As Red Pepper told you exclusively this month, Make Poverty History's organisers had been working overtime to stop any message coming out of today's Edinburgh rally that might embarrass the government. Whatever tomorrow's newspaper coverage says, they didn't completely succeed. Predictably, thousands defied the dress code and turned out wearing an array of colours and slogans (and selling the 57 varieties of socialist newspaper). But it was from the Make Poverty History stage that the embarassment was most acute. Prominent anti-globalisation figure, Walden Bello, who heads the Bangkok-based development NGO Focus on the Global South, took almost every opportunity from press conferences to the main stage to press home the issue of war and occupation in Iraq. One insider told Red Pepper that MPH organisers 'winced' each time Bello went off-script.
Another long-standing human rights campaigner, Bianca Jagger, urged the crowd to not 'follow false prophets'. If people really cared about ending poverty, she said, they must call for the end of the global economic system that makes poverty inevitable. 'We must demand the abolition of the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO,' Jagger said. Such words do not sit well with MPH's official line and directly contrdict New Labour's key role in all three institutions. In a withering rhetorical flourish that received huge applause and cheers from the thousands listening, she warned celebrities and protesters against becoming 'political tools, co-opted and used by the governments of the richest countries in the world'. The mere mention of Tony Blair brought loud boos. Jagger said that if Blair really cared about the issues as much he purports, he wouldn't be forcing trade liberalisation and privatisation of services on already vulnerable countries. She ended by chanting 'trade justice not trade liberalisation'. A true Rolling Stone. Alex Nunns & Stuart Hodkinson