Labour leadership front-runner David Miliband believes the coalition is treating Northern Ireland like a mathematical problem rather than looking at the human impact of its policies.
The shadow Foreign Secretary warned that the Government should take into account the diverse nature of the UK, not treat communities merely as statistics.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he warned against austere measures that hit deprived areas hardest, insisting voters do not want a return to the 1980s.
“It is really important that we recognise some of the wounds of history,” he said. “The Government gives the impression of applying a mathematical approach of treating people as statistics rather than as communities and that is true in Wales and Northern Ireland.”
He added: “I think people didn’t vote for this. They know we have got tough times and difficult decisions to make but they also believe that the country has gone forward from the divisions of the 1980s and they don’t want to go back.
“There are obviously special circumstances in Northern Ireland, precarious special circumstances that need attention.
“But the truth is we are a diverse country and we need to respect that diversity in the way we organise our public policy.”
Voting is under way in the Labour leadership contest with the winner to be named at the start of its annual conference this month.
Miliband is fighting his younger brother Ed, Andy Burnham, Ed Balls and Diane Abbott for the party leadership.
A YouGov poll released earlier this week, commissioned by his campaign, reports he is seen as the strongest candidate in the leadership contest to serve as Prime Minister. He has formal support of the largest number of Labour MPs and shadow cabinet members and is widely seen as the favourite.
Labour’s complex electoral system, however, means it is difficult to accurately predict who will win as some union members and party members also have a vote.