The wrong demo: five reasons why

by Rob Marchant

On Saturday, Ed Miliband will be speaking, but not marching, at one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations for many years.  Activist Luke Akehurst writes passionately and eloquently about the need for all of us involved in the Labour movement to march, and, on the face of it, it is an obvious way to capitalise on the unpopularity of the Tories. But there is a big difference between it being right for individual members to be involved, and it being right for the leader of the Labour party to speak there.

Ed is in an uncomfortable position – “walking a tightrope”, as the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan puts it. He’s not wrong: look, and you can find at least five compelling reasons for his not being involved in the demo.

One: Labour didn’t organise the demo, the TUC did. Who knows what other people will say? Who can say what they will do? Things do not bode well regarding the other speakers. “Keep your sleazy hands off our kids”, Unite’s Len McCluskey told the progressive London conference, in a message directed at the metropolitan police (not very good political judgement, it would seem, considering the met themselves now stand to lose heavily from the cuts and could have been a useful ally against them). And if, like the earlier student demo, there are police clashes, heaven help us.

Two: the talking-to-the-wrong-constituency argument. We are playing to the principal constituency of those who work in public services or are in the trade union movement, and who are therefore somewhat more likely to be already against public sector cuts. But we are not necessarily pulling in those who are not in those demographics – many of whom agree that cuts are necessary – and who think that debt-reduction is an urgent priority. What exactly are we gaining by excluding these people? Oh, and what happens when the righteous demos give way to unpopular strikes which directly affect them?

Three: the visuals. Unbearably superficial though it might sound, in the age of image and 24-hour rolling news, it’s not an option to forget what things look like. Protesting and being prime-minister-in-waiting are not necessarily incompatible but they are, at best, tricky bedfellows. Also, modern politics has different presentational norms from 1970s politics; what may have seemed noble “power to the people” fighting then may now merely look merely “long-haired protest group”.  Stop the War rather than Jarrow.  We can differentiate, but don’t assume that others will.

And do we really think it’ll make a difference, the not marching? Just because Ed will not be marching (or wearing a donkey jacket à la Michael Foot, thank God), and even if the demonstrators show exemplary behaviour, this does not mean he will be portrayed on the evening news as the aspiring prime minister we need him to be. Cut to Ed. Now cut to McCluskey. Cut to Tony Benn. Cut to Bob Crow. Don’t forget there will be the Trafalgar Square follow-on demo with Galloway and assorted fellow-travellers, probably in the same clip. And the overall, 30-second impression to the public is…?

Four: the message will be dangerously distorted. Akehurst and former general secretary, Peter Watt, have correctly identified that Labour’s subtler message “we think cuts are ok but not this far, this fast” will be easily subsumed into a general “no cuts” message. Against all cuts, period: a message which hardly helps our economic credibility, when the Tories and the right-wing press are daily peddling the too-easily-digested story that “Labour maxed out the credit card”. In reality, we are trying to ride two horses at once – cuts and no cuts – and, at some point, we’ll fall off.

Five: the in-the-pocket-of-the-unions argument. The importance of union support in Miliband’s election and the movement’s current domination of party financing are well-known. As Hasan notes in the same article, Unite has made no secret of its desire to put pressure on Labour to be supportive. Even if this pressure is no more than usual (and hardly an astonishing fact), we are giving a free kick to the media, because the reality is irrelevant. The mere perception that the brothers strong-armed him into attendance will be enough.

One or two of these reasons would allow room for debate about the pros and cons, but five? Set against all this, if we chose the opposite road, there would be one big disadvantage: the opprobrium of some parts of the movement for the leader not having been with them. People would feel that Ed had let them down, it’s true (they may feel that anyway, because he is slightly semi-detached from it all. So the damage may already have been done). But how long would this last? And in playing to our own constituency, rather than that which we need to win, are we making the wise choice?

