Labour focused on recession misery ahead of May 3rd elections

Labour's leaders are fighting this week's local elections by pointing the finger at the "out-of-touch" coalition government.

Ed Miliband and his shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, are launching a tour of battlegrounds ahead of Thursday's local elections with a message focusing on the economy.

They are focusing on the dire state of the economy rather than the ongoing scandal engulfing culture secretary Jeremy Hunt over his office's inappropriate contacts with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation during its BSkyB takeover bid.

"This Tory-led government, with its Liberal Democrat prop, has helped those who don't need help. But it has not helped you," Mr Miliband said.

"Too close to the rich and powerful. Out of touch with everyone else."

Britain slipped into a double-dip recession at the end of March, figures confirmed last week. Labour is blaming the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats for having ignored its warnings that the coalition's deficit reduction plan would "backfire".

Mr Miliband pointed to the government's support of the banking sector, the tax cut for millionaires and its attempt "to help Rupert Murdoch secure his biggest ever deal" this morning.

"In these tough times when there is less money around, only one party has an agenda for change which would improve living standards for families, ensure security for pensioners and get our young people back to work," he added.

"That party is Labour."

The opposition party at the national level is campaigning this week on a mini-manifesto based around five bills which Labour would like to see in the Queen's Speech opening the coalition's second session of parliament on May 9th.

Labour's priorities include tax reforms reversing the measures of George Osborne's March Budget, a breakup of the 'big six' energy firms' hold over the market and a tax on bank bonuses to pay for more jobs for the young.

Mr Miliband's party is expected to perform well in Thursday's elections, as many of the council seats up for grabs were last contested in 2008.

The Conservatives performed extremely well against Gordon Brown's unpopular government, winning 44% of the vote share compared to 24% for Labour and 23% for the Lib Dems.

Five thousands seats across 181 councils are being fought over on May 3rd. Andy Sawford, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit thinktank, said: "In terms of seat numbers, Labour should expect to pick up 300 seats, repeating last year's performance and cancelling out their losses of four years ago.

"This will be the benchmark that Labour publicly sets itself as they seek to manage expectations."