Attacks on Ed Miliband over donations mean the Right doesn't understand hypocrisy or is trying to mislead voters
Reading the Tory press on news the Labour party received donations from a hedge fund manager, it becomes clear why the Right’s efforts in the realm of class warfare tend to fall so flat.
The attacks on Ed Miliband for accepting money from Martin Taylor while decrying the influence of hedge funders on the Conservative party have taken the form of accusing him of hypocrisy. In so doing they prove that the papers either don’t understand what hypocrisy is or are wilfully trying to mislead their readers.
What has Labour actually criticised the Tories for in this respect? Labour under Ed Miliband has pointed to the fact that the Tory party has received tens of millions of pounds from nearly half of all the hedge fund managers on the Sunday Times rich list. By comparison Mr Taylor’s donations to Labour (£600,000 over three years) are small change.
But that’s not the grounds for Labour’s attack. They go on to say that chancellor George Osborne delivered a mammoth tax cut via stamp duty on stock market transactions that will benefit precisely the sort of hedge fund managers donating to the Conservative party. That is why Ed Miliband has made a point of calling the Tories the “political wing of the hedge fund industry”.
So when the Tory press laugh and coo about having caught Labour out they don’t seem to notice the custard pie exploding in their own faces.
Hypocrisy is not taking money from someone while promising to do things that directly go against their interests.
As a Labour source told the Times:
“Labour is not opposed to hedge funds. We’re against being in the pockets of hedge funds and then rewarding them with tax breaks.”
Simple point, really.
The same would apply to the charge of hypocrisy over Labour’s defence of a public NHS while taking money from Mr Taylor, who is also a stakeholder in a privatising health business. So long as Labour sticks to its stated policy, which would mean blocking Taylor’s efforts on this score, how can it be claimed they have betrayed their principles or been dishonest on the NHS? And that’s before we even look at how many Tory MPs have links to private health companies that have won NHS contracts.
So to the exploding custard pie. Hypocrisy, it has been said, is the compliment that vice pays to virtue. The Tory press, in calling Miliband a ‘stinking hypocrite’ (Daily Mail editorial), has ironically exposed its own hypocrisy. For what is certainly hypocritical is attacking Miliband for being an anti-business puppet of the unions and then teasing him for being backed by a hedge fund manager. Or denouncing him for ‘weaponising’ the NHS and then pointing and jeering when he takes cash from a privateer.
This opportunistic attack on Labour, much like the trick of painting Miliband as a member of the ‘metropolitan elite’, only raises what should for Tories be an awkward question: ‘Is this bad’? Is it bad to take money from hedge funds and private health companies? If so, doesn’t that make the Tories’ greater share in this very bad indeed? And why are these things bad? Is the Right now against the free market? Or are these attacks simply the Tory press paying an unintended compliment to virtue?
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on TwitterLike 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.