It’ll probably make us feel good, to march together and swell with righteous indignation at the Tories. We need a bit of that, and welcome. It’s important to show a level of solidarity with our core supporters. And it’s also self-evident that it’s much too late for Ed to pull out now. But, against that, you can’t help feeling that our political management of the demo will turn out to have been a significant error of judgement in three critical battles. The battle for economic credibility; the battle for political credibility; and, in the end, what remains of the battle against the cuts themselves. A lose, lose, lose.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left.

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36 Responses to “The wrong demo: five reasons why”

  1. Robert says:

    Yes it would be wrong for him to be seen as a socialist, better he hide in the back ground and keep us guessing.

    I can understand his reasons after the welfare reforms, he and Brown and Blair running back and forth to the Tories to get items passed, the people on the march may well get confused.

    Not me it’s New labour.

  2. Praguetory says:

    This is correct, but I thought that being against the Tories was all you guys stood for?

    It is important that Ed Miliband goes on this march.

  3. Reuben says:

    It is a mistake to assume that in speaking to anti-cuts activists, asctive trade unionists, and to those who want a progressive egalitarian government, Ed is merely preaching to the converted. Unfortunately after 13 years of Labour presiding over growing inequality, many such people no longer regard Labour as their natural home. Nick Clegg gained a large chunk of the “progressive” vote, not only because he is a slimy git who knew when to keep his orange book liberalism under raps, but because people were no longer sure what labour stood for.

    There is emergency happening for ordinary peoplle right now, and it is both sound and right, that Ed should be with those struggling against it.

  4. Henrik says:

    This is a very perceptive piece, especially as it identifies the tactical dilemma for the Party’s leadership.

    It’s probably more important for Labour to cement its relationship with its core constituency and its paymasters for now; after all, even the BBC will find it hard to present Ed Milliband marching under a ‘no cuts’ banner, surrounded no doubt by SWP Stop The War types who’ve doughnutted around him, in a way that won’t upset those of us in the country who don’t work in the public sector.

    Given that it’s probably four years until the next general election and that the current leadership is by no means guaranteed to be in place for then, probably not much harm will be done. After all, it’s not as if Labour has offered any alternative policies to the Coalition yet, is it?

  5. paul barker says:

    “One of the biggest anti-govt demos in MANY years”, really ? I love the way you have all removed the Iraq War from History.

  6. Emma Burnell says:

    “One or two of these reasons would allow room for debate about the pros and cons, but five?”

    Well my lunch is short so I’ll only question three of your presumptions if you want more I’ll come back as none of them are more than assumptions:

    One is the easiest. Unless you are honestly saying that the leader of the Labour Party should only ever attend Labour organised events. Presumably if the CBI asked Ed to speak at their annual dinner you’d expect him to bite their arm off. This audience might hate the Tories, but many of them won’t yet be convinced to vote for Labour. Ed speaking to them can and will help to galvanise them back into enthusiasm for Labour.

    Two leads on from this. The left vote is splintered, and we need to make it whole again to regain a credible vote. This doesn’t mean we can’t campaign to the middle, and I hope Ed will appear at many different venues talking to many different audiences. But one of the audiences we need to win back is the left, this will help.

    Three. Gosh yes, the visual of a leader talking to a vast crowd never plays well visually. That’s why it’s almost never used as shorthand in the movies.

  7. Jane says:

    How can one aspire to lead the country and turn up to speak at this event? It will confirm to me that he was elected by the Trade Unions – I do remember Charlie Whelan boasting about how they got their man. Yes of course his actions will appeal to those on the march. They will not appeal to Middle England – you know the ones whose votes he needs. All of the marchers will be from the public sector or the usual bodies that march on every occasions SWP etc.. The majority of the country believes that our public sector is bloated as we all have evidence of the silly jobs in our local area. Do you honestly think that the average citizen cares about this march or its aims. Indeed the opposite is true and many will be horrified that the leader of the labour party is addressing the marchers. I am appalled.

