Colleagues defend Miliband rally speech

Senior colleagues of Ed Miliband have backed his decision to address yesterday's TUC rally in central London, insisting it was important for Labour to stand up for the "mainstream majority" hit by spending cuts.

Shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain said the Opposition leader was "right" to speak to the hundreds of thousands of protesters who gathered in Hyde Park following a peaceful march.



Mr Miliband has faced criticism in some quarters over his decision to address the rally and a passage in his speech in which he invoked previous struggles by the suffragettes, the US civil rights movement and the fight against apartheid in South Africa.



He said he was "proud" to be addressing the rally which followed the demonstration by an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 teachers, nurses, firefighters, other public sector employees, students, pensioners and campaign groups in the capital.



In his speech Mr Miliband said: "We come in the traditions that have marched in peaceful but powerful protest for justice, fairness and political change.



"The suffragettes who fought for votes for women and won. The civil rights movement in America that fought against racism and won. The anti-apartheid movement that fought the horror of that system and won."



Asked about the remarks, Mr Hain said: "I think the decent mainstream majority in Britain are on Ed Miliband's side and on Labour's side.



"He is not comparing today's march or today's cause. People over the ages have stood up and marched in a peaceful and a dignified way for justice and for decency and that is what he was saying," he told Sky News.



He added: "He was right to go and put his point clearly and to explain Labour's position that there is an alternative. We do not need the savagery of these cuts. He was right to do it."



Mr Hain, who was himself a prominent member of the anti-apartheid movement, was asked if the march was as important as the struggle to overthrow the racist white government in South Africa.



He said: "It is very important for Britain. People are losing their jobs, there is misery being caused as a result of this Government's dogmatism and its extremism.



"It is very important that Labour is seen to be standing for the mainstream majority and allowing the mainstream majority to speak. Yes, it is an important cause for justice."









Speaking on BBC1's The Politics Show, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy condemned those involved in yesterday's separate clashes in the West End, which saw more than 200 arrested, as a "tiny minority of violent, parasitic unrepresentative hooligans".



Asked if Mr Miliband should have associated himself with the rally, he said: "You can't get to a point where a prominent politician, the leader of the Labour Party, isn't able to go on a demonstration against Government cuts."



Pressed over the language surrounding apartheid and the civil rights movement, Mr Murphy said: "Ed has said these were different causes at different times. The size of the demonstration yesterday was enormous and it was a reflection of the comparison of scale."

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