Miliband targets Cameron's heartland

Ed Miliband speaks to the crowds in Witney in Oxfordshire today Credit: ITV Meridian

When Ed Milband told the Labour conference last year, "We must be the party of south as well as of the north," he was telling his membership Labour can't win power unless they win back many of the southern seats Tony Blair won in 1997.

He didn't mean Labour have to win in Wealden or triumph in Tunbridge Wells: parts of the south will probably never vote Labour, just as many parts of the north will never vote Tory.

But the Medway Towns, Brighton, Portsmouth, Reading, Dover...these are all places Labour will be targeting aggressively in 2015.

But not Witney. David Cameron's seat is as likely to go Labour as South Shields is likely to go Conservative in the upcoming by-election.

However, Mr Miliband went to Witney today, on the county council election campaign trail, to send out a signal.

His message: Labour might not win everywhere but nowhere is off-limits - there must be no no-go areas for Labour.

He got a pleasant reception - when a passer-by told him he'd entered "enemy territory" he responded by saying how polite everyone had been.

And that's almost true. When he addressed supporters near the town's market there was one expletive shouted at him, but that was about it.

What he achieved today was a bold move - trying to show that Labour have a message that resonates even on Mr Cameron's doorstep.

But Labour's talk about the south is all very well. The Eastleigh by-election was an unmitigated disaster for them.

And failure to make decent gains in the "Tory shires" next Thursday will again beg the question: Labour know they have to win in the South - but can they actually do it?