John Woodcock: Tories reveal the art of distortion

As alliances go, the Conservative Party and a bunch of violent anarchists are about as unholy as it gets.

I am not suggesting for a moment that they are actually working together and they clearly have contempt for each other's approach. Yet they were united in their desire to distort the significance of last weekend's march in London against the scale of the cuts facing Britain.

The criminals' aim was to smash up the posh shops that many of their mummies and daddies no doubt frequent; the Tories attempted to turn the weekend into a process story about Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Both, for different reasons, tried to distract attention from the fact that the breadth of participation on the march showed it is increasingly mainstream families who are concerned about the economic path down which the coalition Government is forcing the country.

Stopping these thugs using public gatherings as an opportunity to run riot is rightly the priority for police and politicians. But we should also recognise the crude Tory media operation for what it is.

Miliband was right to honour his pledge to speak at the event. His critics would have had a field day if he had ducked it. And if he had pulled out, he would have missed the opportunity to stand up for mainstream Britain and make Labour's case that there is an alternative to the low growth, high unemployment economy the Government is creating.

Miliband's message rightly had an edge to it: some people are not going to like the fact that Labour's commitment to sound public finances means hard choices for an economy that cannot, and should not, return to the days before global recession. We are going to have to keep stressing this in the months ahead.

But he is going to keep making this argument on our economic future. To allow a handful of troublemakers to dictate at which events the leader of the opposition should speak would be absurd. It would equally be absurd to allow a Conservative smokescreen to obscure worrying signs of the growing sense of division in the country about this failing economic medicine.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown.

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