Balls and Miliband against the war?
Hurray! Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have announced that they were actually against the declaration of war on Iraq. The battle for the soul of the Labour Party is won! Pfft. Do me a favour. The announcements from Balls and Miliband are designed to position themselves as populists without having to promote any popular positions on policy.
“People always felt as if the decision had been made and they were being informed after the fact.” [...]
“I was in the room when a decision was taken that we would say it was that dastardly Frenchman, Jacques Chirac, who had scuppered it. It wasn’t really true, you know. I said to Gordon: ‘I know why you’re doing this, but you’ll regret it’. France is a very important relationship for us.”[...]
“It was a mistake. On the information we had, we shouldn’t have prosecuted the war. We shouldn’t have changed our argument from international law to regime change in a non-transparent way. It was an error for which we as a country paid a heavy price, and for which many people paid with their lives. Saddam Hussein was a horrible man, and I am pleased he is no longer running Iraq. But the war was wrong.”
One can’t help but notice that the wrongness of the war didn’t stop Balls from accepting a parachute into a safe Labour seat from the New Labour heirarchy, nor a series of well-paying jobs from the very people who inaugurated the war. Quite the heavy price. But all of this is nothing compared to Balls’ admission that he’d have voted for the war.
So not that against the war.
“As we all know, the basis for going to war was on the basis of Saddam’s threat in terms of weapons of mass destruction and therefore that is why I felt the weapons inspectors should have been given more time to find out whether he had those weapons, and Hans Blix – the head of the UN weapons inspectorate – was saying that he wanted to be given more time. The basis for going to war was the threat that he posed.
“The combination of not giving the weapons inspectors more time, and then the weapons not being found, I think for a lot of people it led to a catastrophic loss of trust for us, and we do need to draw a line under it.”
Clear moral leadership there from Miliband. Or not. It may just be a poor choice of words, but what Miliband is saying seems to be that the Labour government lied, and that it’d be really nice if people would just forget about it. Sure, Hans Blix should have been given more time, but there’s no actual critique of the war there.
Millions of people marched against the war – millions who did not support the objectives of the war, who did not want to risk British lives and who plainly disbelieved every word the government uttered. The best Ed Miliband can come up with is that the weapons inspectors should have been given longer, and that the failure of the invasion to find them led to a loss of trust. Lukewarm.
I can’t help but wonder if the Guardian stirring up this issue simply as a backdoor endorsement to Ed Miliband, which Ed Balls has neatly shafted. In reality, each interview is a key failure – it demonstrates categorically that both Balls and Brother Ed see government in the traditional way: you can disagree with the decision but it ultimately belongs to the Ministers and the Parliamentary Party.
Election to government of a Labour Party with these men at the top would thus not be substantially different to New Labour.