Zac Goldsmith hits out at the Sun

Prospective Tory MP says he was "repulsed" by the tabloid

You might have thought that Zac Goldsmith would be content to lie low after he was exposed as a non-dom, or that he would have been gagged by a Conservative apparatchik, but apparently not.

The prospective Tory MP used a lecture in London last night to deliver a stinging attack on the Sun over its recent treatment of Gordon Brown.

He said:

[My] heart went out to Gordon Brown and I was repulsed by the Sun and I thought: my God, I did not want this newspaper to be backing my campaign. It is immoral and unethical and wrong. The Conservative Party by default got caught up by this, which is a shame.

Goldsmith's response is that of any reasonable human being, but as a former editor of the Ecologist he's likely to have thought more deeply about press ethics than most.

One wonders if James Murdoch, who runs the show at Wapping, and who worked hard to turn News International into the UK's first carbon-neutral newspaper publisher, will be disappointed by the criticism from a fellow environmentalist. David Cameron, who said he was "delighted" to win the support of the Sun, is also likely to be troubled by Goldsmith's declaration that he wouldn't want the tabloid's backing.

However, there are both principled and practical reasons for shunning the Sun. Goldsmith's claim that the tabloid's association with the party has led to a fall in Tory support is backed up by the latest opinion polls.

Labour will no doubt hope that Goldsmith continues to make such uncomfortable observations in the run-up to the election. Rumour has it that he has been consciously excluded from Cameron's inner circle in recent months.

Much more of this, and Goldsmith, who had been expected to win a key post if elected, will be talking himself out of a job.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.