The greatest danger in British politics is not the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats, but the fatalistic belief that the country’s problems are too big for any party to solve, according to leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband.
Speaking yesterday to Cambridge students and residents at a question and answer session in Market Square, Miliband said that whilst his party would not “promise things can’t deliver”, this did not mean that voters should become apathetic about the ability of politicians to make a difference to their lives.
He attacked the Conservative government for increasing borrowing to pay for a failed austerity policy and sowing division amongst different sectors of society. Miliband also urged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith to “put his money where his mouth is” by agreeing to the recent petition that he should attempt to live for a week on the new housing benefit amount of £53.
Miliband claimed that Labour would tackle youth unemployment by increasing paid apprenticeships, funded by a tax on bankers’ bonuses. He also spoke of the need for developing regional banks willing to support local businesses and help people like the stallholders of Market Square, as well as tackling energy and railway companies who he accused of “ripping off” their customers. Addressing more local issues, he lent his support for re-opening a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge which was closed fifty years ago.
When asked by a seven year old younger member of the audience whether he was confident that he would be the next prime minister, Miliband replied by introducing his questioner to the crowd as “a future Jeremy Paxman”.
Miliband also pointed to some limitations of contemporary British politics, admitting that “watching me and David shouting at each other” at Prime Minister’s Questions “is not very enlightening”. He expressed his hope that impromptu public meetings such as these would allow politics to be conducted in a new way, addressing the concerns of the public in a more direct manner.
Amy Gregg, a second year Law student and Women’s Officer for the Cambridge Universities Labour Club, spoke to TCS about Ed Miliband’s visit. She said: “His support for the Living Wage Campaign was particularly encouraging, as was his commitment to expanding the range of opportunities open to young people, beyond simply pushing university as a universal ambition.”
One local resident who asked not to be named was however, less enthusiastic, “I had hoped to ask him about the renewed criticisms of Labour’s direction, especially in light of Tony Blair apparently having a go at his leadership in that New Statesman article last week – but (I) didn’t get a chance. Fair play – he seems a nice enough bloke and I’m glad I took time to rock up and listen to what he was talking about, but (for me) it still remains a straight choice between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives as to who’ll get my vote next month.”
Approximately two hundred people were present at Market Square to listen to Mr Miliband. His visit forms part of Labour’s campaign efforts ahead of the local elections, due to be held on the 2nd of May.
Harry Dadswell – News Reporter
Photo – Susanna Silversol