UK Labour leader vows to end ‘iso­la­tion­ism’


Bri­tish op­po­si­tion leader Ed Miliband ac­cused David Cameron’s gov­ern­ment of “small-minded iso­la­tion­ism” in an elec­tion cam­paign speech Fri­day, but sparked a row af­ter sug­gest­ing the prime min­is­ter was partly re­spon­si­ble for the Mediter­ranean mi­grant cri­sis.

In a for­eign pol­icy ad­dress ahead of the May 7 vote, the Labour party leader said Con­ser­va­tive Party leader Cameron had “stepped away from the world” and was risk­ing the na­tional in­ter­est by promis­ing a ref­er­en­dum on Bri­tain’s Euro­pean Union membership.

“David Cameron has presided over the big­gest loss of in­flu­ence for our coun­try in a gen­er­a­tion,” Miliband told the au­di­ence at think tank Chatham House in Lon­don.

“It is time to re­ject the small­minded iso­la­tion­ism that has char­ac­ter­ized this gov­ern­ment.

“This gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach has weak­ened Bri­tain at a time when the chal­lenges are per­haps greater and more com­plex than at any time since the Sec­ond World War.”

For­eign pol­icy has been de­bated in the cam­paign

lit­tle aside from ref­er­ences to im­mi­gra­tion, some­thing the Labour Party said showed the “grow­ing in­su­lar­ity of Bri­tish pol­i­tics”.

Miliband de­scribed Cameron’s ab­sence from peace talks on the Ukraine cri­sis be­tween French, Ger­man, Rus­sian and Ukrainian lead­ers as an “apt sym­bol of Bri­tain’s iso­la­tion and wan­ing in­flu­ence”.

But the Con­ser­va­tives re­acted an­grily when Miliband ap­peared to partly blame Cameron’s pol­icy on Libya for the Mediter­ranean boat tragedies.

Some 1,500 mi­grants have died al­ready this year on over­loaded ves­sels set­ting out from North African na­tions such as Libya, which is en­gulfed in civil war.

‘Hard-headed’ Ap­proach

In his speech, Miliband said that “Cameron was wrong to as­sume that Libya’s in­sti­tu­tions could be left to evolve and trans­form on their own” fol­low­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion to oust for­mer leader Moamer Kad­hafi, but did not di­rectly link it to the mi­grants’ plight.

A pre- speech press re­lease, how­ever, said Miliband “will say the refugee cri­sis and tragic scenes this week in the Mediter­ranean are in part a di­rect re­sult of the fail­ure of post-con­flict plan­ning for Libya”.

Cameron called the com­ments “ill-judged” while for­mer Con­ser­va­tive for­eign sec­re­tary Wil­liam Hague ac­cused the op­po­si­tion leader of “opportunistic tak­ing ad­van­tage of hu­man tragedy in or­der to serve the elec­toral pur­poses of the Labour Party”.

Miliband’s Labour party and Cameron’s Con­ser­va­tives are neck-and-neck in polls, but this week the main bet­ting shop firms made Miliband their fa­vorite to be­come prime min­is­ter for the first time.

Ad­vo­cat­ing a “hard- headed mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism”, Miliband said Cameron had ca­pit­u­lated to the anti-EU UK In­de­pen­dence Party by promis­ing a ref­er­en­dum on Bri­tain’s membership of the bloc in 2017 if he is re-elected prime min­is­ter.

A for­mer en­ergy min­is­ter, Miliband stressed the im­por­tance of cli­mate change in his for­eign pol­icy, call­ing for a zero car­bon emis­sion tar­get by 2050.

Nei­ther the Con­ser­va­tive nor the Labour party is ex­pected to win an out­right ma­jor­ity in the elec­tion, mean­ing they will have to rely on the sup­port of smaller par­ties in or­der to gov­ern.

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