By Claire Smyth
The MP for South Shields spoke to a group of Labour activists and new party supporters at an informal lunch at the Gallery Bistro in Church Road, Hove.
He also met with Labour candidates who hope to win seats on Brighton and Hove City Council in this Thursday’s local election.
Mr Miliband, who was beaten to the Labour leadership by his brother Ed, spoke to a group of voters who have decided to support Labour despite previously voting for other parties.
Speaking to Brighton and Hove News, Mr Miliband said: “They obviously want to register a protest vote.
“They also see a very committed group of people locally who are developing real ideas on housing, economic development, jobs, and crime that speaks to their concerns.”
He added: “I think Labour’s got a good opportunity to win seats and obviously no one quite knows how many.
“Sometimes it can become a very closed thing and 50 or 100 votes can make all the difference. So we’re just going to fight for every vote.”
Former Liberal Democrat candidate Ellen Woolley, who stood in the Hanover and Elm Grove ward in 2007, said she left the Lib Dems after Nick Clegg “betrayed” students.
She said: “I felt for the students. I’ve got two grandchildren, one 18, one 20. One of them is a college student and was getting the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and her mum has just lost her job.
“So financially it’s very hard, and if her daughter loses the EMA – it makes it harder for the parents who aren’t earning a lot of money.
“A lot of people don’t think that way when they say ‘oh, they shouldn’t have it’. I think Clegg was terrible to the students. He betrayed them.”
Mr Miliband discussed issues such as housing and changes to the welfare system with a group of new party members.
He said: “People are saying ‘economy, housing, health’. Some people were talking about litter and the state of Brighton. So I think what Gill [Mitchell – local Labour leader] was saying about bringing back civic pride is really important.
“I think this is a government which is being rash on the economy and on health – where it needs to be careful – and it’s confused on green issues where it needs to be bold.
“I think the message [to the coalition] is going to be to think hard. People think the wrong choices are being made for Britain.
“There’s a real gamble being taken and it’s very unclear as to what the economic rationale is.”
Mr Miliband also pledged his support to AV – the new voting system which is being put to a public referendum on the same day as the council elections.
He said: “It gives more power to people, it means that tactical voting is transparent rather than guess work. It means majority rule is just that – you’ve got to get a majority to get elected.”
He added: “The Lib Dems are not the masters of this government. They are the puppets of this government. The Tories are the puppet masters.
“The tragedy is it’s taken a Tory government to remind people why we need a Labour government.
“We will never have a Labour government unless we can win in places like Brighton and Hove.”