Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he was “tempted” to join student protesters on the streets this week but was “doing something else”.
Mr Miliband said that although he did not condone violence, the demonstrations were fuelled by “justified” anger about tuition fee rises.
And he indicated that he was open in future to talking to those protesting on the streets, with marches and other protests set to continue.
There were 35 arrests and seven injuries to police officers on Wednesday as initially peaceful marches again flared into violence.
Labour MP David Winnick was criticised for describing the protests as “marvellous”.
Mr Miliband said it was “an extraordinary indication of the way this Government is going about its business that you already have such anger about the decision on tuition fees. It is indication both of the fact that the decision is wrong, but also of the high-handed nature of this Government in its decision-making. That’s why young people are so angry.”
Asked about the most recent protests, he said: “What I am not in favour of is, obviously, violent demonstrations. I applaud young people who peacefully demonstrate.
“I said I was going to go and talk to them at some point. I was tempted to go out and talk to them,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today. Asked why he had not, he explained: “I think I was doing something else at the time, actually.”
Mr Miliband did not rule out doing so in future, saying: “We’ll see what happens. I think that peaceful demonstrations are part of our society and, of course, as the Labour leader, I am willing to go and talk to people who are part of those demonstrations. It is an indication of what is happening to this country because I think people have a sense of anger and a lot of the anger is quite justified.”
He repeated his commitment to a graduate tax to fund higher education, not fee rises, saying: “I think it is a fairer way of paying for higher education because it says the amount you pay is related to the ability to pay.”