A top immigration expert has urged Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith to address the "elephant in the room", as the candidates battle it out for the leadership of Labour. Professor Thom Brooks, the head of Durham University Law School, told IBTimes UK he wants to hear more from Smith and Corbyn on the issue.

"I'm not a one issue person, I don't think Labour getting the immigration issue right will win a general election for the party, I think there's a very long way for the party to go to win public confidence," he said.

"But I also think it's the elephant in the room. It doesn't have to be the negative for the party that it is and I do genuinely believe it can be turned into a positive.

Brooks, a Labour member who advised Ed Miliband's team on the issue, is a supporter of Corbyn's migration impact fund policy, which was first introduced by Gordon Brown's Labour government in 2009 and later scrapped under the Coalition Government.

The £50m initiative saw central government cash distributed to local authorities in a bid to help alleviate pressures put on public services, such as the NHS and schools. But despite Corbyn's promise to re-introduce the programme, Brooks is backing Smith for the leadership.

"Both candidates could say more about immigration and whoever wins the race I will support. If Corbyn wins, as is likely, and if he wants immigration advice from an immigrant, than he can get in touch any time he wants. Even though I'm more favourable to the other side." he added.

Smith recently suggested Labour should argue for the merits of mass immigration, even if it costs the party voters at the ballot box. "I think even if there was some electoral damage, we should be clear about it," he told The Independent.

The issue was a hot topic during the EU referendum, with the official Brexit campaign Vote Leave backing an Australian-style points system and highlighting David Cameron's failure to meet his "tens of thousands" net migration target.

Prime Minister Theresa May has risked a backlash from Brexit backers by ruling out adopting the points system.

"A lot of people talk about the points-based system as always being the answer in immigration. There is no single silver bullet that is the answer in terms of dealing with immigration," the Conservative premier said, during the G20 summit in China.

Key dates of the Labour leadership election campaign

  • 18 July: Signing up as a registered supporter to vote in the election begins.
  • 19 - 20 July: Number of MP nominations for each candidate published.
  • 20 July: Deadline for people to sign up as a registered supporter closes.
  • 22 August: Ballot papers begin to be sent out around the UK, but to Labour Party members only.
  • 21 September: Deadline for ballot papers to be returned is midday.
  • 24 September: The election result will be announced at a Leadership Conference in Liverpool.