Brian Monteith: Labour’s talking Eds are full of double standards

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Is there any point to politics in Britain now? Listening to our political leaders is like living in some sort of weird drug-fuelled dream.

Black has become white, austerity has become munificence – why, I swear Hibs won the cup the other week (maybe that’s stretching the point too far . . .).

David Cameron – the man who promised a referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty and then let us all down; the man that said we needed to stay in the EU and Ukip are all nutters – is saying Ukip actually has a point and is promising us another referendum after he’s re-elected, of course.

Alex Salmond – the man who called the Nato bombing of Serbian aggressors “unpardonable folly”; the man who told us we should join the euro and that Scotland should be independent – is saying an independent Scotland should be a member of Nato, should use the pound and that we needn’t worry about separation from the UK for we’ll still be 
British.

Nick Clegg – the man who said university tuition fees should not be increased; the man who promised a referendum on EU membership and to support constituency reform to ensure fairer votes – supported university tuition fees in England rising to up to £9000 a year, is against an EU referendum and has ensured Labour’s rotten boroughs have been protected for another general 
election.

Not to be outdone, Willie Rennie’s Scottish Liberal Democrats – a party that by definition is meant to believe in individual freedom with responsibility – is about to support legislation that would make it a criminal offence to smoke in your own car if there’s a child present, opening the door to it being against the law to smoke in your own home on the same basis, which must eventually result in parents that smoke risking the snatching of their children by the social workers of the state on the grounds of child abuse.

Keeping up with Cameron, the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, who was elected by her members on the platform of a “line in the sand” that she would not cross, meaning no more powers for Holyrood, has woken up to the reality of her political suicide note and established a commission under Lord Strathclyde to work out what powers she and her members could live with.

Unfortunately, Tom Strathclyde’s committee has still to fix a date for a meeting, suggesting a less than enthusiastic approach.

Oh well, there’s always the Labour Party. Surely Ed Miliband and Ed Balls can be relied upon to say what they mean and mean what they say, surely we can trust these disciples of Gordon Brown?

Er, well, no, not really. This week I thought the Edinburgh Fringe had opened early, that Balls and Miliband had decided to be stand-up comedians and give us some laughs in this age of austerity – or maybe they fancy being hypnotists hoping to fool us all into voting for them?

I have lost count how many times I have heard the Labour leadership weigh into Amazon, Google, Starbucks and other corporate bad boys, accusing their tax avoidance procedures as being the equivalent of tax evasion.

In case their smooth talking has had the desired effect on any readers, let me remind everyone that tax avoidance is entirely legal and tax evasion is strictly illegal. The former entails the use of legitimate procedures (crafted often by the government or Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) while the latter means breaking the law or hiding information from the law.

To put it another way, tax avoidance is like buying a bottle of spirits or 100 fags at the duty free – it’s allowed and approved of – while tax evasion is buying counterfeit goods and smuggling them in. It’s that simple.

And yet Labour weighs into the corporations that use the procedures to reduce tax as if they are committing a moral crime (for it ain’t any other crime, as it was happening throughout the 13 years of Labour in government).

So Labour must be on the side of the angels, better than Cameron, Salmond, Clegg and all the rest? Right? Wrong.

It has now been revealed that Labour has accepted a donation of £1.6 million from John Mills, the owner of JML online retailers – given in the form of shares rather than cash – because it is more tax efficient. It saved John Mills £1.5m in tax. That’s tax avoidance to you or 
me.

As if this double standard was not enough, this week Ed Balls has laid out his plan for Labour in government and essentially it means Labour will be tough on welfare and support austerity measures. Labour’s plan B is dead, it may not be called Osborne’s plan A but it is beginning to look awfully like it.

I’ve always thought that if a bird looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it’s likely to be a duck.

Labour does not disappoint. The two Eds look like modern politicians, walk like modern politicians, quack like modern politicians – sadly, they must therefore be as hypocritical and duplicitous as any other modern 
politicians.