Labour Will Try to Head Off Threat From Farage, Reynolds Says

(Bloomberg) -- Labour will seek to head off the threat from Reform UK after the breakout performance by Nigel Farage’s right-wing populist party at the general election on Thursday, Britain’s new Business Secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, said.

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In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, Reynolds said that immigration “has to come down” after a warning from former Prime Minister Tony Blair on the risk posed by Reform, which sought to make Thursday’s vote the “immigration election.”

Immigration has “been historically high at a time when public services were under strain and I think it’s right to recognize public concern around that,” Reynolds told Sky. He later told the BBC that Labour “will come for” Farage’s party — throwing back the same threat to Reform that its leader made to Labour when winning his seat.

Reform threatens to be a disruptive force in the new Parliament following last week’s election in which they won five seats after taking more than 14% of the vote. While that support ate into the Conservative vote total, Reform also performed well in many of Labour’s traditional strongholds with their anti-immigrant message.

“A party like Reform, now it has members of Parliament, will come under the kind of scrutiny which they maybe always should have come under, and they will find that very difficult,” Reynolds said. “We will come for them. We will tell people what their agenda would mean for their economic security, for their national security, and we’ll relish that argument.”

Reynold’s remarks came after Blair said Labour needs a plan to control immigration to help repel Farage’s populists. “If we don’t have rules, we get prejudices,” he said in an article for the Sunday Times.

While Blair said Labour’s landslide victory is a “massive opportunity” to transform the country, he warned that Reform poses a threat to Labour, pointing to populists “running riot” in France and Italy.

“Cultural issues, as much if not more than economic issues, are at the heart of it,” he said. “Reform has pillaged the Tory vote in this election, true. But it poses a challenge for Labour too.”

Blair said the introduction of a digital identity could help bring down immigration, though this was later dismissed by Reynolds.

“I can rule out ID cards for you. That’s not something which is part of our plans,” he said in an interview with Times Radio.

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