This article was first published on the Guardian on 30 May 2014.
But Ukip's success needs to be treated with respect. Its rise over the past decade is symptomatic of a wider discontent for which we share some responsibility. At times, Labour has appeared to take the support of our heartlands for granted. And in office, we failed to heed people's concerns.
As the world has changed through globalisation and technology, it has left many feeling left behind. Even before the global financial crash, a decade of growth bypassed too many of our communities. After the crash, they felt they were picking up the tab for a crisis that was not of their making, in an economy in which they didn't feel included.
Our politics has often not seemed equal to the challenge, and Ukip has become the lightning rod for people's fury. But posing in the pub with pint in hand and smoking cigarettes for the cameras does not mean you have the answers to the challenges a completely changed world presents to Britain.
We recognise that part of the answer lies in politics itself. That is why the reforms that Ed Miliband has pioneered to reconnect our party to our communities are so important. The Tories and Ukip spent seven-figure sums on their European campaign with glossy direct mail and posters. But Labour, on a budget less than a quarter of that, held 7 million conversations – reconnecting with people doorstep-by-doorstep, street by street.
Labour has been right to change on immigration, offering action such as more stringent border checks as well as strengthening laws against exploitation, which is bad for immigrant workers and bad for local workers, whose wages are being undercut. Although Ukip plays on fear and stokes prejudice, people have understandable concerns that can neither be ignored nor labelled racist.
Indeed, it is my ethnic minority constituents who raise these issues with me most.
But Ukip has struggled to pick up support in more diverse communities, such as mine, because people recognise what it says is not so different to what was once said of people like my father arriving here from the Commonwealth in the 1960s and 1970s. Labour knows, just as we knew a generation ago, that those attitudes are not what makes Britain great, nor how we will succeed in an increasingly competitive world in the future.
Instead, our job is to show how the next Labour government will take steps to make lives better.
Ukip has policies including cutting taxes for the wealthy and putting them up for everyone else, charging people to see their GP, or taking away maternity rights. Just as President Obama took on the Tea Party, not by calling them names but by calling them out on substance, Labour will take on Ukip by calling them out on these issues and others every week between now and the general election. The best way to beat fear is through hope, with a story of Britain in the 21st century that includes everyone.
We are a great country with huge potential. But we need to change our economy if the next generation is to do better than ours and we are to fulfil what Ed Miliband calls the promise of Britain. Over the next 12 months, you will hear much more from us about how we will create the high-wage, high-skill, high-hope economy that can deal with the root causes of discontent. It will be a determinedly pro-business agenda for the next Labour government to be every bit as radical in reforming our economy as the last Labour government was in reforming our public services. That is something our opponents – whether they are Ukip or Tory – will not and cannot deliver.