Internal strife: Straw and Watson take pot shots at Labour leadership

Ed Miliband had reason to regret his choice of allies today, after his own MPs destabilised the party with attacks on its past behaviour.

Politically sensitive attacks by Jack Straw on immigration and Tom Watson on the Falkirk row provided new crises for the Labour leader to deal with this morning, with his only comfort being that the start of parliamentary recess meant the comments could not be used against him at PMQs.

Watson, who was party campaign co-ordinator under Miliband, issued his most outspoken attack yet on the Labour leader this morning, as he pressed ahead with criticism of how the party had managed the Falkirk selection row.

"It's amazing how my own leader can be so wrong. But he was," Watson said.

The comments came as a leaked email suggested the party's general secretary and Unite boss Len McCluskey had struck a special agreement to handle mass recruitment drives in the constituency.

The drive would have come at the same time as they pushed for McCluskey's friend Karie Murphy to become the Labour candidate in the seat.

Miliband tried to get onto the front foot in the wake of the Falkirk row when he launched an inquiry and promised to reform the link with the unions, but he was left in an isolated position after individuals at the heart of the affair withdrew their complaints.

He said yesterday it was time to "move on" from the row.

"We have had one police inquiry already and we sorted a second set of issues, so I think we’ve taken swift and thorough action," he said.

"I think the important thing for the constituency is to move on and select a new candidate."

Meanwhile, the party's record on immigration was called into question when Jack Straw became the most prominent of New Labour's Cabinet ministers to admit that the government was wrong not to impose controls on workers from eastern Europe coming to the UK following EU expansion.

"One spectacular mistake in which I participated (not alone) was in lifting the transitional restrictions on the eastern European states like Poland and Hungary which joined the EU in mid-2004," he wrote in the Lancashire Telegraph.

"Other existing EU members, notably France and Germany, decided to stick to the general rule which prevented migrants from these new states from working until 2011.

"But we thought that it would be good for Britain if these folk could come and work here from 2004.

"Thorough research by the Home Office suggested that the impact of this benevolence would in any event be 'relatively small, at between 5,000 and 13,000 immigrants per year up to 2010'. Events proved these forecasts worthless.

"Net migration reached close to a quarter of a million at its peak in 2010. Lots of red faces, mine included."

The comments come as former Labour home secretary David Blunkett raised concerns about riots in the UK if controls were dropped on Roma coming to the country.

The comments were attacked as borderline racist by equality groups.

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg will unleash his most violent attack on labour yet during a visit to a Tesco's in West Kensington today.

In comments which make it increasingly difficult to see how the parties would work together in the event of a hung parliament, Clegg will say:"Let loose in government on their own they [Labour] would wreck the recovery – costing jobs, driving up interest rates and undermining the growth needed to cut tax bills and fund public services.

"They cannot be allowed to undo all of the sacrifices that have been made and everything that has been achieved – the British people would pay the price."