Miliband 'must boost party appeal in London'

 

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The Independent Online

Labour needs to sharpen its appeal in the crucial commuter land around London which could decide the next general election, Ed Miliband has been warned by one of his frontbenchers.

Gareth Thomas called on Labour to target the "suburban Sarahs and Simons" and "commuting Christophers and Chloes" in the 107 constituencies in outer London and near the M25 motorway, which include a high concentration of key marginals. In a stark message to Labour, he says it will not regain power on the back of opposition to spending cuts or the Coalition's mistakes.

The shadow Universities minister, and MP for Harrow West, has written a pamphlet, "The Politics of Anxiety", suggesting Labour urgently needs to mount a political and organisational fightback in London's commuter land. The party made sweeping gains here in 1997 but fell backwards in 2001 and 2005.

YouGov, which carried out polling and focus groups for the report, found that 53 per cent of voters in this "outer metropolitan area" think Labour "used to care about the concerns of people like me", but only 30 per cent believe the party still cares. For the Conservatives, the figures are 33 and 30 per cent respectively, a much smaller drop.

"Whilst there are many marginal seats around the country, it is in London's commuter belt that Labour needs to win more marginal seats if it is to return to power and where the battle for the hearts and minds of electors will be particularly tough," Mr Thomas said.

Peter Kellner, YouGov's president, said many people fear taxes, immigration and red tape would increase under a Labour government. Less than one in three people believe that Labour would improve living standards, public services, create more jobs and ensure more criminals were caught.

The commuter-belt voters are more concerned than people living elsewhere about immigration and public transport and more likely to think trade unions wield too much power. They are less likely to worry about pensions, social security and poverty.

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