NOT a revolution but ‘fundamental change’ to help working families was promised by South Yorkshire MP and Labour leader Ed Miliband during a speech in Sheffield - but he faced criticism after admitting he was unaware of one contentious local issue.
The Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband outlined his party’s new vision to assist people left struggling by the recession and cuts to Government spending during the launch of a new political research institute at Sheffield University.
A packed audience of more than 1,000 people listened to a 30-minute speech, in which he talked of tackling the ‘something for nothing culture’ of bankers’ bonuses, while also attacking huge rises in energy bills and rail fares and reiterating his belief in ‘responsible capitalism’.
He also said how none of the three main political parties ‘had the answers’ at the 2010 general election.
Mr Miliband’s uncomfortable moment came when put on the spot by Sheffield University student, Philip Brown, of Wadsley, during a question and answer session which followed.
The town planning undergraduate raised the fate of the South Yorkshire Police helicopter, which the Government wants to replace with regional air cover.
Mr Brown, aged 21, asked: “South Yorkshire Police is being forced to lose its own helicopter. Considering the fact that this Government has been pushing a localism agenda, how do you feel - should decisions be made locally or nationally?”
Mr Miliband replied: “I don’t know about the helicopter issue. I’ll have to look into it.”
He was also challenged about his calls for a tax on bankers’ bonuses to fund a jobs programme for young people by a young Labour Party activist.
Lewis Dagnall said Mr Miliband’s policy seemed a ‘tacit acceptance of the current financial system rather than a radical rethink’.
After the event, Mr Miliband received a mixed reaction from audience members, who ranged from students to top members of Sheffield’s Labour Party to the council chief executive, business leaders, the High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant.
Sheffield University journalism student Anna Comerford, aged 21, of Crookes, said: “The speech was interesting but there was a tendency to speak for a long time without actually saying a lot of detail, as politicians do.”
Liam Griffifths, 20, a Sheffield University civil engineering student, said: He was more confident than I expected - he’s changed my opinion of him.”
Philip Brown, who popped the helicopter question, said: “It was a bit unfortunate he didn’t know about the helicopter. It’s perhaps a fault of our constitution where he has to be a local MP and he’s also expected to be able to hold the Government to account.”
Arbourthorne Labour Councillor Jack Scott was busy posting comments on social networking website Twitter throughout the event, calling Mr Miliband’s speech ‘excellent’ but adding: “Disappointing that all of the cross questions tonight have come from left-wing communists feigning shock that Labour isn’t communist.”
There were other tweets mentioning Mr Miliband’s lack of knowledge about the helicopter.
Coun Scott told The Star: “The next election is likely to be three years away so it’s not unusual this far ahead for there to be some work needed on the detail of policy but the speech was in the right direction.
“Ed did talk a couple of times about issues in his constituency so I don’t think it’s fair to say he had no local knowledge. The helicopter is a big local issue but there’s only so much someone who is working a 150-hour week can know about issues within an area. At least he did not try to fudge an answer.”