t was a reluctant acknowledgement that Labour’s clapped-out collectivist model had run out of road. It was also the moment that the rising generation of Labour politicians realised that they could never again rely on the votes on the white working class.
Standing at the back of the hall that day, listening intently, was one Peter Mandelson, a moustachioed former television producer brought in by Kinnock to modernise the party’s image.
Mandelson, together with the ruthlessly ambitious young men and women who would subsequently form the nucleus of New Labour in the mid-Nineties, concluded that if they could no longer take the support of the white working class for granted, they would have to import a new working class from overseas.
Yet they have always denied that the mass immigration unleashed after Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide was a deliberate policy driven by naked political self-interest.
n an extraordinary and unexpected moment of candour, Mandelson himself confessed this week that Labour ‘sent out search parties’ for immigrants.
He told the Blairite think-tank Progress: ‘In 2004, as a Labour government, we were not only welcoming people to come into this country to work, we were sending out search parties for people and encouraging them.’
He added: ‘The situation is different now . . . entry to the labour market of many people of non-British origin is hard for people who are finding it very difficult to find jobs [and] who find it hard to keep jobs.’
It was an astonishing admission, the first time someone at the very heart of the New Labour project has confirmed that Britain’s border controls were cynically dismantled.
When former Labour adviser Andrew Neather said three years ago that mass immigration was a ploy intended to ‘rub the Right’s nose in diversity’ his claims were categorically rebutted by Labour leaders.
Mass immigration was never once mentioned in any Labour manifesto. No one voted for it.
A policy which was to change the face of Britain irrevocably was smuggled in under the radar purely for long-term electoral and short-term economic advantage.
The assumption was that the new arrivals would all become naturalised and return the favour by voting Labour.
The party’s new friends in the business world, meanwhile, would benefit from an endless supply of willing foreign workers prepared to accept low wages.
So it was that Tony Blair’s victory ushered in the greatest mass migration in this country’s history.
The most outrageous Left-wing lie is that Britain has always been a ‘nation of immigrants’. This is arrant nonsense. Between the Norman Conquest in 1066 and 1950, immigration was virtually non-existent, save for a few thousand Jews and Huguenots fleeing persecution in Europe.
It began to rise when the government opened the door to Commonwealth citizens to help rebuild the post-war economy and run essential public services, such as transport and the National Health Service.
But as recently as the early Nineties, net migration stood at around only 40,000 a year, statistically insignificant. After Labour came to power, more people moved to Britain than in the entire previous millennium.
Figures released this week show that one in eight of the population, 7.5 million people, is an immigrant.
Half of them arrived in the decade up to 2011.
In London, those who describe themselves as ‘white British’ are in the minority. Other cities are heading the same way as migration drives the population to 70 million and beyond. Vast areas of the country have been transformed beyond recognition.
Labour’s pernicious policy of ‘multiculturalism’ has created monocultural ghettos in our inner cities and former mill towns. Far from encouraging integration, Labour expected the host communities to adapt to the immigrants, not vice versa.
The result for millions of British people has been a sense of dislocation, a feeling that they don’t belong in the place they were born. In the Mail last year, A.N. Wilson wrote poignantly about returning to his home town of Stoke, a city he no longer recognises.
The impact has been harshest on the very people Labour once purported to represent, the old white working class. They have seen the areas in which they grew up, generation after generation, gradually absorbed by alien cultures.
Their wages have been undercut by cheap foreign labourers, without so much as a peep from the once powerful trades unions set up to protect them.
None of this appears to trouble the new breed of self-regarding social worker, political researcher and college lecturer which comprises the modern Labour Party.