At the heart of the Labour party lies a deeply vacuous soul: a soul with a longing for power that far outweighs any semblance of principle that might once have stood, a soul that is beginning to show itself. It is often said opposition parties don’t win elections; governments lose them. As true as that may be, the Labour Party under Ed Miliband has become so hapless as to be well on their way to the seemingly impossible feat of losing an election from opposition. The key is in the hypocrisy: and none is better than their pledge to cap social security spending, whilst vigorously opposing the government’s proposition to cap total welfare spending.
Ed Miliband has proposed ‘a cap on structural social security spending’, to last for three years, a figure apparently arbitrarily chosen. As for the Tories, David Cameron is clear that all welfare spending – beyond the basic state pension and those benefits directly affected by cyclical increases in unemployment – would be covered by the new welfare spending cap. The intricacies of the government’s cap are to be unveiled in the 2014 Budget.
If it seems odd that Labour are pushing a plan to cap one aspect of welfare spending then opposing an overall cap, that’s because it is. Part of the reason for the apparent hypocrisy is a fundamentally political one: core Labour voters hate the Tories’ attitude to welfare, so risking losing the dog whistle vote by going after moderates sick and tired of our bloated welfare state is a risk not worth taking for Balls and Miliband.
But merely assuming this as the only reason why Labour have opposed such similar plans is naïve. The real reason lies with Ed Miliband. He is a populist, reactionary, opportunist with scrupulous morals and almost no principle. If Labour opposed the welfare cap on ideological grounds then fine, opposition to the government’s proposal would be understandable. But by putting forward their own cap they have shown that this is not the case: it is purely because if the Tories are doing something, even something that is popular with the electorate, it is beyond Ed Miliband to show it support.
It’s not just welfare spending where Labour are shamelessly abusing their position as the opposition to score cheap political points. They have spent much of the past three years abusing George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan as dangerous and stifling to growth, only quieting down in the past few months as this has proven to be grotesquely wrong. But it is the energy debate for me that Labour have no place exploiting, least of all because Ed Miliband was energy secretary for three years before the 2010 General Election.
Miliband frequently accuses David Cameron of prioritising the ‘big six’ energy companies over the consumer, conveniently forgetting that it was the Labour government, partially under his watch as energy secretary, that created the big six. Of course, Labour frequently criticise energy price rises, conveniently forgetting that profits account for just 5% of the average energy bill, and that price rises are caused by something outside both energy companies and the government’s control: the wholesale price of gas. In fact, over the last 10 years, the wholesale price of gas has risen by 240%.
If only Labour would let facts get in the way of their opportunism. As it stands, be it social security, energy or the economy, hypocrisy is the order of the day for the current Labour party, and the sooner the electorate realises that the better.