Tory/Lib Dem Coalition,  UK Politics

Oldham East and Ed Miliband

An email arrives from Ed Miliband to tell me he’s been out campaigning in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. He says he has been campaigning against the Tory-led Government’s VAT hike, which is rightly as he says “the wrong tax at the wrong time” (rather like the Alternative Vote being the wrong issue at the wrong time).

Miliband says this is the message we need to get out in Oldham East and Saddleworth. Well it is one of the messages that the Labour Party needs to get out.

While his email to party members mentions Nick Clegg and his VAT lies it steers well clear of mentioning the Liberal Democrats by name, which is really very odd. It is almost as if Miliband is wary of offending them when that is exactly what Labour needs to be doing.

People voted for them as they thought they were going to help deliver some kind of progressive politics or some kind of change. Well, of course, they did deliver change it just turned out that this change was to serve as a the fifth column for a new Thatcherite Tory government. That is an important message and needs to be repeated and it needs to be taken to the doorstep as this by-election will serve as a snap shot referendum on Clegg’s band of distinctively blue Lib  Dems.

The by-election will also be an early test of Miliband as leader. A test of what the public think. And that’s tricky as it is hard to get a reading of a man who is in the minds of some still not in anyway near vocal or visible enough. He doesn’t scream out vote for me.

I know it is early days, that he is getting to grips with the job, but it is not as early as it once was. Miliband is now more than 100 days in to the job. In the real-world, outside of politics, people  who fail to perform can find themselves very quickly out of a job. This number, this 100 days, is a small milestone and it is not one that strikes me that the new Labour Party leader has particularly marked in any significant way.

There is as the Observer said at the weekend “a palpable sense of impatience in the Labour party for Mr Miliband to land more blows on the coalition”. As the paper rightly said this government is moving at great speed and pressing ahead with a radical agenda that needs to be robustly challenged.

It needs to be challenged in parliament and on the doorsteps of Oldham East and Saddleworth, but while members can take the VAT increase and the betrayal of Lib Dems they don’t have any, and none of us do,  “memorable Labour argument on the economy” to counter voter concerns other than a vague narrative that we’re against things, which is in no way near good enough. Party activists don’t have much in the way of a response to “what would Labour do”. While we wait for policy reviews the party needs something urgent from Miliband. And it needs it now.

As you may have seen on last night’s news I have been campaigning in Oldham East and Saddleworth against the Tory-led Government’s VAT hike. This increase in VAT, which kicked in at midnight, is the wrong tax at the wrong time. This is the message we need to get out in Oldham East and Saddleworth.

And we now have just 9 days left to do it before polling day.

Our excellent Labour candidate is Debbie Abrahams. Her campaign team have just had a great new leaflet printed spelling out what the VAT hike means for real families – even on Nick Clegg’s own figures the average family will be £389 worse off.

We need your help to deliver this leaflet. Just an hour of your time in Oldham would make a real difference.

Our campaign centre is open from 8.30am until 7pm every day from now until the election. It is located at 11 Lees Road, Oldham. OL4 1JS. If you want to call ahead or if you have any questions then please call: (07872) 417249.

I will be back campaigning in Oldham East and Saddleworth before polling day so I hope to see you there.

We need to send that message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg – VAT is the wrong tax at the wrong time.


Ed Miliband

Leader of the Labour Party