Labour leader Ed Miliband denied accusations he supported “bullies” or was a “coward” after an attack by disgruntled party members on a visit to the North-East.
Mr Miliband gave a speech and took questions from the public on a visit to Redcar, a town which the party hopes to take from the Liberal Democrats in May’s General Election.
He offered a vision of better jobs, fairer employment rights and more power and money for the region – but the event was overshadowed by a protest from former party loyalists.
The demonstration outside Redcar and Cleveland College, where the Labour leader was speaking, was led by former long-standing Labour leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, George Dunning, who brandished a banner saying ‘Does Miliband Support Bullies?’.
Cllr Dunning, a trade-unionist and former steelworker, and ten other councillors were deselected by the party earlier this year.
The councillors went on to resign from the Labour Party saying they had been “bullied.”
Cllr Dunning’s former deputy leader, Sheelagh Clarke, went further, branding Mr Miliband “a coward.”
“He called Cameron a coward because the Prime Minister won’t take part in the TV debates. But he can’t find a quick minute to talk to eight, nine or ten of us ordinary people. How can he be leader of our country if he can’t talk to a few ordinary people? It is cowardly.”
Mr Miliband said he was offering “a big plan” for the region which included increasing the minimum wage, more apprenticeships for youngsters, an end to ‘zero hours’ contracts and more high quality jobs. A key area where the economy could be boosted and high paid jobs created was green energy, he said, which with some Government investment and encouragement could be a major asset to the North-East.
Earlier, Mr Miliband welcomed the improved employment figures, with 45,000 new jobs created in the region since Labour lost power in 2010, but said many were “low paid, insecure and not good enough.”
But in much of his question and answer session with about 200 members of the public he focused on what he would do for young people, including guaranteeing apprenticeships for 18-year-olds and lowering university tuition fees.
Asked about the decline in Durham Tees Valley Airport he promised a future Labour Government would “look at the whole issue of regional airports.”
One Teesside woman spoke movingly of having to leave work for eight months to look after her severely ill, 11-year-old daughter with various authorities declining to offer support, while another talked of having to look after four grandchildren and having to give up her home.
Mr Miliband received his biggest round of applause after publicly thanking the women for their “incredibly important work” and said it was an issue the party was already looking at.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 Mar 2015
David Cameron has been accused of trying to “bribe” pensioners while saddling younger people with government debt, after he promised to maintain state benefits for all old people.
Mr Cameron said his 2010 promise to preserve winter fuel allowances, free TV licences and bus passes regardless of pensioners’ income would last as long as he remains prime minister. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have promised to restrict the winter fuel payments for better off pensioners.
But critics accused the Conservatives of playing a cynical “generation game” to woo the “grey vote” because the over-65s are the most likely group to vote in May’s general election. Pensioners’ perks cost about £3bn a year and the Tories have pledged to find a further £12bn cuts in welfare if they remain in power.
Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute for Economic Affairs, said:
“Politicians must stop trying to woo elderly voters at the expense of other generations. The elderly cannot remain immune to public spending restraint and abolishing these benefits would help ease the burden on the working age population.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said:
“It’s hard to shake the suspicion that austerity stops at 65. The extraordinary debt that politicians have racked up will weigh very heavily on our children and grandchildren, and continuing these policies into the next parliament will only add to that potentially back-breaking burden. Politicians must stop attempting to bribe certain voters with special favours, show some backbone, and think about the long-term health of the nation’s finances by means-testing or abolishing these unaffordable benefits.”
Speaking in Hastings, Mr Cameron claimed that Labour’s plan to withdraw winter fuel payments from pensioners paying the 40p rate of tax would save only £75m a year. He said the Government’s decision to raise the age at which people qualify for the state pension would save more than half a trillion pounds.
The Prime Minister added:
“I don’t think we should break the system of having benefits for pensioners for such a small saving when you are giving up such an important principle and such a reassurance to people in our country.”
“Comfort, independence, companionship, health – these aren’t luxuries; they’re what people who have worked and saved all their lives deserve. The fact is, if something happens to you when you’re old, or to your income, you can’t as easily change your circumstances as younger people can.”
Source – The Independent, 24 Feb 2015