UK Politics

Labour criticise Boris Johnson over Ed Miliband 'slur'

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Media captionCuts protest march: Harman attacks 'disgraceful' Johnson

Labour have criticised Boris Johnson for saying that Ed Miliband would be "quietly satisfied" with disorder on a day of protest in London against cuts.

The Conservative mayor of London had mocked the Labour leader for failing to spell out to crowds in Hyde Park what cuts Labour would have made in power.

But a string of Labour MPs condemned the "slur" in the Commons - Yvette Cooper said it was "disgraceful".

Police have charged 149 people over unrest in London on Saturday.

Most of the arrests came after a sit-in was staged at a luxury store in Piccadilly, although there were also separate attacks on police officers and activists smashed windows and daubed banks and shops with paint.

Mr Johnson criticised the Labour leader's speech to protesters in Hyde Park in his Daily Telegraph column on Monday.

He said if Labour would not "come clean" about where they would make cuts "then their very presence at the march - and Miliband's speech - is the most disgusting cheat and fraud".

'Twisted politics'

Mr Johnson wrote: "The sad thing is that in spite of their crocodile tears, Balls and Miliband will feel quietly satisfied by the disorder - a token, they will tell themselves, of the public feeling that is to there to exploit."

Mr Miliband's deputy Harriet Harman told the BBC: "I think it's an outrageous allegation that we'd be satisfied with windows being smashed, offices and shops being broken into, criminal damage.

"Fortunately, I don't think anybody would believe Boris Johnson in that allegation - because I think it's outlandish, but I think he should withdraw it because it's completely wrong and I think it really says more about his twisted politics than it says about us."

In the Commons Home Secretary Theresa May was repeatedly pressed to criticise Mr Johnson's remarks - which her Labour shadow, Yvette Cooper described as "disgraceful and outrageous".

"It's the worst kind of politics to slur those who supported hundreds of thousands of peaceful marchers."

But Mrs May, who was repeatedly challenged on the issue by Labour MPs, said the mayor, as the elected representative in charge of the police, was "open to make the remarks that he chooses to make about the policing".

She added: "I think the reason that the opposition front bench are choosing to say so much about the mayor is perhaps they don't want to talk much about the comments made by the leader of the opposition at the demonstration."

Both she and Ms Cooper condemned violence on Saturday and praised the police.

Ms Cooper said: "In a democracy this kind of violence is no form of political protest. It is violent assault and criminal damage, it is thuggish behaviour of the worst kind and it must face the full force of the law."

She said police had made clear the violent incidents were separate from the "peaceful march".

Mrs May quoted the human rights group Liberty, which said that while the official demonstration was "overwhelmingly civil, peaceful and good-natured" it "appeared to have been infiltrated by violent elements who periodically separated from the main route in order to attack high profile commercial properties and the police before melting into the demonstration once more".

She added: "It is sad that the march that went ahead peacefully for the great majority of that march was damaged by the mindless violence of the thugs."

Mr Miliband addressed the crowds on the march on Saturday but attracted some criticism for claiming that the marchers came "in the tradition" of the suffragettes, the US civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement.

In the Commons, Conservative MP Julian Brazier said: "At a time when we have a deficit comparable to that of Portugal and Greece it is ludicrous for the leader of the opposition to couch his words in the words of Abraham Lincoln."

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