Nick Clegg today attacked Labour for their "dishonest, hypocritical" decision to vote with the Tory EU rebels last night, reports Shamik Das.
Nick Clegg today attacked Labour for their “dishonest, hypocritical” decision to vote with the Tory EU rebels last night, criticising its “change of heart” as “not the behaviour of a party serious about government”.
In that rarest of political speeches (from any senior UK politician), the deputy prime minister made the case for Europe, how it benefits us and how renegotiation or withdrawal would be disastrous, taking aim at Labour’s opportunism and lack of ideas.
“Labour has now taken a different position – as we saw last night – having had a change of heart. Ed Balls knows only too well, from bitter experience, that there is absolutely no prospect of securing a real terms cut to the EU budget.
“But at the eleventh hour, and having stayed silent on this issue for months, Labour now proclaims that, actually, this is what they’ve wanted all along. And they can wave a magic wand over the Council negotiations and convince 26 other countries to agree… Their change of heart is dishonest, it’s hypocritical.”
“We’ve been waiting for years for the Labour party to announce how they would cut spending. Now they have finally come out in favour of cuts – but in a way they know is undeliverable, and in a way that would hurt British taxpayers. And it turns out even their cuts cost money.
“I’ve heard people describe it as clever opposition politics – and I suppose it is. But it’s not the behaviour of a party serious about government.“
In its haste to inflict humiliation on David Cameron, Labour last night about-turned on their pro-Europeanism of government and handed victory to the eurosceptic Tory right – without offering any real alternative, without making the case for reform, siding with individuals who at best want looser ties with Europe and a complete renegotion of our relationship; at worst, outright withdrawal. There was no talk of a “grand bargain”, of the type proposed by Tony Blair and Will Straw, or some other alternative from the Labour frontbench, just point-scoring.
Upon being elected Labour leader, Ed Miliband vowed he would lead “a responsible opposition” which would work with the government ‘where they could’. Last night was one such opportunity, but instead of being players, working with Cameron and Clegg to get the best deal for Britain, the party’s irresponsible opposition and short-term politics places them off the pitch and shoulder-to-shoulder with Bill Cash, Aidan Burley and Nadine Dorries. Just as under John Smith over Maastricht, Labour have sacrificed pro-Europe principle for petty partisan politics.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.