UK Politics

Coalition needs 'answers not excuses' says Ed Miliband

Media captionLabour leader Ed Miliband speaking with members of the public in Harlow.

The government has run out of "excuses" for the "failure" of its economic policy, Ed Miliband has said.

The Labour leader told party activists in Essex that coalition policies had "blunted aspiration" and ministers were "standing up for the wrong people".

He called for action in Wednesday's Queen's Speech to cap energy and rail fare rises and reverse tax changes.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are set to restate their commitment to economic stability at a joint event later.

The three party leaders are all visiting Essex to set out their stall in the wake of last week's local elections - which saw Labour gain hundreds of seats at the expense of the two coalition parties - and ahead of the launch of the government's future legislative programme on Wednesday.

Jobs priority

Speaking in Harlow, where Labour regained control of the council last week, Mr Miliband said the public had given the coalition of the benefit of the doubt since 2010 but had now lost patience with it.

While long-term youth unemployment had trebled in the last year in places like Harlow, Mr Miliband said, the coalition's focus was on cutting taxes for the wealthiest in society instead of helping ordinary families.

"The first priority is to get our young people back to work," he said. "Tax bankers' bonuses and create jobs for our young people. Then let's get on with tackling the problem with people's living standards."

Comparing the current economic situation with the 1980s, a period when he said the Conservatives claimed they "stood up" for aspiration, he said people trying to find a job or to buy a home now were finding their ambitions "being blunted by what is happening in our economy".

'Crisis of politics'

"What people want from the prime minister and deputy prime minister are answers not excuses," he said. "Not excuses blaming somebody else, blaming the eurozone, but answers about why they promised change and things have got worse not better. That is the reality.

"If they really want to learn the lessons of those local elections, they have got to learn that... economic failure with unfairness piled on top is not the answer. Whatever the excuses, whatever the explanations, they are not going to wash with people."

But Mr Miliband said he was dismayed that turnout at the local elections in Harlow was less than 29% and Labour and other parties had "a lot of work" to do to regain public trust.

"I want to reach out and understand why you do not trust any politicians and don't believe any of us can answer the questions you are facing in your lives," he said.

"I think there is a crisis of politics in this country, of people thinking that I am not going to engage with politics and 'you are all the same and you all break your promises."

The BBC News Channel's chief political correspondent Norman Smith said it was no surprise the Labour leader was trying to pin the UK's economic woes directly on No 10 as all the leaders sought to gain the initiative ahead of what is being seen as a crucial week in setting the political agenda.

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