  8. Robert says:

    Well how can he march when he said he backs the welfare reforms, nobody moans about cheats and fraud, but some of what labour put forward is down right disgusting.

    tell Young soldiers who have lost legs , your OK to work.

  9. Rob Marchant says:

    @Praguetory important for you guys perhaps? Seriously, now I KNOW it’s a bad idea.

    @Reuben, I accept that you feel there is a left constituency we need to win back, but you haven’t really refuted any of my points.

    @Emma, thanks for at least trying to answer the questions 😉
    One: come off it Emma, there is no kind of connection between talking to a controlled audience like the CBI, where at least you know people will be polite, and talking at a demo with thousands of people at which anything might happen and probably will. It is a huge risk. Two: you may be right there are people on the left we might need to win over. But are they the most important? It’s a difficult choice, isn’t it? But let me ask you this – we have already made overtures to people on the left (e.g. leftish Lib Dems). Where are we reaching out to people in the centre, exactly, or do you not think them important? Three. Wrong, wrong, wrong. If you think this will result in a wonderful piece of telly which will improve our electoral standing, you are way off-beam.

    Wait till Saturday, see the news bulletins and how Ed is portrayed. There may well be various nutters and people from the SWP in the same clip. Then try and look at it from the point of view who is neither public sector nor part of the Labour movement, and think really hard whether it would move you. Emma, I didn’t say we shouldn’t march. I said I don’t think the Leader of the Labour Party should speak. Our Leader is a precious commodity who has to be positioned correctly, or risk being devalued as a result.

  10. Edward Carlsson Browne says:

    Yes, it’s a risk. But it’s too late to back out now – he’d look weak for doing so.

    So I suggest we avoid creating reason 6 – “Labour are deeply divided about the cuts” – put a brave face on it and accept things could go wrong.

    And if we’re scared people will associate us with trade unions, we might as well give up and go home. Because it’s going to happen whatever we do.

    More substantively, I agree with Emma, but I do think that if this is your opinion you should have been making this case months ago. It’s too late now.

    @Jane – don’t be ridiculous! Of course he was elected by the trade unions – the voting results aren’t exactly secret.

    If you’re appalled by Labour having links with unions, find another party. In the mean time, you can apologise to the thousands of Labour members (and ordinary citizens, some of them denizens of the magical land of Middle England, where anecdote and wild speculation replaces argument from evidence) intending to march for calling us SWP members.

  11. AnneJGP says:

    I see nothing wrong, in principle, with a strong link between the Labour party and the Unions. What does present something of a challenge is that Union membership nowadays seems to be largely public sector. During Labour’s recent term of office, private sector workers suffered very badly from wage cuts & pension hits, but no-one organised massive protests for them. Private sector taxes pay for our public sector, so these protests are like the supermarkets demanding that producers absorb all the price increases to protect the shareholders’ profits.

    As far as Mr Miliband is concerned, the real risk is from the possibility of violence. To be seen on our TV screens addressing a large crowd is one thing; if that brief image is associated with scenes like those from the student fees demonstrations, it won’t do him any favours at all.

  12. Brian Wutherington says:

    “come off it Emma, there is no kind of connection between talking to a controlled audience like the CBI, where at least you know people will be polite, and talking at a demo with thousands of people at which anything might happen and probably will. It is a huge risk.”

    I don’t remember the CBI being particularly polite when they demand cuts to the public sector, lower taxation for the rich and further privatisation of the NHS.

    Labour was set up by the unions – working people for whom the author of this bizarre article can scarcely contain his disgust.

    Labour lost votes because it attacked its base too much. In the constant search for the Daily Mail vote it wedded itself to the very markets which have now caused such catastrophe. Working people are the majority of this country, I might add, not some strange anomalies whom Very Important People should never invite to dinner nor share a platform with. We usually vote Labour, but there’s only so long you can suffer abuse from a loved one.

