Ed Miliband on Syria: let anyone decide as long as it’s not me
David Aaronovitch has said what he thinks about Ed Miliband in The Times today (pay wall). It is all coruscating and excoriating, but these passages give you the main idea:
Mr Miliband could have accepted the government motion last week and taken the credit for getting a proper process established before action …
[But he] intuited that the British people, overall, probably didn’t want something to take place over Syria, and decided that instead of arguing with them, he’d join them. Just as he has done over immigration. He’d become the spokesman for nothing. He wouldn’t outline his own alternative strategy — he’d just defeat Mr Cameron’s.
And in this moment of crisis it became clear — as it does — what Mr Miliband is. A personable man (and he is a very pleasant companion), politically he is not a presence at all, he is an absence. He is Oedipal Ed, the negator of the unpopular actions of the fathers; the anti-Blair, the non-Brown. His technique for victory to is follow behind the leader, wait for a slip-up and exploit his or her mistakes. He did it to his brother. He hopes to do it to David Cameron. He is neither hunter nor prey, he is scavenger. He is a political vulture. Mission creep? His mission is all about creeping.
And though you can just about see how in a bad year Ed Miliband could become prime minister, what I cannot any longer pretend, after three years of his leadership, is that he would be a good one. On the contrary. I think he would be a disaster.
My more anodyne article in The Independent today is more sympathetic to the Labour leader. I thought his conduct last week was disgraceful. As Aaronovitch says, he pretended only to want delay when his actions ensured Britain would not be part of military action.
Miliband protested too much at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday:
Last week’s vote was not about Britain shirking its global responsibilities, it was about preventing a rush to war.
No, it wasn’t. By refusing to vote for the Government motion, which conceded everything for which he had asked, Miliband ensured that the vote was about preventing Britain’s part in war.
That’s not a dishonourable position. I don’t disdain it as Aaronovitch does. In my article I quote without disapproval Andrew Tyrie, the thoughtful Conservative MP who abstained.
But those MPs who failed to support the Government have to accept that their decision not to act has consequences. It would mean, if the air strikes were not to go ahead, no prospect of deterring Assad from using chemical weapons again.
And Miliband ought to be honest about the consequences of his parliamentary games. Andrew Grice, my esteemed colleague, reports elsewhere in today’s Independent:
The Shadow Cabinet expected Mr Miliband to trumpet the concessions he won from Mr Cameron and support the Government. But after a summer in which the Tories spent attacking him as “weak”, Mr Miliband decided not to risk a messy split in which many Labour MPs would have defied him by voting against military strikes.
Miliband “did not want or expect to defeat the Government”, says Grice. He quotes a Labour insider: “We were relying on the Tory whips to win the vote and the Tories were relying on us to support them.”
This is the most extraordinary and spineless admission. As I say in my article, what Miliband and many of his MPs wanted was for the Government and the Americans – anyone, anyone as long as it wasn’t them – to take responsibility for a military action about which they could not make up their minds.
Deplorable.Tagged in: ed miliband, syria
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