05/12/2011 06:12 GMT | Updated 04/02/2012 05:12 GMT

Feltham and Heston By-Election Voters Should 'Send Message' To Coalition On Economy, Miliband Says

Voters will have a first opportunity to pass their verdict on David Cameron and George Osborne's "catastrophic" handling of the economy in next week's by-election in Feltham and Heston, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.

Speaking on a visit to the west London constituency, Mr Miliband urged voters to use the December 15 poll to send a message to the coalition Government about the direction they are taking the country.

The parliamentary by-election - sparked by the death last month of veteran Labour MP Alan Keen - comes just a fortnight after Mr Osborne's Autumn Statement, which laid bare the parlous state of the British economy and revealed that the Government's austerity programme will have to extend beyond the next general election.

Mr Miliband said the Chancellor's statement proved the Government's cuts strategy had failed and it was time to change course.

"The Tories had promised they would get the deficit paid down in four years," said the Labour leader.

"But last week George Osborne admitted he would have to borrow £158 billion more than he had planned to pay the bill for its economic failure. The economics are clear: the plan has failed.

"Now I want Feltham and Heston to be the first chance for the people to pass a verdict on the catastrophic course David Cameron and George Osborne have set this country on. I want voters in this by-election to vote Labour and send a clear signal that it is time for a change of plan.

Labour has held Feltham and Heston, a suburban constituency near Heathrow Airport, since 1992.

Mr Keen secured a reduced, but still comfortable, majority of 4,658 in last year's election and at this stage of the Parliament a victory for the second-placed Conservatives would rank as an upset.