October 21, 2011
Rt Hon MP David Miliband was welcomed by a full house at the Rose Bowl today in what was a very lively and interesting Q&A event. The former Foreign Secretary’s first question was focused on the transition of economic power from West to East. Miliband referenced the prediction that China’s economy is expected to overtake the US by 2020 and the need for us to adapt to the changing world order.
Miliband was keen to emphasize the shift in power from bourgeoisie to the people, using the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street as an example. He attributed this shift to new technology, citing the Zimbabwean electorate using their phones to take pictures of their vote to prevent foul play by despot Mugabe.
On the subject of democratic process, Miliband pointed out that many express concerns over the future of Libyan politics, fearing a fundamentalist Islamist majority. Mr Miliband rejected these concerns, calling for us to promote democracy, regardless of its consequences. Furthermore, he reiterated the fact that the tide of revolution that has swept the North Africa is home grown, devoid of western intervention, therefore we must support those seeking democratic change.
Questions then moved onto Syria and the Assad regime. “Despite the deaths of 2900 protestors, the situation in Syria differs significantly different to that in Libya,” Miliband said. He then highlighted China & Russia’s veto on any form of action against President Assad and the divide of philosophy among the international community on foreign interventionism.
When asked if we should ignore the veto, Miliband replied “yes, if there is a humanitarian need, a viable military solution and the geo-political positives outweigh the negatives,” citing the Sunni-Shea Muslim divide and the connections with Iran as political antagonists for military action.
On the subject the 2010 election, Miliband conceded that his party lost because “we didn’t give people enough reasons to vote for us.” He was very keen to reject a claim from a member of the audience that Labour because of the Iraq War, arguing that those that defected because of Iraq defected in 2005, yet Labour still won. However another member added that Labour’s return to opposition was overdue, citing 5 million voters lost in 2005.
When pushed for a position on university staff strikes by Professor Paul Blackledge, Miliband claimed “strikes should be used as a last resort tactic, there needs to be a greater, coherent strategy,” referencing the historic Jarrow March of 1936 and the movement’s failure to achieve anything because of a lack of strategy and leadership.
One member of audience protested “if you support the will of the people in the Arab world, you are heavily contradicting yourself by not supporting our strike against pension cuts.” A slightly rumbled looking Miliband replied saying that he is not against strike action; however he fears the political resolve of the uni staff maybe lost if there is no clear strategy that will achieve the desired results.
Miliband advocated multi-lateral disarmament when quizzed on the relevance of Trident in the 21st century and confirmed his support for the plight of the Kurdish population against Turkish aggression. Moreover, Mr Miliband supported the call for a compulsory register of Lobbyists “anything to control lobbyists” he remarked, much to the dismay of aspiring public affairs professionals in the audience.
In conclusion, a very insightful and worldly talk by the MP for South Shields was commended with thundering applause from an over-capacity lecture theatre.