LABOUR Leader Ed Miliband believes public anger over the controversial Budget decision to freeze pensioner tax allowances, while cutting the top rate of tax for high earners, will boost his party’s chances in the Bradford West by-election.
The vote is the first major poll since Chancellor George Osborne unveiled the much expected cut from 50p to 45p for those earning £150,000 or more, and the much less expected freeze on age-related allowances for pensioners – branded a “granny tax” by critics.
Labour has what would appear to be a safe 5,763 majority in the ward; however Tory and Lib Dem candidates are hopeful that after 38 years of Labour MPs there will be a move for change.
The ward, which includes the city centre as well as some of the most deprived estates in the country, has high levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment.
Mr Miliband, who joined Labour candidate Imran Hussain yesterday for a question and answer session with invited guests at Bradford University, denied the seat was safe, but added the public were angry at the Government’s “millionaires’ Budget”.
“We are fighting for every vote in this seat,” he said. “The most important thing is that Bradford West gets a strong representative who is going to fight for the people of Bradford West.
“I want a representative who will speak for the anger in the country that there is against the unfairness of this Budget – David Cameron said that he was a different type of Tory, that he was for the low and middle income earners of Britain, he was not for the rich.
“He has done exactly the opposite in this Budget – he has cut taxes for millionaires and taxed millions of people.”
Coun Hussain, the deputy leader of Bradford Council, said his party’s “job guarantee” would ease the unemployment problem. The policy pledges that all under-25s who are jobless for more than a year will be given paid work for six months, with the plan funded by a tax on bank bonuses.
“Unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, is a big problem,” Mr Hussain said. “I have been listening to young people all this week and they are telling me that they do not have the opportunities, they are not able to get a foot through the door. They are fed up with empty promises, and the way forward is the job guarantee for young people, guaranteeing people six months employment in the private sector, paid for by bankers bonuses.
“Young people in Bradford West who I have been talking to would welcome that.”
Both Labour and the Tories have brought some of their highest profile people on to the campaign trail to support their candidates, while the Liberal Democrats have promised their heavy hitters will also ramp up the pressure next week ahead of the count on Thursday night.
On Thursday Conservative candidate Jackie Whiteley was joined by David Cameron on a visit to Bradford’s King’s Science Academy, where they met with teachers and pupils at the school.
The academy was one of the first three free schools to be opened in Yorkshire under the Government’s flagship education reforms.
“It was great to have the Prime Minister on the campaign trail here in Bradford,” she said. “The Kings Science Academy is over subscribed this year, and I am not surprised.
“This free school offers pupils a unique learning experience under the excellent leadership of inspirational head Sajid Hussain. It was great to meet so many school children with such pride in their school and aspirations for the future.”
All parties are campaigning hard on the Budget – while Labour has highlighted the cut for top earners, Mrs Whiteley said £17m is to be invested for the city centre regeneration while the rail line between Manchester and Bradford is to be improved.
The Liberal Democrats have claimed credit for the decision to lift two million people out of income tax altogether, and candidate Jeanette Sunderland said people are ready for a change after decades of Labour MPs. The constituency has been held by Labour since 1974.
“People here have seen a succession of Labour MPs and they have nothing to show for it,” she said. “We have had a fantastic response on the doorstep from people saying they have had enough.
“I think the Budget is a positive thing for the people of Bradford – 17,000 people in this city will be pulled out of paying income tax altogether as a result of the changes we have made.”
Coun Sunderland, a Bradford councillor for 18 years and leader of her party on the council, also attacked city officials for seemingly dropping the long fought-for Manningham Station from the list of forthcoming transport improvements.
“Manningham is one of the most deprived parts of Bradford and we need to be pulling out all the stops to build a railway station there,” she said. ”I am very concerned that the station has slipped down the agenda. This is exactly why Bradford West needs a strong, determined and outspoken MP fighting for the community, not more betrayal from Labour.”