The Labour leader has not congratulated Syriza. Photo: Getty
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"A decision for them": Ed Miliband's notably cautious reaction to Syriza's win

The Labour leader has responded rather late, and very carefully, to the Greek anti-austerity party's election win.

Ed Miliband has finally reacted to the news that the anti-austerity, left-wing party, Syriza, has won the Greek general election. His response to this big development for the left in Europe had been noticeably absent until around midday today, a long time after the outcome of the election was clear. 

Now that the party leader Alexis Tsipras has become Prime Minister and formed a coalition government, Miliband has finally commented on the story, as reported on PoliticsHome:

Just like our elections are a matter for the people of this country, so who the Greek people elect is a decision for them.

It is the responsibility of the British government to work with the elected government of Greece for the good of Britain and Europe and not to play politics.

And it is up to each country to choose its own path on how to deal with the economic and social challenges they face.

We have set out our path for Britain: to make sure our country is fairer and more prosperous and balance the books.

What is notable about his statement is that there is not even a hint of congratulation. Instead, he reverts to a half-hearted warning against playing politics, and a vague appreciation of democracy: classic tropes espoused by equivocating politicians. 

The reason for his reticence is clear. With the only significant anti-austerity party of the left in the UK, the Greens, surging in popularity, it is tricky for Miliband to be too positive about the successes of a party that reflects their ideology. The Greens are growing as a potential threat to his party's support; many on the left are disappointed by Labour's general acceptance of the coalition's austerity drive. Also, the fear is that Syriza taking power could lead to Grexit, and Miliband has been firm in his support for Britain's EU membership and refused to pledge a referendum on the matter.

There will also be a reluctance on Labour's part to endorse the win of what was once a fringe party, as the British political establishment has been dramatically rattled by the rise of smaller parties, making Labour's position more precarious ahead of the general election.

In contrast, the Green party has congratulated Syriza wholeheartedly. Here is a joint statement issued this morning by Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for southeast England, and Molly Scott Cato, finance spokesperson for the party and MEP for southwest England:

The result of the Greek elections has shown that the people of Greece have taken a strong stand against the politics of austerity. Greens share the view of the new government that austerity is a failed model which has piled misery on the poorest while making the wealthiest even richer. This result shows that challenging business as usual politics can win the support of the people. In the UK we are witnessing a Green Surge, in no small part due to our anti-austerity agenda, and we hope the Greek election result marks the beginnings of ordinary people standing up to a discredited economic model and failing governments across Europe.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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The Women's March against Trump matters – but only if we keep fighting

We won’t win the battle for progressive ideas if we don’t battle in the first place.

Arron Banks, UKIP-funder, Brexit cheerleader and Gibraltar-based insurance salesman, took time out from Trump's inauguration to tweet me about my role in tomorrow's Women’s March Conservative values are in the ascendancy worldwide. Thankfully your values are finished. . . good”.

Just what about the idea of women and men marching for human rights causes such ill will? The sense it is somehow cheeky to say we will champion equality whoever is in office in America or around the world. After all, if progressives like me have lost the battle of ideas, what difference does it make whether we are marching, holding meetings or just moaning on the internet?

The only anti-democratic perspective is to argue that when someone has lost the argument they have to stop making one. When political parties lose elections they reflect, they listen, they learn but if they stand for something, they don’t disband. The same is true, now, for the broader context. We should not dismiss the necessity to learn, to listen, to reflect on the rise of Trump – or indeed reflect on the rise of the right in the UK  but reject the idea that we have to take a vow of silence if we want to win power again.

To march is not to ignore the challenges progressives face. It is to start to ask what are we prepared to do about it.

Historically, conservatives have had no such qualms about regrouping and remaining steadfast in the confidence they have something worth saying. In contrast, the left has always been good at absolving itself of the need to renew.

We spend our time seeking the perfect candidates, the perfect policy, the perfect campaign, as a precondition for action. It justifies doing nothing except sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the state of society.

We also seem to think that changing the world should be easier than reality suggests. The backlash we are now seeing against progressive policies was inevitable once we appeared to take these gains for granted and became arrogant and exclusive about the inevitability of our worldview. Our values demand the rebalancing of power, whether economic, social or cultural, and that means challenging those who currently have it. We may believe that a more equal world is one in which more will thrive, but that doesn’t mean those with entrenched privilege will give up their favoured status without a fight or that the public should express perpetual gratitude for our efforts via the ballot box either.  

Amongst the conferences, tweets and general rumblings there seem three schools of thought about what to do next. The first is Marxist  as in Groucho revisionism: to rise again we must water down our principles to accommodate where we believe the centre ground of politics to now be. Tone down our ideals in the hope that by such acquiescence we can eventually win back public support for our brand – if not our purpose. The very essence of a hollow victory.

The second is to stick to our guns and stick our heads in the sand, believing that eventually, when World War Three breaks out, the public will come grovelling back to us. To luxuriate in an unwillingness to see we are losing not just elected offices but the fight for our shared future.

But what if there really was a third way? It's not going to be easy, and it requires more than a hashtag or funny t-shirt. It’s about picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves down and starting to renew our call to arms in a way that makes sense for the modern world.

For the avoidance of doubt, if we march tomorrow and then go home satisfied we have made our point then we may as well not have marched at all. But if we march and continue to organise out of the networks we make, well, then that’s worth a Saturday in the cold. After all, we won’t win the battle of ideas, if we don’t battle.

We do have to change the way we work. We do have to have the courage not to live in our echo chambers alone. To go with respect and humility to debate and discuss the future of our communities and of our country.

And we have to come together to show there is a willingness not to ask a few brave souls to do that on their own. Not just at election times, but every day and in every corner of Britain, no matter how difficult it may feel.

Saturday is one part of that process of finding others willing not just to walk a mile with a placard, but to put in the hard yards to win the argument again for progressive values and vision. Maybe no one will show up. Maybe not many will keep going. But whilst there are folk with faith in each other, and in that alternative future, they’ll find a friend in me ready to work with them and will them on  and then Mr Banks really should be worried.