Labour leader Ed Miliband has been criticised by the founder of street newspaper the Big Issue for giving money to a Romanian beggar, as part of a strident article in which he blasted the “cowardice” of Labour politicians and says he has “absolutely no time for the pathetic, bleeding-heart mentality”.
Miliband has come under steady criticism over his gift of what appeared to be a few coins after passing the young woman in Manchester last week, as people were astounded he would give so little while surrounded by cameras to capture his futile gesture. Now he has also come under fire from champion of the homeless, former beggar and now entrepreneur founder of the Big Issue John Bird. Far from saying Miliband was insufficiently generous, Bird says he gave too much.
Writing in an article for the Daily Mail, Bird said: “If this was an attempt to parade his decency, it backfired disastrously. Instead of looking compassionate, he came across as foolish, opportunistic and embarrassed… Giving to a beggar might momentarily salve the donor’s conscience, but in the longer term it does absolutely nothing to alleviate the plight of the recipient.
“On the contrary, it locks the beggar in a downward spiral of abject dependency and victimhood, where all self-respect, honesty and hope are lost. Indeed, by reinforcing the beggar’s pitiable condition, a donation is really an act of cruelty rather than kindness. If there is one thing most beggars detest more than people who refuse to give, it is those who do”.
Bird explained “Giving money to those who simply sit on the street asking for money” merely pushed people into criminality and towards begging gangs, and offered them no opportunities for escape and self improvement, in a criticism that almost had echoes for the worst excesses of the welfare state itself.
Although he accepted that his own publication was being abused by some to legitimise the importation of “destitution” of Eastern Europe, Bird said the responsibility of this laid firmly on the shoulders of the politicians who created the loopholes and showed “contempt for our borders, reluctance to uphold our laws, and remorseless expansion of our welfare benefits”.
Indeed, it seems that the Big Issue founder had zero tolerance for immigrants who abused the system and used his magazine to legitimise their crimes. He cited his own calls to deport a Romanian Big Issue seller who robbed a blind woman of £50, and to his disgust was only jailed for four months. He said: “I fear the answer is there is far too much sentimentality and cowardice in our political system, which has been ruthlessly exploited by society’s parasites.
“I have absolutely no time for the pathetic, bleeding-heart mentality so prevalent these days — and which destroys traditional concepts of morality and justice.
“I firmly believe that anyone who breaks the law or abuses our generosity should be deported — not protected by the morally perverted human rights regime which allows them to remain in this country on the basis of their so-called ‘right to a family life”.
At the time of Miliband’s change donation and the accusation it had only been small change, a Labour party spokesman had said he’d given “a bunch of change” worth one or two pounds. The beggar herself, 14-year old Romanian Rebeca State has since said it was actually worth 70 pence.