    “Labour Party manager” says it all, really.

  13. Rob Marchant says:

    @Edward, perhaps you should spend more time actually READing the piece and links before commenting. Your comments would be vastly improved by sticking to the facts of the article rather than inserting your own assumptions about what I do or do not think.

    I already said it’s too late to pull out. I also already started making the case for not being involved back in February on LFF when it was announced (not “months ago”, for that I would need a time machine).

    Further, this piece is not about “the cuts”, we are all against the depth of Tory cuts. If people want to say “Labour divided about extent of involvement in demo”, that would at least be dealing with the right subject, but “Labour divided about cuts” has nothing to do with this piece. In any event, one piece on a blog intended for debating is hardly “deep division”. I am not at all appalled about Labour having links with unions, what a ridiculous assertion, based on nothing at all – and as for calling people SWP members, I applaud your wild imagination but think you must have been reading an entirely different article.

    Edward, I enjoy reading all comments, but demanding apologies from people for supposed slights and suggesting that they leave the party which they have served over long years is not a very constructive way of debating.

    @AnneJGP, I’ve got nothing against a strong link between party and unions either. And a great simile on the supermarkets. Private sector workers need to feel that these people demonstrating speak for them, at the moment they don’t. For a private sector worker, this can look like someone who has been protected for years complaining because one or two of their privileges have been taken away. Admittedly that’s not really fair to the public sector workers who have real and fair grievances, but that’s how it could well be seen from outside.

  14. Rob Marchant says:

    @Paul Barker: Not really, I said ONE of the biggest. Not THE biggest. You look for conspiracies where there are none.

  15. CS Clark says:

    ‘If we’re scared people will associate us with trade unions, we might as well give up and go home.’

    This. If people are going to lie about you and misrepresent you when it comes to fundamental aspects of your being then there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Dye your hair, put make-up on your freckles, they’ll still call you ginger.

    On the other hand, this – ‘Our Leader is a precious commodity who has to be positioned correctly, or risk being devalued as a result.’ is just plain weird. Am I the only one to whom this conjures up images of some old lady carefully arranging her useless collection of Franklin Mint collectibles? Or of a fanboy putting his Star Wars figures still in their original packaging in a safe deposit box? These things are supposed to be played with and/or eaten off.

    PS – ‘or wearing a donkey jacket à la Michael Foot, thank God’ – what does this mean? Do people think that the reason Michael Foot was lambasted for this was because a donkey jacket isn’t stylish enough at any time? Is there a danger of Ed not being properly dressed for a demo?

  16. Henrik says:

    As noted above, the Labour Party is, at its heart, the party of the Trades Unions – and this is not a bad thing, the cooperative movement and the Trades Unions created the Labour Party and to a great extent sustain it.

    The problem, of course, is that the Labour Party has evolved considerably away from its optimistic, community-based, achievement- and education-celebrating roots into a miserablist Fabian statist beast, which, rather than striving for equality of opportunity, now battles for equality of outcome (aka the lowest common denominator).

    Meantime, the unions have an entirely different and distinctly non-benign appearance from outside the Party and the public sector. The great British public find folk like Bob Crow distinctly alarming, I think – and he and those like him, not the countless other smart folk who run the unions – will be the public face of the unions (which are essentially a public-sector phenomenon, nowadays).

    I feel a touch sorry for the Leader of the Opposition, he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

  17. Dan McCurry says:

    This is crazy. It’s going to be one of the most popular days of action in years. And you’re coming up with reasons for the Labour leader not to be involved.
    The problem is that EM thinks too much like you. That’s why we’re not tearing ahead in the polls.
    A political leader needs to just be himself and not think too tactically. Otherwise he’ll end up doing nothing, which is EM’s current problem.

  18. Edward Carlsson Browne says:

    @Rob: Fair play about you having made the case a few months before – I don’t regularly read LFF. That said, I am decidedly old-fashioned about this and believe we should be having these arguments in a more private setting, and especially when the event in question is almost upon us – if it’s too late to pull out, I think it’s not something that should be discussed in public.

    And whilst this is one post on a blog, it’s a blog that does get a reasonable amount of mentions in the press and for a journalist with a pre-written story it’s not too hard to elide “Labour divided about the march” to fit into a narrative about Labour being divided about the cuts using pieces such as this.

    As for the rest, I return the invitation to read properly before commenting to you, because I was talking to Jane – who raised the notion that the march will be mostly SWP members.

  19. Mick says:

    Dan McCurry said:
    “A political leader needs to just be himself and not think too tactically. Otherwise he’ll end up doing nothing, which is EM’s current problem.”

    I think EM has a bigger problem than just this – we have a government that is implementing the biggest cuts in history – cuts to services all over the place – tax rises – cuts to benefits etc. The economy is shrinking, inflation is rising, unemployment is poor and getting worse. Everything is against the Government. There have now been 2 Tory-led/like budgets now and yet…

    Traditional Labour voters and the “squeezed middle” are being hit the hardest and yet Labour is only a few points ahead of the Tories in the polls – Labour should be 50%+ not 40%+ in the polls. Sure the LibDems are down significantly, but the Tories are either steady or only a few points down.

    There is something wrong here and WE (ie Labour) cannot keep blaming the past government.

    These are big problems – and EM speaking at the anti-cuts demo by comparison .. well, so what? It might even help?

  20. Rob Marchant says:

    @Hendrik: Although I wouldn’t agree that my beloved party is a “miserable statist beast”, and I rather like the Fabians, I would agree that equality of opportunity has to be the goal. You are also quite right about the perceptions of people outside small world of the Labour movement to union leaders being very different to those within it.

    @CS Clark: yes, not surprisingly you ARE the only one imagining the Franklin Mint collectibles (and you call MY article weird). No-one is saying disassociate yourself from the unions. Just don’t get mixed up in a situation from which you can only lose.

    @Dan McCurry: if only that were the reason we’re not tearing ahead in the polls…

  21. james says:

    I knew you’d write this, Rob.

    No doubt at the time of the Jarrow you would have been one of those worrying publicly about the perception of Labour politicians being associated with protestors for similar reasons.

    It’s a pathetic deferential attitude that if widely adopted would again have people running scared of making political arguments and building movements for change.

    I don’t suppose I’ll see you on the march…

  22. taffarel says:

    Excellent news.

    This should keep him from ever getting elected to government and wreaking damage on this nation.

    Associating with the unions and students will make him even more unelectable with middle England.

    Speak out Eddie and consign yourself to insignificance.

  23. A J Scott says:

    He who chooses to ride a tiger, if he’s very lucky, will find the right moment to get off and skedaddle. Mr Miliband has chosen the first, and is showing his true worth by dithering about the second. It’s a hard choice indeed, but he chose it.
    I don’t often find politicians worth a laugh, but this one certainly is.

  24. Rob Marchant says:

    @Edward: explanation accepted. Well, I think in the social media age the debate will be had in public whether we like it or not – better embrace it because it’ll happen anyway. And, advice: don’t respond to trolls!

    @Mick: agree entirely that we cannot keep blaming the last government. We should be very proud of the majority of what we did in government.

    A general point: when the trolls start encouraging you to do something, it’s time to question whether it was a good move.

