SHADOW HOME Secretary Andy Burnham admits he has found the first results form the EU referendum “worrying” for the Remain campaign.
As Sunderland voters chose Leave at the ballot box by 30,464 votes, the Labour politician said there may have been local issues at play.
But he admitted that immigration may have played a part in the Labour strong-hold and the region may have felt “neglected”.
He said: “It’s early days. Some of the results that have come in I found quite worrying to be honest but the picture will change considerably as the night goes on.
“I hear many Labour supporters who say they want to vote leave. I understand their concerns. Over many years I’ve said it. The political class hasn’t listened to their concerns over immigration.
“That has led us to a situation where people feel frustrated. Parliament and the political classes have brought that among themselves. There should have been more action to address the concerns around public services. It shouldn’t have taken this long for these things to come to the fore but now that they have we need to show that we have heard and we are prepared to act on these concerns.
“I’m not a Sunderland MP so I am not directly close to the issues and there may have been local issues at play there. I know Sunderland will feel neglected as some towns on the East Coast can feel.”
Other traditional Labour strongholds that voted to Leave the EU are Hartlepool, Redcar, South Tyneside and Stockton.
Mr Burnham, who is running to become mayor of Greater Manchester said he understood much work needs to be done to ensure Labour voters in the North are truly represented.
He said: “I have said many times I do have concerns about Labour’s position in the North and I am standing for that reason (as Manchester mayor). I want to revitalize Labour in the North.”
Like shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy, he would not be drawn on whether Labour should now develop a policy that seeks to curb EU migration.
While Labour deputy leader Tom Watson has EU freedom of movement rules need to be revisited, Jeremy Corbyn has been criticized for saying there does not need to be an “upper limit” to EU migration.
The party line being handed out in interviews this morning however by shadow cabinet members is that there should be a focus on public services to alleviate the issues of immigration.
Mr Burnham said: “What I would say as shadow home secretary is we need to look at how freedom of movement works in practice and we need to look at some of those issues that Jeremy Corbyn has raised in this campaign.
“Issues like pressures on public services. Now that cannot be right that a community or a local school has to find money for a classroom assistant that speak Polish but get no extra money to pay for that.
“If you were to do something to protect skilled wages so putting a floor under skilled wages and prevent the undercutting of skilled wages that would create a disincentive to bring in unskilled migration.
“These are the issues that have to be looked at and looked at carefully but taken forward as part of the UK presidency if of course we are still a member of the European Union.”