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 senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.