Ed Miliband launches Labour's local election campaign

Ed Miliband: "Wrong values, wrong priorities, wrong choices - this is a government out of touch"

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Ed Miliband has pledged to govern for the whole country "not just the wealthy few" as he launched Labour's campaign for the local elections in England.

The Labour leader accused the coalition of "betraying Middle Britain" and said his party had "different values".

Labour head to the polls next month in the wake of a shock defeat by the Respect Party's George Galloway in the Bradford West by-election.

Local authority ballots take place in England, Scotland and Wales on 3 May.

Launching his party's campaign in Birmingham, where he was joined by shadow cabinet colleagues, Mr Miliband highlighted the issues of crime, the NHS and jobs - saying Labour would do things differently from the government without spending more money.

He said Labour would prioritise action against vandalism and anti-social behaviour, praised efforts by Labour councils to set up work programmes and promised to protect 6,000 nurses from government cuts.

'Powerful lobbies'

Last month's Budget and the government's handling of the petrol dispute showed it was "out of touch", he said. The slogan for the campaign is "With you in tough times".

Analysis

Ed Miliband thinks politics in Britain has reached a turning point. His party's ahead in the polls and he believes that what he calls the "Cameron project" has run out of steam.

But he said he wasn't there simply to comment on the government's problems. He wanted to put forward a manifesto - and so we had a whole raft of measures to address issues "rooted in real life".

Labour claim that their proposals - on the NHS, crime and living standards - won't involve any extra spending. They are just making different choices.

However, the Conservatives will claim Mr Miliband is ducking the big economic issues and doesn't have a credible plan for tackling the deficit.

He is convinced that political space is opening up for Labour and that this is their chance. But the defeat of the party in what used to be the safe seat of Bradford West last week has shown that previously loyal voters can sometimes desert them.

Labour have set themselves a target of winning 330 seats at the forthcoming elections in England. If they fall far short of that then Mr Miliband will face questions about his political strategy - and his own leadership.

The government was "doing nothing" to help families facing an "unprecedented" squeeze on their living standards, he said, contrasting this with Labour plans to cap rises in all rail fares and guarantee the lowest possible energy tariffs for the over 75s.

"This government have abandoned the pretence that they can govern for the whole country. They have betrayed Middle Britain.

"They spend their time listening to the donors, the people who give millions of pounds to the Conservative Party, cutting taxes for millionaires, not the millions of people of this country. We are determined to govern for the whole country, not just for the wealthy few. They are the value the people of Britain demand."

On crime, Mr Miliband said Labour would reverse cuts in frontline police numbers, retain anti-social behaviour orders and push for greater use of restorative justice - where criminals make amends for damage they cause and are required to meet their victims, if the victims agree.

He said such schemes - where people clean up graffiti or repair damage they have committed - could help to stop offenders committing more serious crimes in the future and "nip problems in the bud".

"You should not just get a caution, where we all know you might go on to commit repeat offences," he said. "You actually have to make good on the damage you have done."

"It is what I believe in. It is about one community, making people face up to the consequences of their actions and actually it can make a difference."

Current use of this approach was "patchy", he said - in fewer than one in thirty such cases - and he wanted to see it used much more widely.

A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times gave Labour a nine-point lead over the Conservatives despite the Bradford result where Mr Galloway overturned a 5,000 Labour majority to win by 10,000 votes.

There will also be elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly on 3 May.

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