Benn: Immigrants cared for my dying father

Hilary Benn
Hilary Benn

HILARY BENN paid tribute to the immigrants who looked after his dying father today as he tried to rally Labour support for a Remain vote in next week’s EU referendum.

The Leeds Central MP warned those hoping leaving the EU would dramatically cut the number of people coming to the UK were likely to be “bitterly disappointed”.

And he praised the contribution of immigration to Britain, pointing to the experience of his own family and the death of his father, former Cabinet minister Tony Benn, two years ago.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said the country would face great difficulty caring for its ageing population without the help of immigrant workers.

He said: “Already, one in five of our care workers come from outside the United Kingdom – from Europe and the rest of the world – and we will need more carers as more people need looking after.

“When my father came towards the end of his life, most of the people who cared for him with such patience and gentleness had brought their care from abroad to this country.

“And in the years ahead, it will be our turn to be looked after.”

The Shadow Foreign Secretary’s intervention is part of a determined effort by the Remain campaign to raise the profile of Labour figures in the campaign in the final days before the vote.

The votes of Labour supporters in England are increasingly seen by both sides as the key to winning on June 23 but party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of taking a lukewarm approach to the campaign.

Immigration concerns are thought to be one of the key factors driving Labour supporters towards to the Leave side of the debate.

In his speech today Mr Benn claimed that “anyone who thinks that voting Leave will bring the numbers down significantly will in time be bitterly disappointed”.

He continued: “Free movement is part of the deal and the reason why so many people have come here from other EU countries is because jobs are available. Jobs that need doing and jobs that, if it had not been for this migration, employers would have been shouting about because of the difficulty they were having in filling them. Vacancies for doctors, nurses, lecturers, factory workers, chefs and waiters, receptionists, scientists and cleaners.”

Former prime minister Gordon Brown is joining in today’s effort to rally Labour support for Remain by setting out how Britain can use its presidency of the European Union next year to put forward reforms that would benefit Labour voters.

Speaking in Leicester, Mr Brown will say: “From now until 10pm on June 23rd, we will not rest and I will not stop explaining why nine million Labour voters have most to gain from remaining in the EU.

“Today I am setting out a positive agenda for Labour voters - reasons why Labour voters should vote Remain and the patriotic case for remaining in Europe.

“Voting to Remain is about a positive, stronger future and is the alternative to a Tory Brexit. It is stronger for jobs, for rights at work and maintaining a British voice on the world stage.

“But we shouldn’t just be a member of the European Union. We must be the leader of the European Union.”