Last Thursday Ed Miliband came to People’s Questions at the Millennium Stadium, speaking on a range of issues Miliband stated to the Cardiff audience, “Welsh Labour needs a partnership in Westminster.”
There was an obvious theme on the agenda for Miliband, to differentiate himself and the Labour party from the Conservatives, saying: “Tories want wealth to trickle down, however I believe that the people with the broadest shoulders should hold the broadest burden.”
Emphasising this point, Miliband continued with what appears to be his latest campaigning line: “They’re succeeding due to the success of a few. I don’t think the success of a few is good enough. We need to all do well for the country to be succeeding.”
With tuition fees trebled, the vast amount of zero hour contracts in the economy, benefit reduction, the bedroom tax, and the stripping of services, young people feel that the last five years have been tough, leading to mass apathy regarding voting, critics say. In the last General Election, 44 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted, lower than the national turnout, suggesting they are disillusioned and uninspired. One factor here is that people don’t believe there is any real difference between the major parties.
Gair Rhydd asked Miliband why students should believe that Labour is different, and he answered saying:
“I think on so many levels there’s a huge difference between Labour and the Tories. They think that if the rich and powerful do well then the country is succeeding. I think what actually matters is that working people succeed. For students and young people, listen to what we’ve got to say on tuition fees. Now obviously the situation in Wales is different because of what the government has done. And this decision we’ve made in England will also bring more money to the Welsh budget. Look at what we’ve got to say about jobs, putting people back to work and the minimum wage. And look at what we’ve got to say about raising the minimum wage and zero hours contracts. These are a massive issue for many students. And then I would say to people this: there is one party that is willing to put trust in young people and give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds and that’s Labour. So coming up to this election, the message should be made clear to young people that we have a better offer for their future.”
Labour recently announced they would lower tuition fees to £6,000, separating themselves aside as the party who will right the wrongs in the minds of students.
Critics of this plan are sceptical that Miliband is making a false promise, and that this does not reverse the Tories policy of trebling the fees, and therefore Labour aren’t going far enough. The Chancellor announced yesterday that he had reviewed lowering tuition fees at the expense of pensioners, and it was not a viable option. Since 2012, the Welsh Government has been partially subsidising tuition fee for Welsh students, and we asked Miliband why his plans didn’t go this far.
“£6,000 is what is affordable”, he said, “We’ve got to make our plans add up. It will make a difference for the Welsh government because at the moment they’ve got to pay a bigger difference than they will once we lower the fees. The one important lesson to take from Nick Clegg’s broken promise is to make promises you can keep, and that’s what we’re doing”, although saying he would like to go further, but can’t promise this.
During the talk, it seemed at points Mr Miliband was avoiding answering certain questions and deflecting onto different topics. These included questions on his dismissal of an SNP coalition, the Barnett formula, asylum seekers and climate change.
In response to this Gair Rhydd questioned why he was ruling out a coalition with the SNP when it’s unlikely he’ll secure a majority government:
“There are too many fundamental disagreements between ourselves and the SNP for us to have a coalition government. But I want there to be a majority Labour government. I think this election is still to be decided. There are seven weeks to go and people are still focusing on this election. They’re thinking about their options for this election and I’d say to people that there is a big choice: a Labour government or a Conservative government. We know what a Conservative government would mean now for public services. We’ve seen the devastating impact on our public services and that’s just one of the many reasons why I hope people vote Labour.”
On devolution, Miliband said he didn’t think an English Assembly was the answer but being in favour of greater devolution across the UK. He linked changes to the House of Lords into this stating: “I want a democratically elected senate of the nations. This would increase the democratic principle and reduce hereditary power.” He went on to say that devolution was “a tussle over power”, and we need to find the right balance of sharing power.
Interesting topics were covered across the day as a whole. Miliband joked that such a range of bases had been covered in a relatively small amount of questions and that he’d never had people so keen. There was a light atmosphere throughout the event, while from the audience there was clapping and praise. Various members who took to the microphone announced their pride for Miliband and offered their hopes that he would be the next Prime Minister. One woman in the audience said, “I’m proud of you for protecting our NHS. After all it was Aneurin Bevan who founded the movement for us and he’s our Labour man. I really believe the Conservatives would eventually privatise the NHS and I hope you can stop that.”
Miliband ended by urging people to talk to friends and family coming up to the campaign. He convinced that we would have to work hard to see a Labour government. To register to vote online before the 20th of April deadline, follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote