Ed Miliband’s new-found opposition to the Iraq war: what his voting record shows

by Stephen Tall on September 29, 2010

Ed Miliband was not an MP in 2003, when Labour and Conservative MPs voted en masse to approve the British invasion of Iraq: so we do not know how he would have voted if he had had the opportunity.

The Ed-supporting New Statesman has been keen to promote his anti-Iraq war credentials — see for example their third-hand hearsay evidence here — but there appears to be nothing on the public record to back up his claim.

We are left, therefore, with Ed Miliband’s voting record in the one full Parliament in which he has served. Take a look at the new Labour leader’s voting record in the House of Commons, as recorded by PublicWhip.org.

As you can see, Mr E. Miliband has a proud 0% voting record on the issue of ‘Iraq Investigation – Necessary’. There were 10 separate votes in the House of Commons in the period in which he has been an MP: in not a single one of these did Mr E. Miliband take the opportunity to make clear, or even hint at, what he now so sincerely believes: that the Iraq war was wrong.

(Incidentally, you will see in the screenshot above a few other issues on which Mr Miliband’s voting record over the last five years contradicts his new-found love of most Lib Dem policy: he voted 100% in favour of ID cards, 100% in favour of ministerial powers of intervention in coroners’ inquests, 100% in favour of Labour’s programme of post office closures, 100% in favour of reducing the powers of Parliament, etc.)

Now Mr E. Miliband will maintain, as he did in his BBC Radio 4 Today Programme interview this morning, that he was bound by collective responsibility; that however sincere his own reservations about Labour’s full-throated support of the Iraq invasion, it was necessary for him to suppress his own voice for the good of the government as a whole. And of course for much of the public, he’s a blank canvas, not identified with the Iraq policy — so chances are this ruse will work.

But Ed Miliband made this point emphatically in his speech yesterday:

This generation wants to change our foreign policy so that it’s always based on values, not just alliances.

“Always based on values.” It’s a little hard to see how the values which led Mr E. Miliband to act as voting fodder for his government in the division lobbies on Iraq are the same as the values that led Charles Kennedy and his fellow Lib Dem MPs to brave the insulting taunts of Labour and Tory MPs to vote against the Iraq war when it mattered most. Values are usually easy to discern years later with the benefit of hindsight. But real values are about having the guts to take a stand when the path ahead is confused and difficult.