In what could be a sign of things to come, Ed Miliband used social media to take on his critics and defend his position over yesterday's strikes, reports Shamik Das.
In what could be a sign of things to come, Ed Miliband used social media to take on his critics and defend his position over yesterday’s strikes – conveying his thoughts directly to the public, as they are, without having to go through the filter of the print or broadcast media. On Twitter, Facebook and his blog, the Labour leader set out his reasons for his stance, and why he feels striking now, while negotiations are ongoing, is the wrong thing to do.
“I know that teachers and other public servants are worried about their pensions. I also know that on strike today are hard-working people, committed to the children they teach and the communities they serve. I understand their anger about the way the government has acted.
“But this does not alter my view that today’s strikes are a mistake. It is a mistake to resort to disruption at a time when negotiations are still going on. And it is a mistake not just because of the inconvenience caused but also because I firmly believe it will not help to win the argument with the public.”
The reaction amongst commenters, however, has been largely hostile, even allowing for what the Guardian calls the “bile typical of anonymous online comment threads” – though there is no way to tell how representative of Labour or public opinion they are.
Left wing bloggers have also been critical, with Owen Jones calling yesterday a “catastrophe for the Labour leadership”, describing yesterday as “not just the beginning of a whole new phase of popular resistance to the government”, but “the start of a struggle for the heart and soul of the Labour party”, and Labour List editor Mark Ferguson describing Miliband as “just plain wrong” on the strikes.
More impressed with Miliband’s stance, though, are the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour and Nick Watt, who suggest he may have “played a blinder” by opposing the strikes.
“This was a big moment for Miliband whose name was booed at today’s rally in London, according to my colleague Patrick Wintour. Miliband clearly does not want to make the same mistake as Neil Kinnock who admits he made a grave error when he failed to denounce the less than democratic processes of the NUM which allowed Arthur Scargill to call the year long miner’s strike in 1984-85…
“So those who never quite subscribed to the New Labour view of the world are unhappy. That is one up for Blair who believes that a successful Labour leader should ceaselessly yank the party out of its “comfort zone” and onto the centre ground. It is also a blow for Cameron who wants to portray Miliband as an instinctive leftie.”
“So a good week for the Labour leadership. But the party faces a long journey back to power…”
And that is exactly the point – long-term strategy versus short-term popularity; only time will tell whether Miliband has made the right decision.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.