Labour leader Ed Miliband says he will ‘stand up’ for small businesses at Camden visit

Ed Miliband MP in Camden News on Thursday. Picture: Polly Hancock

Ed Miliband MP in Camden News on Thursday. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Labour leader Ed Miliband promised to “stand up” for small businesses this morning as he met with Camden’s entrepreneurs to discuss rising energy costs and business rates.

He said meeting independent business owners “brought home the reality” of their struggle to pay skyrocketing business rates and energy bills, following his vow to freeze energy prices and cut rates at Labour’s annual party conference last month.

Miguel Martin, who has run Martin’s Butchers in Camden High Street for 17 years, Mr Patel and his brother, shopkeepers of Camden News in Camden High Street, and co-founder of Haché Burgers in Inverness Street, Beresford Casey, all met Mr Miliband to discuss the Labour policy.

“For Miguel and the Patel brothers but also here [at Haché burgers] energy costs and business rates are massive, massive issues,” the 43-year-old Dartmouth Park resident said.

“It was really moving meeting Miguel because he’s been there 17 years, he loves Camden, he says he is the only independent butcher around there and he really feels his business is on the margins.

“I think people are asking: when is someone finally going to stand up for us and do something about it? That’s what we are going to do.”

The leader of the opposition also met with entrepreneurs from the Camden Collective, which provides a work hub for business people.

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Mr Miliband, who grew up in Primrose Hill, also spoke cautiously about Labour’s support for High Speed Rail 2, the controversial railway that will see more than 400 Camden homes affected and historic bridges demolished as part of its construction.

He repeated Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls’ remarks that Labour would not give out a “blank cheque” for the project if they were elected to government in 2015.

“As a local resident, I do understand the concerns in Camden and that’s got to go through the proper planning process.

“But I would say that you have to make the decision on HS2 about the national interest, and then look and see what can be done to deal with local concerns.

“We’ve got to make sure it is value for money and there can’t be any blank cheques. We’ve got to get the national decision right on HS2, that’s the process we’ve got to go through.”

Halfway through Mr Miliband’s walk through Camden Town, 34-year-old self-employed builder Robert Quinn approached the opposition leader to tell him about the difficulties he has had in holding down a job.

“I’ve done the air conditioning in the royal box at the Royal Festival Hall, at the Emirates Stadium, at the Millenium Dome but the longest I’ve been able to work is a month and a half.

“I’m trying to be a man and not be a criminal but I’m from Hackney, and sometimes I just want to find a flat and grow weed. But I’m not taking the easy way out.”

Mr Miliband thanked the man, who is currently working in Camden, for bringing the concerns to his attention.