Ed Miliband and Labour stoop to a shameful new low in campaign with claims that Mediterranean refugee deaths are a ‘direct result’ of Cameron’s Libya intervention and tries to capitalise on tragedy.
- Tories accuse Ed Miliband of stooping to a ‘shameful’ new low in campaign
- Labour leader attacked the Prime Minister’s 2011 intervention in Libya
- Said the refugee deaths were the result of the aftermath of the intervention
- A briefing went further claiming they were ‘direct result’ of PM’s decisions
- Comes after EU leaders agreed package of measures to tackle the crisis
- Mr Cameron agreed to send a Royal Navy warship to the region within days
Shocking New Low for Labour Party
Ed Miliband has been accused of stooping to a ‘shameful’ new low by blaming David Cameron for the Mediterranean refugee crisis.
The Labour leader used a keynote campaign speech today to suggest the deaths of hundreds of refugees fleeing North Africa could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had done more following his intervention in Libya to remove the former dictator Colonel Gaddafi.
In a briefing note sent out before the speech, Labour went further – claiming the crisis was ‘in part a direct result’ of Mr Cameron’s foreign policy.
The allegation provoked a furious response from the Tories who this morning demanded that Mr Miliband apologise for the ‘outrageous and disgraceful’ remarks.
Ed Miliband, speaking at Chatham House in central London this morning, has been accused of stooping to a ‘shameful’ new low by blaming David Cameron for the Mediterranean refugee crisis
David Cameron and the former foreign secretary William Hague, speaking in Lincoln today, were accused of neglecting Libya after helping to topple Colonel Gaddafi
It comes after Mr Cameron held emergency talks with EU leaders in Brussels yesterday over how to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis.
The Prime Minister announced the deployment of one of Britain’s biggest warships – HMS Bulwark – as part of beefed-up efforts to prevent more refugees packing onto tiny boats.
Up to 1,750 refugees have lost their lives trying to reach Europe this year – out of around 35,000 who have tried to make the crossing.
The vast majority of the migrant boats set off from the Libya, which has descended into chaos in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution which saw Colonel Gaddafi swept from power with the support of France and Britain.
Mr Miliband today accused the Prime Minister of taking his eye off the ball by failing to secure a stable transfer of power in the wake of the uprising.
The Labour leader said this failure had contributed to the crisis today. But the suggestion sparked a furious response from the Prime Minister today.
Mr Cameron said: ‘Let me be clear about what Ed Miliband has said. I have learned as Prime Minister that it is so important in a dangerous and uncertain world that you show clarity, consistency and strength on these foreign policy issues.
‘People will look at these ill-judged remarks and they will reach their own conclusions.’
Former foreign secretary William Hague slammed the ‘ill-judged, opportunistic remarks’.
He said: ‘Foreign policy is not something that you can just discover 13 days before polling day.
‘This is the first time in five years that Ed Miliband has troubled himself to make a full length speech on foreign policy.’
Environment Secretary Liz Truss said Mr Miliband should withdraw the ‘outrageous and disgraceful’ remarks.
‘Accusing the Prime Minister of causing these deaths – whether directly or indirectly – I think is wrong,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
‘Ed Miliband feels like he’s losing the argument and he’s lashing out. Of course we should be talking about foreign affairs but it has to be done in a proper manner.’
Seek and destroy: Britain will send one of its biggest warships, HMS Bulwark (above), to the Mediterranean within days as part of plans to targets boats used by human traffickers
The source pointed out that Mr Miliband had supported the intervention in Libya which he now blamed for causing the crisis.
Nick Clegg said the Labour attack was a ‘distasteful’ attempt to make political capital from the Mediterranean refugee crisis.
Mr Clegg insisted that ‘a considerable amount of thought went in by the international community’ to the aftermath and ‘a huge amount of help and assistance and money has gone into trying to do our bit from outside’.
He acknowledged that it was ‘legitimate to say that things then spiral in directions that you can’t fully predict’.
‘All I would plead for is a little less finger-pointing wisdom from Ed Miliband – when he supported the intervention in the first place – and a little bit more adherence to facts about exactly who is ending up on these boats, why they are and what we can now do about it to stop this terrible tragedy,’ he said.
But the shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander defended Mr Miliband’s attack – and insisted the Prime Minister had failed to plan for the aftermath of Colonel Gaddafi’s downfall.
He said: ‘It is a failure of post-conflict planning for which the international community bears responsibility. That’s not a matter of dispute, it’s a matter of fact.’
In his speech to the Chatham House think tank today, Mr Miliband said: ‘The tragedy is that this could have been anticipated.
‘Since the action, the failure of post-conflict planning has become obvious. David Cameron was wrong to assume that Libya’s political culture and institutions could be left to evolve and transform on their own.
‘It should have been avoided. And Britain could have played its part in ensuring the international community stood by the people of Libya in practice rather than standing behind the unfounded hopes of potential progress only in principle.’
HOW LIBYA’S ‘ARAB SUMMER’ TURNED TO DUST: FOUR YEARS AFTER MPS BACKED MILITARY ACTION AGAINST GADDAFI THE COUNTRY LIES IN RUINS
In March 2011 Labour and Tory MPs united to back military action against Libya to stop Muammar Gaddafi committing a ‘bloody massacre’.
The country’s then dictator had threatened to slaughter his own people to cling on to power after a rebel uprising in the east of the country.
The Commons vote came after the UN Security Council passed a motion giving Britain, France and the US the authority to use ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Libyan civilians.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said he supported the action, arguing it was “a just cause, with a feasible mission, and it has international support”.
Less than six months later, in November 2011, after Western bombing raids allowed Libya’s rebel forces to sweep the Gaddafi regime from power, Mr Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy flew into Tripoli.
It was the first visit by Western leaders since the dictator 42-year-rule had come to an end.
Mr Cameron praised the Libyan fighters as ‘lions’ and described their revolt as the moment ‘when the Arab Spring could become an Arab Summer’ in which ‘we see democracy advance in other countries too’.
But in the three years since Colonel Gaddafi was toppled, the country has descended into chaos.
There has been no effective government since the 2011 uprising. Instead, there are hundreds of different armed groups fighting for territory and influence.
It currently has two rival governments, one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other based hundreds of miles away in the port of Tobruk.
People smugglers are taking advantage of the subsequent chaos and confusion tearing the country apart to ply their trade with little to no threat of being caught.
With ISIS also having established strongholds in the towns on Sirte and Derna, and with smaller bases elsewhere in the country, fear of capture and execution at the hands of the radical Islamists is driving the desperate migrants to leave Libya as quickly as they can, dangerously overloading vessels.