  25. Ian Stewart says:

    Sorry Rob, but you are wrong on a number of issues here.
    Firstly, as a Private Sector worker, I have more than a little sympathy for my Public Sector Brothers and Sisters. I also rely upon the NHS, State Education and much else that we are seeking to defend. The business I am in (hospitality) also depends for a fair amount on public sector contracts.
    The anguish over the manifold cuts is widespread throughout society, and not solely concentrated on the left, nor within the Public Sector. You cite the Jarrow March – which was but one of a whole series of marches in the early 30s. Now they didn’t lead to an immediate change in policy, nor did they lead directly to a Labour Government. Yet they helped change the perception of how politics should be in a democratic society, and influenced social and economic policy for decades. Politics is a war – sometimes its tactical, sometimes strategic – or as Gramsci put it “A War of Position”. The Coalition will most probably run its course until 2015. In which case your prescription is for us to sit on our hands and do as little as possible, ignoring the real world around us.
    For those who don’t know, or have forgotten, The Labour Party is still part of The Labour Movement – your assertion that because the Trades Union arm, through the TUC called this demo and not Labours NEC, rings false.
    I look forward to a diverse demonstration, encompassing the many, not the out of touch few…

  26. Chris says:


    “Traditional Labour voters and the “squeezed middle” are being hit the hardest and yet Labour is only a few points ahead of the Tories in the polls – Labour should be 50%+ not 40%+ in the polls. Sure the LibDems are down significantly, but the Tories are either steady or only a few points down.”

    We’re 10 months since getting 29% at the election, are blamed by the majority of voters for f*cking things up and have lingering baggage from the past 13 years of government. Blair only scored 50+ in a few polls and that was only after 18 years of torydom. And it took how many years for the tories to even go ahead consistently in the polls?

  27. Matty says:

    “”we think cuts are ok but not this far, this fast” will be easily subsumed into a general “no cuts” message.”

    This implies that you think we should say that the cuts are okay then. What a pathetic lot some of these Blairites are. I can imagine you at the 1926 general strike – “oh dear, a strike to support the miners, how sectional”

    As for economic credibility the likes of Ed Balls have David Blanchflower and Paul Krugman supporting him. Who have you got?

  28. Z Brooks says:

    Treborc you have sunk to the lowest to write in this manner. There were people with disabilities on the march – quite right too. They are suffering disproportionately as a result of these cuts. And we should be supporting them not abusing them.

    EDITOR SAYS: We have deleted the offensive comment, approving which was an oversight.

  29. Alex, London says:

    I disagree with the post’s arguments. In retrospect, here is why:

  30. Rob Marchant says:

    @Ian: thanks for your thoughtful response. I didn’t say that private sector workers didn’t have an interest. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that the demo did have a broader base than some might have expected, although I still believe those outside the Labour movement and the public sector were probably in the minority (not perhaps as many of “the many” as any of us would like).

    But the key people we need to focus on are how it will have impacted those NOT at the demo.

    I think the Jarrow marchers were absolutely right, as were many in demos in the 70s and 80s. Neither do I think those who marched yesterday were wrong to march. The issue is however that the Party leader is not obliged to go on every major union demo, just because we are the Labour Party, for the simple reason that the TUC’s interests are not the same as the Party’s interests. The two have different objectives, one to represent workers and one to get elected as a left-wing government. The Labour movement is an alignment of some interests, but not all.

    Also, politics IS a war – but you have to choose your weapons well. The weapons of the 1980s are not necessarily the best weapons for the 2010s. Demos can be good, but they are not universally always good, and this one was not. The predictions made here about the media impact were, I’m afraid, largely vindicated, though it gives me no pleasure to say it. The only people who seem to think it went well were the extremely well-intentioned people who were on it, and that is not a good sign.

    @Matty: your “this implies” reply is a logical non-sequitur. I do not say at all we should divert from our current position on the cuts, which is the right one. If you read my other articles you will also realise that I support Krugman. My issue is with the presentation, which has been diabolical. Finally, you could also do with leaning some manners in your contributions to the debate.

    @Alex, thanks for your response. Of course we shouldn’t govern by opinion poll. We should lead opinion and convince based on a set of policies we believe in, and take people with us. But can you tell me exactly what policies those are right now? By the way, none of this is incompatible with good political presentation, which we patently failed to achieve yesterday.

