Miliband: Brown was wrong about Gillian Duffy

Miliband giving a speech
Labour leader Ed Miliband Photo: PA

Gordon Brown was wrong to brand Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy a bigot because of her concerns over immigration, Ed Miliband said. Labour leader Mr Miliband said the ex-prime minister should not have criticised her comments during the 2010 general election campaign.

The fiasco was a defining moment of the run-up to the poll, with Mr Brown recorded making unguarded remarks about Mrs Duffy after she confronted him about eastern European workers.

"I don't believe our immigration system has been working for working people over the last few years. Worrying about immigration, talking about immigration, thinking about immigration, does not make people bigots," the Labour leader wrote in an article for the Daily Mirror.

Mr Miliband also said he would force job agencies to give British workers "a fair crack of the whip" under a Labour government, and called for tougher fines for businesses which knowingly employ illegal immigrants.

And Mr Miliband, whose parents were immigrants to Britain, demanded tighter rules to stop foreign workers being exploited. "We also need to make sure that everyone gets a fair crack of the whip when it comes to job opportunities," he wrote. "In some industries the majority of workers are hired on a temporary basis via recruitment agencies. In the meat processing sector, up to a third of workers are hired this way. Because they are hired on a temporary basis, these workers often have fewer rights. And because sometimes these agencies only advertise for new recruits abroad, or find other ways of just recruiting foreign workers, local people often feel locked out of the recruitment process altogether. That cannot be the right direction for our country."