Ed Miliband did a good thing last week. He drew attention to David Cameron’s complete lack of planning for post-Gaddafi Libya. If you must bomb nasty dictators, Ed seemed to say, then it’s only polite to stick around and clean up the mess. A few weeks’ Presidential grandstanding on the international stage is all well and good, but you have to be in these things for the long haul, or you just make a bad situation worse. If you don’t have the brains, don’t send the planes.
While Ed had a good point, he was entirely the wrong person to make it. Ed voted in favour of bombing Libya in 2011. Fine, I’m sure he had his reasons. However he made no mention of the aftermath of the bombing in the following year, probably distracted by the London Olympics. It slipped his mind again throughout the whole of 2013. By 2014 Islamists were on the march through Libya, and the Libyan parliament was forced to meet on a car ferry. Ed said nothing.
It is hard to come to any conclusion other than a) Ed didn’t think there were many votes in foreign policy, much better to bash bankers, or b) he didn’t want to invite the obvious comparisons to Labour’s record on post-war Iraq. It is only in this election year that Mr Miliband has sought to raise the subject of Libya, and then only as a stick with which to attack Mr Cameron. Which makes Ed a very poor leader of the Opposition, and a steaming hypocrite.
Libya is just the latest example. Every announcement from Labour, every single one, made in this election campaign has revealed the party as a bunch of hypocrites.
First we had grandstanding, moralising speeches about the evils of tax avoidance. This from a Labour Party that paid just £14,000 tax on income of £33.3 million in 2013, a Labour Party paid for by Unite who paid no tax at all in 2011 and 2012 on over £50million worth of stocks and shares, a Labour Party led by Ed Miliband who personally signed a “deed of variation” on his father’s will (the sole purpose of which is, you guessed it, to avoid tax).
Ed has made the abuse of zero hour contracts a flagship policy, Labour speakers mention them with every breath. Yet they must know that Labour run councils across London employ thousands of people on zero hour contracts. While Ed is rarely seen in his Doncaster constituency, it beggars belief that he could have been unaware of the reported 2,759 people employed on zero hour contracts by Labour run Doncaster council. Up to 68 current Labour MPs, including Ed Balls, have employed staff on zero hour contracts.
Then Labour announced they would ban unpaid internships. This has all the hallmarks of Labour – identify something they think will win votes amongst their target market, issue snappy yet sanctimonious slogans backed by poorly thought through policy, and never mind the unintended consequences. Almost inevitably, as soon as Ed announced the policy, we heard that the Labour Party have advertised 55 unpaid internships since 2010. Labour’s Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, said:
“You should pay someone for doing a job.”
That would be the same Rachel Reeves who advertised for 6 unpaid interns in 5 years. A young Ed Miliband spent one of his formative summers with family friend Tony Benn as, you guessed it, an unpaid intern. Pull up that ladder, Ed.
Labour have done more than any party to privatise the NHS. Billions of pounds of NHS money are handed over to private investors thanks to Labour’s Wonga style PFI agreements. And yet Labour will look you in the eye and tell you to vote for them, to stop NHS privatisation. As with Libya, it is not wrong to raise concerns about tax avoidance, zero hour contracts etc, albeit Labour’s solutions (limited to ‘tax it’ or ‘ban it’) only make problems more expensive or shift them sideways. It is however very wrong for a Labour Party so mired in hypocrisy to take the moral high ground and preach to the country about issues that it has zero credibility on.
To paraphrase , hypocrisy is like a virus that has infected the Labour party. Ed made big claims to be against the superficial politics of the photo-op, in the same week that he flew 6,000 miles for a selfie with Barack “bombed more countries than Bush” Obama. Labour were appalled by recent Tory attacks on Ed Miliband, forgetting that they had spent much of the last 5 years personally attacking Cameron and Osborne – for their backgrounds and which school they went to. This from a Labour front bench that is every bit as privileged as the Tories they attack for being privileged, stuffed with privately educated millionaires. Hypocrisy squared.
One of the many weaknesses in having your policy driven by rhetoric and slogans rather than reality and evidence is that you have to trust the person delivering the policy. There is clear blue water between what the Labour party says and what the Labour party does.
When UKIP speak you know they mean what they say. This is because they actually believe in what they are saying. They often have first hand experience of the subject matter. You occasionally get media confections that attempt to smear the party with hypocrisy, but like most anti-UKIP stories the headlines dissolve on closer inspection (“Nigel Farage‘s wife is German!!!” scream the papers, as if the UKIP leader having a German wife is a convincing argument against an Australian style, points based, fair immigration policy).
While Ed Miliband has spent the campaign so far outdoing himself in the breathtaking hypocrisy stakes, UKIP were quietly getting on with the business of producing an optimistic, confident, fully costed and coherent manifesto. Entirely your choice which one to vote for.
Photo by LSE Library