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Ed Miliband visits Ipswich to put fire in the bellies of Labour supporters

PUBLISHED: 10:45 23 April 2015 | UPDATED: 10:45 23 April 2015

Labour Leader Ed Miliband at UCS with candidate David Ellesmere.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband at UCS with candidate David Ellesmere.

PAUL GEATER joined Labour leader Ed Miliband's battlebus as it headed from Cambridge to Ipswich for a visit to party members at UCS - and spoke about this region's importance to his party's fight for power at Westminster.

Labour leader Ed Miliband had a clear purpose as he headed to University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich yesterday to meet party members. Was he aiming to put fire in their bellies?

“Hell yes! The most important thing is that this election can come down to a few hundred votes in a few dozen constituencies and Ipswich is one of those constituencies.

“There is a big choice about this election that the country has got to work through.”

East Anglia is a part of the world that has felt ignored by Labour governments in the past – apart from the largest towns and cities it is not fertile territory for the party. Would that continue if Mr Miliband wins the General Election?

“Certainly not under me. If I’m Prime Minister in two weeks, this part of the world will get its proper priority.

“I know there are huge issues here around transport and schools are a big concern – and obviously the NHS.

“And there’s also the big issue of this election around getting the economy right for working people again. Do we have an economy working for working people or do we have an economy working for the richest and most powerful people?

“I actually think that the workers we find on the doorstep just don’t think the economy is focussed. The economy might be working in the City of London but it hasn’t reached out of that and that is what has got to change.”

Mr Miliband said his party’s plans to raise the minimum wage and ban the exploitation of zero-hours contracts and build 200,000 new homes would help workers struggling to make a better life for themselves.

“The recovery hasn’t reached most people and the Government thinks everything’s fine. If that’s what they think, imagine what the next five years would be like under them,” he added.

Mr Miliband said his Norwich City-supporting shadow chancellor was working hard to improve the party in this region. “Ed Balls is a fantastic champion for this area and he will be making sure East Anglia gets its proper priority.”

The Labour leader repeated that he would go ahead with major infrastructure programmes in the region, including improvements to the A14 and the main Norwich to London rail line.

And he warned that a returned Conservative government looking for more spending cuts next year could endanger future infrastructure projects like building new homes.

Mr Miliband said an incoming Labour government would be committed to building 200,000 new homes a year – and would seek to ensure that 50% of new developments had homes reserved for local people.

He said his government would ease pressures on private tenants by ensuring they were offered three-year tenancies rather than one-year tenancies to ensure they had more security. He also dismissed the Conservative’s plans to sell of housing association homes because there was no indication of how it would be funded – and feared it could simply reduce the number of affordable homes that were available.

Labour has come under attack from other parties for not matching the Tories’s commitment to spend £8billion on the NHS over the next parliament – a pledge repeated by Jeremy Hunt during a visit to Ipswich Hospital earlier this week.

Mr Miliband said: “Has he said where that money is coming from? We are the only party showing a budget plan showing where the money is coming from with our £2.5bn Time to Care fund coming in straight after the election.

“It’s interesting in this election we’re actually showing what we’re going to do with that £2.5bn.

“Not only do the Conservatives not know where the money is coming from, they’re not even pretending to say here’s where the money is coming from.

“An immediate rescue fund for the NHS now is much better than an IOU for 2020, which is what the Tories are offering.”

Many commentators feel that Labour has been running the more positive election campaign in the run-up to May 7, so is Mr Miliband frustrated that the opinion polls have not moved?

“Let’s see where the polls are in two weeks’ time. This is a choice between a Labour government and a Conservative government wherever you live in Britain,” he said.

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