" but unsurprising given "so much of the hostile environment infrastructure in place today was built up by the last Labour government". 

Maggie Chapman (above), an MSP for North East Scotland, said: "The Tories have waged awful attacks against refugees and migrant communities, and the so-called Labour opposition doesn't look to be much better.

"Even conflating the poverty wages that so many people have to endure and migration is politically dishonest. It plays to the worst tropes and ignores that inequality is caused by exploitative employers and a government that simply doesn't care.

"Sir Keir Starmer's position is unquestionably disappointing, but it also comes as little surprise considering so much of the hostile environment infrastructure in place today was built up by the last Labour government."

Challenged on why he campaigned for Corbyn to become prime minister in 2019 before dumping him when he took over as Labour leader, Starmer said: “We did lose our way, we lost our way into that 2019 election four years ago today.

“And when you lose an election that badly, you don’t look at the electorate and say ‘What on earth were you thinking?’ You change your party, and evidence of how far we’ve changed our party is that Jeremy Corbyn won’t be able to stand as a candidate, a Labour candidate, at the next general election.”