6 Nov 2011

St Paul’s protest ‘once in a generation moment’ – Miliband

Labour leader Ed Miliband says politicians must find answers to the concerns of anti-capitalist protesters at St Paul’s Cathedral, but a Labour blogger tells Channel 4 News he’s taking a risk.

Ed Miliband:

Writing in the Observer, Mr Miliband identified the protests as a “once in a generation moment” like 1945, 1979 and 1997, when the existing way of life in Britain was challenged.

He said the issues the protesters are highlighting chime with the views of many others.

“They reflect a crisis of concern for millions of people about the biggest issue of our time: the gap between their values and the way our country is run,” he wrote.

“You do not have to be in a tent to feel angry,” said Miliband. “People feel let down by aspects of business, finance and politics which seem in touch with the richest 1 per cent – but badly out of touch with the reality facing the other 99 per cent.”

He said he was determined to build and lead a coalition which includes business and civil society to make the case for “a responsible economy, fairer society and a more just world”.

Finding answers

He added that it was the role of politicians not to protest, but to find answers.

“We cannot leave it to the protesters to lead this debate,” he said.

He stated his determination for mainstream politics, and the Labour Party in particular, to address the concerns highlighted by the demonstrators.

Miliband added that when people at the top show such irresponsibility, it should be not be a surprise to find it elsewhere in society too.

He said business as usual “is not an option” and called for a more responsible capitalism in future.

Even by playing footsy with a movement like Occupy you are taking a risk. We have no idea where they will go as a movement. Anthony Painter

“The warning lights on the dashboard are flashing. And only the most reckless will ignore or, still worse, dismiss the danger signals.”

Occupy London demonstrators have welcomed Ed Miliband’s recognition of their campaign “just as we would welcome the support of anyone else”.

Blogging on Labour List, party member Anthony Painter, described Miliband’s article’s recognition of the Occupy movement as a fundamental and strategic decision.

Painter told Channel 4 News that it was right for Miliband to support the view that change is needed, however he warned that it would be a risk to be identified too closely with the Occupy movement.

Playing footsy

“Even by playing footsy with a movement like Occupy you are taking a risk. We have no idea where they will go as a movement. Even if you agree to disagree on certain issues it can lead to problems ahead.”

Painter also warned the wider public concerns that Miliband wrote about included concerns about the deficit, in addition to the problems that the demonstrators are highlighting.

“There is still a question of trust in relation to the deficit,” he said. “Labour has to address some of those concerns to gain a lead on economic issues.”

But another blogger from the left described Miliband’s article as “a masterclass in political positioning” in recognising a debate that the ruling classes had ignored to date.

In his Return of the Public blog, Dan Hind, said: “Political operators have forfeited their right to pronounce on who and who isn’t going to lead the debate.

“We must take a lead for ourselves, join an assembly, start one.

“Miliband has said what he has said because the occupations are too big for him to ignore. There is no telling what he will say – and do – if we make them bigger.”