Labour Party leader Ed Miliband visited the Birmingham Post & Mail offices at Fort Dunlop and met members of the public for a question and answer session.
The Doncaster MP faced TV crews and scores of Post and Mail readers for more than an hour, fielding questions on a range of subjects including police cuts, climate change, tuition fees, his own leadership, cuts to children’s centres, the problems with social care and the phone hacking scandal.
Here are the questions put to him and the answers he gave:
Q. Marie Parkes, the Alzheimer’s Society: “Are you aware of how the local authority spending cuts are affecting care for dementia sufferers? We are seeing services stopped, started and stopped again.”
A. “We focus on important issues like local libraries and I think things like services for dementia get forgotten about. On the issue of care for the elderly, it’s really important we work on this on an all-party basis because it’s too big an issue. There are not simple solutions but we can’t keep putting it off.”
Q. Sharon Gibbs, Royal National Institute for the Blind: “Unemployment amongst the visually impaired is higher than average, what are you going to do to change this?”
A. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress on disability and discrimination, but there’s clearly further to go. I will make sure we look at these issues about the employment of visually impaired people in our policy review because the figure you’ve given us of about 75 per cent of visually impaired people who may want to work but are not able to, is a very important one.”
Q. Jerry Moynihan: “What do you have to say about the fact that the more people see of you, the less they like you, and your approval rating goes down every time you open your mouth?”
A. “My view about these things is simple – don’t read the newspapers – apart from the Birmingham Mail of course!
“In public life the best thing to do is what you think is right, which is what I’ve tried to do in the last couple of weeks in relation to some of these hacking issues and then you let the public make the judgement and leave the commentary to other people.”
Q. Jill Whittaker: “Why did you criticise the teachers for striking?”
A. “I took the position I did because I think strikes are a last resort when all else has failed. The problem in the case of the action was that there was still negotiations going on. Instead of following that [John Hutton] report and negotiate, the Government said it would slap a three per cent surcharge on every worker. Both sides need to get round the table, avoid more industrial action but avoid also the kind of approach the Government has shown in ramping up the rhetoric and looking for a fight at times.”
Q. John Davis, president of the Association of Sheet Metal Engineers: “Do you understand the problems engineering and manufacturing in Birmingham are having? We are not getting the young people we need training to be technicians and apprentices.”
A. “We need a plan for a growth in this country and absolutely that’s got to be about manufacturing. We need to crack what has never been cracked in Britain which is decent vocational qualifications sitting alongside academic qualifications. We have to not be afraid of industrial policy, ie government playing a role in making sure we succeed in industries for the future.”
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