The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, says he is "not embarrassed" to call himself a socialist and admits he would have joined the student protesters but was "doing something else."

Labour leader Ed Miliband says he is a socialist (Reuters).

Mr Miliband, branded "Red Ed" when he beat his older brother David to the Labour leadership with the backing of the trade unions, told the BBC's Nicky Campbell this morning: "Yes, I am a socialist."

He also told the Today programme earlier that he was tempted to join student protests against tuition fee rises, but he was "doing something else." He said he did not condone the violence, but understood the "justified" anger.

Socialism and unfairness

Responding to questions over the 50p tax rate, Ed Miliband said: "I'm not embarrassed about it...Look, my dad was a...he would have considered himself a socialist too, but he would have said...we need to have public ownership of everything...I don't subscribe to that view.

"What I do say is that there are big unfairnesses in our society, and part of the job of government is to bring about social justice and to tackle those unfairnesses. And that's why I'm a politician, that's whay I'm in politics."

How red is 'Red Ed' Miliband? Factcheck takes a look. 

Before New Labour and the Tony Blair-era, the Labour party was traditionally seen as having a more socialist direction. While Mr Miliband's interviewer this morning was shocked by his frank admission - saying "Oh my goodness! We haven't heard this from a Labour leader for a long long time. Can you just say it again?", actually, all five of the Labour leadership candidates discussed socialism and its various definitions at the hustings earlier this year.

The Fabian Society's Sunder Katwala pointed out on his blog, Next Left, that Ed's admission is no great departure for the party. Months after Tony Blair was elected to the leadership in 1994, he wrote a pamphlet entitled "Socialism".

Protesting

Mr Miliband's comments on joining the student protests which took place in London and across the UK on Wednesday, however, could cause more of a furore. Seven police officers were injured and 35 people arrested at the demo in London, which began peacefully but saw some violence.

He told the Today programme the protests were "an extraordinary indication of the way this government is going about its business...It is an indication both of the fact that the decision is wrong, but also of the high-handed nature of this government in its decision making. That's why young people are so angry."

He said he was not in favour of violence but "I applaud the young people who peacefully demonstrate...I was tempted to go out and talk to them". However, he said he thought he was "doing something else" at the time.

The Labour party favours a graduate tax to fund universities, rather than tuition fee rises.

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