Updated: Wednesday, 16th October 2019 @ 4:53pm

Ed Miliband brands Farage and UKIP 'more Tory than the Tories' as battle for Heywood and Middleton heats up

Ed Miliband brands Farage and UKIP 'more Tory than the Tories' as battle for Heywood and Middleton heats up

| By Josh Willacy

Ed Miliband has attacked Nigel Farage claiming that people will be able to see through the UKIP leader’s bravado and realise that the party ‘don’t have the answers’.

Both leaders visited the area ahead of next week’s Heywood and Middleton by-election, which was triggered after Labour MP Jim Dobbin passed away aged 73 after holding the seat in the area since 1997.

And the party leader insists that his UKIP counterpart is leading a group of disillusioned Conservatives as the two butted heads before the crucial vote, saying the Eurosceptics are 'more Tory than the Tories'.

In what seemed like a pointed dig at the Labour leader Nigel Farage took on a bacon sandwich with gusto in front of a baying scrum of photographers while canvassing the people of Middleton.

Mr Miliband, who was mocked for his efforts at eating a butty earlier this year, told MM: “Look, I think in the end people will see through all that.

“I think what people really want to know is what are you going to do for me? What are you going to do for my family? What are you going to do to make a difference?

“That’s why we are campaigning on these issues on the NHS, on the minimum wage, on apprenticeships, on things that really make a difference to people.”

The Labour leader went head-to-head in the town with Mr Farage as the pressure intensifies over the seat which has been safely red traditionally.

Rochdale is the birthplace of the trade union and the home of the cooperative movement, and with this in mind there is a significant amount of pressure riding on the back of Labour candidate Liz McInnes and the party leader.

This comes in the wake of Mr Miliband’s party conference speech gaffe last week when he forgot to mention the deficit.

And when asked about the importance of connecting with voters in the area, Mr Miliband said: “So many people are feeling that things are hurting for them, that things aren’t working for them, we’re going to change that.


ALL SMILES: Ed Miliband with Labour candidate Liz Mcinnes in Heywood and Middleton

“In the end, UKIP don’t have the answers and it’s really important people understand this.”

During the campaign, UKIP has been able to capitalise on feelings of apathy within the town by talking about immigration, a divisive issue in the area.

With the Rotherham sex scandal still fresh in the minds of the electorate, UKIP candidate John Bickley has been accused of stirring up ill feelings – by laying the blame for the abuse of local girls in 2012 by groups of men of Pakistani origin at Labour’s door.

In Rochdale, the gangs were found to have preyed on 47 young girls all of whom were white.

Mr Bickley was criticised by a father of one of the victims for using the issue for political gain after the politician distributed leaflets blaming the abuse on Labour's wish to ‘not upset immigration communities’ and attacked the party’s ‘love affair with immigration, political correctness and multiculturalism’.

More than 3,000 voted for the BNP in the last General Election and there is a concern in some political circles that Labour shying from the issue of immigration will only give UKIP more impetus at such a tense time.

When asked about his stance, Mr Miliband said: “I think we have taken the right stance on immigration which is that we want to have controls, we need to make sure wages aren’t undercut so that employers get away without paying the minimum wage, that’s really important. 

“We need to make sure that when people come here they learn English.”


CROWD PLEASER: Mr Miliband believes people will soon begin to see through UKIP and Nigel Farage

UKIP have shifted gears when canvassing for this seat, trying to appeal to a strong working class electorate where the same rhetoric used in the shires does not resonate in the same way.

Mr Miliband questioned UKIP’s commitment to the working people of Middleton and Heywood though and told MM that he feels that the latest defections make clear that UKIP is a party for rogue Conservatives.

He said: “This week we’ve had Tory money, Tory policies, we’ve seen Tory people in UKIP and we’ve got a UKIP candidate in this by-election who says he’s been a Tory voter all his life, that should tell you all you need to know about UKIP and where they stand.

“They are more Tory than the Tories!”