Brian Monteith: A week of fools

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WHAT a week it has been in politics. I can’t remember a time when so many politicians from different parties have made fools of themselves. For me Ed Miliband and Alex Neil were pick of the bunch.

Last week Ed Miliband – who is fast becoming a political vaudeville act, only, unfortunately for Ed we are laughing at him, not with him – launched a poster that was meant to convince us that those dreaded evil Tories had put extra VAT on our grocery bill and cost us lots and lots of extra pennies.

Unfortunately the poster designer and Ed (who as leader must have approved it) could not have taken their reality pills that day – for the photo used included all sorts of items that have the zero VAT rate applied. That’s zero = no VAT. The Coalition VAT increase did not apply to most of the items shown. Worse still, there were a number of items such as fizzy drinks that in the same week Ed had said would be subject to new Labour taxes aimed at trying to stop us becoming obese. Obviously that would put the price up, which is the idea after all.

So after that humiliating disaster that us tweeters had great mirth about you could be forgiven for expecting Ed Mili-banned (as he became nicknamed) would bone up on his facts the next time he was allowed out of nursery and on the campaign trail.

Unfortunately not.

First up, on the breakfast TV sofa, talking about the cost of living that millionaire Ed knows so well he was asked about the cost of the average weekly shop for a family of four. Clearly in Um, Er, Um, territory he took a stab at £70-£80 but was told that for ordinary folk it was over £100. Rule one, if you are going to campaign about the cost of living know your facts or live in the real world so you can speak from experience.

But it got worse – to cover up the gaffe he later said that he had 
only meant the cost of fruit and vegetables. What? Just fruit and veg? What world does Ed live on, Planet Vegetarian? Rule two, if you are going to correct a gaffe don’t use facts that are worse than the first lot.

But it got worse.

Our class act Ed went to Swindon for a radio interview to support the local Labour campaign and then managed to forget the local Labour leader’s name – and congratulated Labour for doing a great job running the council – only to be reminded the council is run by Tories.

Not to be outdone, we had the Scottish Minister for Health, Alex Neil, coming unstuck by forcing in the first week of his appointment a reversal of the decision by the previous minister to close two mental health wards in Neil’s constituency.

He then passed the decision 
(he had already taken) over to a 
junior minister and told Holyrood he was not involved. So not only had he acted where he was conflicted, and then sought to disguise it, he also told parliament it was nothing to do with him.

A no confidence motion – the first for 13 years was the result – but he survived because of SNP discipline before the referendum trumping any sense of moral virtue. And these people want more power?