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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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We lost touch with Carlisle's voters, says Labour leader Ed Miliband

Labour lost touch with people in Carlisle during its time in government, leader Ed Miliband admitted last night.

Ed Miliband photo
Ed Miliband with Joe Hendry

The party failed to connect with the city’s “low and middle earners” leading to a rejection by voters at local and national elections, he said.

Mr Miliband launched Labour’s local election campaign in the north at Carlisle’s Richard Rose Morton Academy.

The party has earmarked the city as a top target in next month’s council elections, where it needs just three seats to take full control after 13 years in opposition.

“We’ve listened to people about why they rejected us and we’ve heard loud and clear that the feeling is we lost touch with low and middle earners,” Mr Miliband told the News & Star.

“Clearly it was very disappointing to lose the seat at the General Election and we haven’t been in power in Carlisle for 13 years, but we are fighting hard to win back the council.

“There’s a feeling that the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition in Carlisle hasn’t delivered for people.

“[Labour Group leader] Joe Hendry is leading a good fight and it’s important we can demonstrate the achievements we can deliver for people in Carlisle.

“We’re in a fantastic new academy school, built thanks to the last Labour Government and the leadership of people like Joe Hendry.

“That shows we can deliver things for people in Carlisle.

“The Tory/Lib Dem coalition, which has been in power for 13 years, hasn’t delivered for people on the economy, on jobs, on crime, on anti-social behaviour. Clearly, the floods money was not properly spent.

“We are campaigning hard on how Labour can make a difference when there’s less money around.

“Nationally, the Conservative-led coalition promised to change things, but two years on, things are getting worse. We have to show we have an alternative; that’s what these local elections are about.”

Media pressure is mounting on Mr Miliband to deliver significant gains in next month’s local elections after an unconvincing 18 months as party leader.

But he rejected that idea.

“The media love having this commentary game, but I’m concentrating on the people of Carlisle and how we can deliver for them on the economy, crime and the health service,” he said.

Mr Miliband defended the building of Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary, the first hospital built under Labour’s controversial private finance initiative (PFI).

The trust that runs the hospital is currently being taken over amid spiralling debts, partly caused by the PFI scheme.

“There are always lessons to be learnt and I understand critics of PFI,” he said.

“Both of my children were born in an NHS hospital built using PFI and if it wasn’t for PFI, they would have been born in a broken-down Victorian building.

“I understand the concerns, and things need to be sorted out, but if it wasn't for PFI, we would not have the 100 new hospitals built under Labour, we simply couldn't have done that by spending public money alone.

“Let’s get it right, but let’s not dismiss the idea that’s allowed us to create these new developments.”

Mr Miliband, a former Energy Secretary in Gordon Brown’s government, also pledged his support for the west Cumbrian nuclear industry.

“I’m a supporter of nuclear power as part of our energy mix,” he said.

“The challenge is just too great on climate change to dismiss any alternatives including renewables and nuclear. I think the whole country has a special relationship with Cumbria and

Sellafield because of the role it has played in the development of the nuclear industry.”

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