Politicians and Clerics Lend Increasing Support to Occupy London Stock Exchange

By Nina Schick

As the Occupy London Stock Exchange protests entered their fourth week, the leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, stepped up his attack on the richest 1 per cent.  His comments form part of a larger wave of support for the anti-capitalist ‘Occupy’ protests, which have seen demonstrators camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral since mid-October.

Protestors initially expressed fears that media coverage of Occupy London Stock Exchange movement would be ‘unfair’ and ‘minimal’. One man, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Interact that major news agencies were ‘controlled by financiers,’ covering events ‘merely to fulfill minimum legal obligations’. He expressed his conviction that politicians would ‘sweep the protests under the carpet’.

As the Occupy London Stock continues to dominate news headlines however, senior clergy and politicians are increasingly lending their support to the movement.

Mr Miliband’s remarks come amidst new signs of backlash against the City. Whilst controversy regarding bankers’ bonuses continues, there has been public outrage at a recently released study revealing that salaries of Britain’s top executive directors had grown by 50 per cent in the past year.

Employing rhetoric used in his Labour Conference Party speech in September, Mr Miliband attacked the ‘fast
buck culture’ of the UK’s richest and most powerful 1 per cent.  He stated that the Government appeared to be ‘badly out of touch’ with the ‘reality facing the 99 per cent’ and seemed to be sympathetic to the needs of the wealthy elite, accusing the Prime Minister of ‘hand-wringing’ in the face of increasing public anger.

Separately, the Archbishop of Canterbury called for responsibility on the part of top earners in the UK. Writing in
the Financial Times last week, Mr Williams criticized the ‘business as usual’ approach of the City. He wrote that there has been ‘little visible change in banking practices’ and that society as a whole continues to pay for the irresponsible behavior and mistakes made by

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, similarly stated that the big payouts in the financial sector were demonstrative of how ‘scandalously unfair our society is’.

The occupation of St Paul’s Square by protestors, which lead the cathedral to shut its doors to the public for the first time since the Second World War, has raised wider questions about the Anglican establishment and the role it should play in this dispute.

The Church’s response to the occupation has lead senior clerics Mr Graeme Knowles and Dr Giles Fraser – the Dean and the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s respectively – to resign from their posts. Both men stepped down amidst rows regarding the planned forcible removal of protestors from the steps of the cathedral.

As the occupation camp remains standing outside St Paul’s and both politicians and clerics lend their voice to anti-capitalist sentiments, it appears that the underlying message of these protests – that the ‘normal’ people will no longer pay for the mistakes of the powerful – is getting louder.

In the words of Rowan Williams: ‘The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St Paul’s remain very much on the table and we need – as a church and as society as a whole – to work to make sure that they are properly addressed.’

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