Journalist Stuart Appleby interviews Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Ed Miliband as he joined by-election campaigners in Eastleigh.
Miliband declares “living standards by-election” in Eastleigh
Labour leader Ed Miliband paid a visit to Hampshire soil on Saturday and declared a “living standards by-election” in Eastleigh as he tried to boost his party’s voting stakes in the constituency.
Targeting ‘floating voters’ and many disgruntled Liberal Democrats following the resignation of disgraced former MP and Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne, Miliband reiterated his support for Britain’s “squeezed middle”.
Miliband pulled no punches as he unveiled plans to install the so-called ‘mansion tax’ and revive the 10p tax rate for low earners (a policy Labour scrapped in office in 2009).
As we sit eye-to-eye across the table from one another in a small but quaint coffee shop in the heart of the Eastleigh by-election circus, Miliband is adamant he has the formula in place to turn Britain’s economy around and back on an even keel.
“I absolutely do see this election as a living standards by-election,” the Labour leader tells me, gesticulating with his usual vibrancy.
“The 10p tax rate is such an important proposal, because funded by a mansion tax, we can ease the squeeze on ordinary families in Eastleigh (and Britain).”
Miliband says that Labour, as things stand, would revive the 10p rate between £10,000 and £11,000 – giving a £100 tax break to millions of basic-rate taxpayers.
Naturally, my follow-up question; how would this be achieved financially? Miliband’s answer is that the policy would be paid for by placing a levy on two million-plus homes – a proposal (promised in the last Liberal Democrat manifesto but opposed by the Conservatives) the party hopes to push to a House of Commons vote before next month’s eagerly anticipated budget.
Miliband’s fledgling proposal announcements were always going to overshadow his visit to Eastleigh in support of local Labour candidate John O’Farrell, but the Labour leader did highlight youth unemployment, both locally and nationally, as a key issue he wanted to tackle immediately.
“Youth unemployment is a massive issue here and right across the country,” he tells me.
“(To solve it) we say tax the bankers’ bonuses and use the money to put our young people back to work. We want to guarantee jobs for every young person who is out of work for more than a year, and frankly, as a Prime Minister I would say to every business in the country and every business in Eastleigh – let’s get behind this plan to get our young people working again and I think businesses would respond,” Miliband urges.
“The Prime Minister is saying that but unfortunately we have a government that is not acting on youth unemployment. That’s why it’s such a problem, there’s nearly one million young people across the country looking for work.”
Whether you support or reject Miliband’s advent of ‘One Nation’ Labour, a gentle breeze of momentum seems to be going in the Leader of the Opposition’s favour at the moment. He has progressed in the role over the past 18 months and is an exceptionally good and accomplished speaker for his party’s cause.
From the outset at least, he appears to be driving Labour forward. However, Miliband’s failure to fully commit to which policies he would bring to the table as a future Prime Minister until the release of a 2015 general election manifesto has been a big stumbling block for his front-bench (and supplied the parties opposite with plenty of ammunition too) .
The Eastleigh by-election will be held on Thursday 28 February 2013.