"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.

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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.