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
By-election under way to replace Labour councillor Lisa Smiles, after her resignation following a benefits fraud conviction left the St Anne’s ward a member down.
Four candidates – representing the Green Party, UKIP, Labour and the Conservative Party – will compete for the role on March 27.
Voters have until Tuesday to register with Sunderland City Council, while applications to vote by post must be received by 5pm on Wednesday
Emily Blyth will contest the seat for the Green Party. The 30-year-old full-time University of Sunderland student and community musician has lived in South Hylton all her life and says she is proud of the area.
She said: “My main priorities would be doing what I can to protect our most vulnerable residents from cuts to vital services, and likewise seeking to support an inclusive community for people of all backgrounds.
“At times of economic difficulty it’s all too easy to scapegoat the poor, the disabled, the migrants, and there are plenty of voices doing that, when in reality such groups are the hardest hit by the destructive cuts agenda.
“I’m also passionate about keeping the NHS in public hands, and for our public transport system to be run in the best interests of passengers, not corporations.”
UKIP candidate Aileen Casey, 58, is a mum-of-two, who lives in Springwell. She is a youth worker who is passionate about supporting young people.
Aileen said: “Labour councillors have held their safe seats for decades. Many people don’t vote because there hasn’t been a real choice or they vote the same way as their parents or grandparents have done.
“Things need to change in Sunderland. Voting for UKIP is the only way to bring about these long overdue changes and to ensure that the wishes of the local people are carried out.
“The current Labour administration just follows the diktats of their London based Party leaders. Elected UKIP councillors always put local residents before Party doctrine.”
Labour’s Jacqui Gallagher lives in Thorney Close. She is a life-long trade unionist who has represented Unison at Sunderland City Council for more than 10 years.“I have worked in children’s services my whole career, dealing with some of the most difficult cases and making a positive difference in some families lives, that has held me in great job satisfaction.
“Over this time I have gained a great insight into how the council works and still have many connections at the city council. I feel that this experience and my training and knowledge of representing people as a union rep gives me a unique advantage over the other candidates in this election to represent the people of St Anne’s ward on the city council.
“I would ask for votes because having brought my family up on a large council estate using the local services myself, I have a clear insight into benefits or problems associated with our way of life. If I am trusted with the community’s vote I promise to work tirelessly for the people within the St Anne’s ward.”
Former opposition leader Tony Morrissey will contest the seat for the Conservatives. The 42-year-old, who lives in Hendon, came to Sunderland from County Cork in the 1990s.
Tony served in the Territorial Army and saw active service in Iraq during the Gulf war. Until 2012 Tony represented the Barnes ward.
“I’m running to give residents a serious alternative to Labour,” Tony said. “The council needs a wake-up call. With the help of the voters of St Anne’s I intend giving them exactly that.”
•Anyone who is not registered or would like further information, should call Electoral Services at Sunderland City Council on 0191 561 1144 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
> No Lib Dems ? Still maybe not their strongest area ( in 2008 their candidate finished last, behind the BNP) and they probably don’t want any more humiliations right now.
You’d think it’d be a fairly safe Labour seat, but it’ll be interesting to see how UKIP fare.
I’m not 100% sure of the boundaries of St Anne’s ward, but only the Green Party candidate actually seems to live in it.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 10 March 2014