  31. Henrik says:

    Well, from my comfortably non-Labour perspective, I’m absolutely delighted that the comrades fell into the incredibly obvious elephant trap which was digged for them. For the love of God, if even the BBC takes a negative slant, that must suggest that the media fallout is bad, mustn’t it? Folk around the country will now believe, as an article of faith, that Labour policy is “no cuts at all” – and a significant number will be convinced that the idiots and imbeciles who set out to smash the state, blud, are fellow-travellers of Labour. Well done, guys, where were the union stewards keeping these jokers in check?

    From a less selfish perspective, my sincere hope is that this – and some of the other union stunts upcoming – will help focus what has been a great party on to what’s important – not opposing Government instinctively, but beginning the great work of developing an alternative, one which folk might vote for. The current Labour 40-odd percent in the polls reflects nervousness about government policy rather than any ringing endorsement of the last 13 years or of the current leadership of the Labour party.

    The difference between us on the right and you on the left is that we think you’re wrong, you think we’re evil.

  32. james says:

    1. As leader of the opposition David Cameron attended and spoke at a demonstration by junior doctors because he claimed he agreed with their demands.

    2. Like any speech given by the leader of the opposition, Miliband’s words received media coverage. Unless people who think debt-reduction is an over-riding priority do not have access to mass media, I suspect they will have had the opportunity to learn of the content of his speech.

    3. Again, David Cameron as leader of the opposition only a few years ago spoke at a public protest. Now, he didn’t become PM because the Tories won by a landslide, but I doubt the appearance swung it for many.

    4. It doesn’t matter if the message is confused between no or some gradual cuts – because spending cuts do not equal a reduction in debt or the deficit. Sadly, the government is falling off the horse – why else did Osborne have to insist his was a budget for growth? Because the speed and scale of the cuts announced has dampened business and consumer confidence to the extent that growth is stalling. If Labour can’t, as an opposition party, point out that the government has confused spending cuts with cutting the deficit, it’s largely because of deferential but influential members of our party…

    5. The clue is in the name – the Labour Party. No matter what the Labour Party has done through the years of party-union distancing, it is still associated with the labour movement. Arguably, distancing is equally damaging – the story is then the rift between the Labour leader and the labour movement. The “media” will always have a free kick, because much of it is owned by those who oppose Labour and the labour movement.

  33. Rob Marchant says:

    @Hendrik: While I would take issue with the idea that union stewards could have done anything at all to prevent the violence, which was carried out by people nothing to do with the march, I find myself agreeing with most of the rest of what you say (despite myself, obviously). The media fallout was terrible, and avoidable.

    And I’m afraid I also agree with your last comment about the left thinking that the right is evil. As Peter Watt has pointed out here before, we have a habit of seeing everything as a moral crusade rather than a difference of opinion. And that is wearing for a lot of people who don’t share our sense of moral superiority, one which was heavily on show on Saturday.

  34. Rob Marchant says:

    @James: Briefly:
    1. Yes. A wholly different case. Junior doctors hardly likely to end up being linked with UK Uncut. And Cameron hardly repeated. Decisions should be case by case, anyway.
    2. Through a media lens. Which distorted the impact beyond recognition, as could have been predicted. And not the whole speech, a short sound-bite.
    3. No, indeed. It was a low-impact appearance.
    4. No, no, no. It is *hugely* important that the message is not confused. Even Ed seems to understand that, and elicited boos by underlining it.
    5. Not true. Blair and Brown both managed to project a different settlement (even if the reality was that union power increased during their tenure). It is not at all inevitable for us to be seen as in the unions’ pockets. And we must always remember, as I never tire of stressing, that although they overlap, their objectives are not our objectives.

  35. james says:

    “It is not at all inevitable for us to be seen as in the unions’ pockets.”

    It is – we are called the *Labour* Party.

    “although they overlap, their objectives are not our objectives”

    I don’t understand, if there are overlapping objectives these are surely objectives in common?

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