Labour would govern for the whole country says Ed Miliband

 

Ed Miliband said Labour would govern for the whole country "not just for the wealthy few" as he launched Labour's English local elections campaign.

Ed Miliband said Labour would govern for the whole country "not just for the wealthy few" as he launched Labour's English local elections campaign.

The Opposition leader used a meeting of activists in Birmingham to rally his troops following last week's shock by-election defeat at the hands of George Galloway.

He faces a crucial test of support on May 3 - with elections in England, Scotland and Wales - and goes into the campaign with healthy national opinion poll leads over the Tories.

With the Government enduring a fraught period amid controversy over a top rate tax, panic buying at the petrol pumps and cash-for-access claims, he would hope to score well at the ballot box.

However the shock Bradford result - where Respect's Mr Galloway won by 10,000 votes, overturning a 5,000 majority - threw a question mark over the strength of support for the party.

In a speech Mr Miliband said: "Labour is changing so that we can change the country."

He went on: "This Government has abandoned the pretence that they can govern for the whole country.

"They have betrayed middle Britain. They are spending their time listening to their donors, the people who give millions of pounds to the Conservative Party, cutting taxes for millionaires, not the millions of people of this country.

"We are determined to govern for the whole country, not just the wealthy few. They are the values that the people of Britain demand."

Seeking to capitalise on the unpopularity of last month's Budget, he said: "We wouldn't be cutting the 50p tax rate for millionaires, we would actually be spending the money to make sure those pensioners' tax allowances were put back in place.

"And we wouldn't be doing something this Government has done, which is to return £1.6 billion in extra pension tax relief to those earning over £150,000 a year at the same time as they are cutting tax credits. Friends, that's just the wrong choice, it's the wrong priority, it's the wrong values and Labour would be making different choices, showing different values and different priorities."

He accused the Government of cutting police numbers and weakening powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, insisting Labour would bring about a return to "common-sense policing".

The coalition had also presided over a "jobs crisis", he said, and vowed the Labour-run councils would provide a "last line in defence" against NHS reforms.

He was joined by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman and shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn.

Quizzed about Labour's prospects at the ballot box, he said the party had "a long way to come back" after its poor performance at the 2010 general election.

"I think we are making progress. And I think we are making progress in being an effective opposition and I think we are making progress in starting to set out the alternative that we are."

He added: "I'm not in the commentary business, I'm in the making a difference business and that's what these local elections are about."

There was a "wall of scepticism" among the electorate about politicians, he conceded.

"The way I think we break it down is by being clear about what we're offering and not over promising.

"The scale of our challenge is to convince people that actually we're not all the same and that politics can make a difference."

Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said: "Ed Miliband conveniently forgets Labour left our country in an appalling mess, which this Government is having to clear up.

"It was Labour who squeezed hard working people by doubling council tax, it was Labour who tied police to their desks with bureaucracy rather than getting them out on the beat, and it's Labour who won't commit to increase funding to the NHS.

"The Conservatives in government are dealing with Labour's debts, helping families and pensioners with the cost of living and protecting our NHS.

"But all Ed Miliband had to offer today was billions of pounds of more spending, more borrowing and more debt - exactly how he and his old boss Gordon Brown got us into this mess in the first place."

PA

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