26 Mar 2011

Spending cuts demo: Ed Miliband’s big gamble

I’m at Hyde Park where all is calm (if a bit wet).  I was standing in front of Ed Miliband as he spoke and you can see from this pic I took the banners he was looking out on: a row of NO CUTS banners, one “Capitalism Kills” and he was heckled by shouts of “sell-out” and other similar thoughts throughout his speech.

But it was a speech generally given a very warm reception. Not surprising when you consider that he was comparing today’s event with Civil Rights’ marchers in the American South and the anti-Apartheid marches of the past. There was no challenge to the deficit denial tendency, this was the we’re all wonderful and we will prevail type of speech you tend to end up giving if you accept an invitation to an event like this.

Elsewhere I hear that some unofficial protestors are charging into high street shops to make their point about corporate tax avoidance. The danger for Ed Miliband today is that whatever unfurls in unofficial and violent action becomes the story and he is portrayed by media that never liked him anyway as a rabble-rouser.

The prize for Ed Miliband is that anger against cuts multiplies in the years ahead and he gets the dividend of being seen as the man who led and connected with those from the start.

But this is the sort of event David Miliband would not have attended and that Tony Blair would have driven a long way to avoid.

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite,  has told me he thinks turn-out is half a million.

In his speech (Ed M had left the Park, wisely) Len McCluskey repeated his call for the Met to “keep your sleazy hands off our kids” and said Labour MPs should come to “the barricades” and the country needed “coordinated industrial strike action” and more “direct action”.

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