UK Politics

Vince Cable expresses sympathy for St Paul's protesters

  • 13 November 2011
  • From the section UK Politics
  • comments

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said he sympathises with the emotions behind the protest at St Paul's Cathedral.

He told BBC One's Politics Show that the demo reflected feelings about those who had prospered in the economic crisis, as many more suffered.

Mr Cable added that legislation could be introduced to curb executive pay.

Prime Minister David Cameron has been critical of protesters for pitching tents at St Paul's - but has called for "responsibility" at the top of society.

Protesters have been camped outside St Paul's, in central London, since 15 October, which was a global day of protest against greed and inequality. They had originally gathered outside the nearby London Stock Exchange, with the aim of occupying it, but were stopped from doing so by police.

'Source of injustice'

Asked if he had sympathy with the protesters, Lib Dem Business Secretary Mr Cable, who has vowed to tackle "the escalation of executive pay", told the Politics Show: "I have sympathy with the emotions that lie behind it.

"Some of their recommendations aren't terribly helpful, but that's not the point. I think it does reflect a feeling that a small number of people have done extraordinarily well in the crisis, often undeservedly, and large numbers of other people who've played no part in causing the crisis have been hurt by it. So that's the source of the injustice."

But he said it was important to get "beyond slogans" and stressed he had set up a review into reforming executive pay.

The government has been consulting on the possibility of simplified pay structures and new powers for shareholders - intended to restrain executive pay - that could be introduced next year.

The prime minister has been critical of the way protesters set up camp outside St Paul's - which temporarily closed, cancelling Sunday services for the first time since the Blitz in 1941, saying that the camp posed a health and safety risk, and has seen several high profile resignations over the camp.

Questioned by MPs last week on the subject of the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest, Mr Cameron said: "The idea of establishing tents in the middle of our city, I don't feel is particularly constructive.

The prime minister said he held the "rather quaint view" that "protesting is something you, on the whole, should do on two feet, rather than lying down - in some cases in a fairly comatose state".

But he has said that it is "unacceptable in a time of difficulty when people at the top of our society are not showing signs of responsibility" and said the government was consulting on measures to "make sure we get transparency in terms of boardroom pay, proper accountability and more power for shareholders".

Writing in the Observer last week, Labour leader Ed Miliband warned that "only the most reckless" would ignore the St Paul's protest and others around the world.

"The challenge is that they reflect a crisis of concern for millions of people about the biggest issue of our time: The gap between their values and the way our country is run," he wrote.

"I am determined that mainstream politics, and the Labour Party in particular, speaks to that crisis and rises to the challenge."

More on this story