Diane Abbott: Labour ‘colluding’ with Tories to spread anti-immigrant rhetoric

The Labour party is helping Ukip and the Tories spread a toxic "anti-immigrant rhetoric" in the UK, a leading Labour MP has claimed.

Former shadow minister Diane Abbott said her party was "colluding" to spread anti-immigrant feeling across the country.

"Let me talk about Ukip," she told students at the London School of Economics last night.

"We have seen the rise of what I think is a toxic anti-immigrant culture at Westminster and sadly it seems that both parties want to collude in anti-immigrant rhetoric."

She attacked her party for lurching to the right on the issue.

"We are being engulfed in this anti-immigrant propaganda which even the grandchildren of immigrants find themselves repeating," she said.

"I've heard Labour MPs [on the radio] saying that the last Labour government had an open-door policy on immigration.

"This country has not had an open door policy on immigration since the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigration Act in 1963.

"So if Labour MPs are talking about those things, where has the debate gone?"

She compared the rise of Ukip to the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s, explaining that like then, many people felt "under the cosh" economically.

Because of this, Abbott said that her party should be "brave" in standing up for immigrants in the UK.

"Of course there are issues [with immigration] but it seems to me that you address those issues, you don't scapegoat immigrants.

She said that London should be the "ground zero" in the fight back against Ukip.

"This is the city that was made a great world city precisely because of the immigrants that have come.

"Show me a London hospital that would not close down tomorrow without the labour of immigrants and the children on immigrants. Show me a public service in London that is not reliant on immigrants…

"It's not because London doesn't have it's bigots. Of course it does.

"It's because Londoners know that if an immigrant moves in next door to you the world doesn't come to an end."

She claimed that immigration had hugely improved London's culture, adding that "when I was a child if you ate out in London it was always chicken and chips and Black Forest gateaux."

She said that Labour should resist calls to lurch to the right in an attempt to win back former Labour voters from Ukip.

Abbott's comments come as Ed Miliband comes under pressure to take a 'tougher' line on immigration following the party's near defeat in the Heywood and Middleton by-election.

Miliband has reportedly set up a new unit to tackle the threat from Ukip and has told shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper that she now needs to "do more" on the issue.