How Mo Farah rejected the "plastic Brit" charge

"Look, mate, this is my country". Was the Daily Mail listening?

Before the opening of the Olympics, the Daily Mail ran a series of stories on those athletes it called "plastic Brits". By this ugly term, it referred to those in the British team who were born overseas and later acquired citizenship. Under the guise of reporting a "controversy" (controversial to no one but itself), the paper complained that "11 per cent of the 542-strong squad were born abroad." Thus, as Sunder Katwala noted previously, competitors such as Mo Farah (born in Somalia) and Bradley Wiggins (born in Belgium) were, according to the Mail's definition, "plastic Brits".

Now many of those same Brits have triumphed, my guess is that the Mail will quietly forget that it once disparaged them as "plastic". It may even use this moment to celebrate the successful multiethnic society it normally does so much to hinder (one witnesses a similar volte-face when overt racists such as Nick Griffin, whose party swims in the swamp of hatred created by the right-wing press, appear on Question Time or other public platforms and are noisily denounced by the Mail and the Daily Express).

Should anyone revive the "plastic Brit" charge, however, here is how Mo Farah, his voice denoting impatience, responded last night when asked by one journalist if he would have preferred to run as a Somali.

Look mate, this is my country.

This is where I grew up, this is where I started life. This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I'm proud. I'm very proud.

Was the Mail listening?

Mohamed Farah of Great Britain celebrates winning gold in the Men's 10,000m final. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What will Labour's new awkward squad do next?

What does the future hold for the party's once-rising-stars?

For years, Jeremy Corbyn was John McDonnell’s only friend in Parliament. Now, Corbyn is the twice-elected Labour leader, and McDonnell his shadow chancellor. The crushing leadership election victory has confirmed Corbyn-supporting MPs as the new Labour elite. It has also created a new awkward squad.   

Some MPs – including some vocal critics of Corbyn – are queuing up to get back in the shadow cabinet (one, Sarah Champion, returned during the leadership contest). Chi Onwurah, who spoke out on Corbyn’s management style, never left. But others, most notably the challenger Owen Smith, are resigning themselves to life on the back benches. 

So what is a once-rising-star MP to do? The most obvious choice is to throw yourself into the issue the Corbyn leadership doesn’t want to talk about – Brexit. The most obvious platform to do so on is a select committee. Chuka Umunna has founded Vote Leave Watch, a campaign group, and is running to replace Keith Vaz on the Home Affairs elect committee. Emma Reynolds, a former shadow Europe minister, is running alongside Hilary Benn to sit on the newly-created Brexit committee. 

Then there is the written word - so long as what you write is controversial enough. Rachel Reeves caused a stir when she described control on freedom of movement as “a red line” in Brexit negotiations. Keir Starmer is still planning to publish his long-scheduled immigration report. Alison McGovern embarked on a similar tour of the country

Other MPs have thrown themselves into campaigns, most notably refugee rights. Stella Creasy is working with Alf Dubs on his amendment to protect child refugees. Yvette Cooper chairs Labour's refugee taskforce.

The debate about whether Labour MPs should split altogether is ongoing, but the warnings of history aside, some Corbyn critics believe this is exactly what the leadership would like them to do. Richard Angell, deputy director of Progress, a centrist group, said: “Parts of the Labour project get very frustrated that good people Labour activists are staying in the party.”

One reason to stay in Labour is the promise of a return of shadow cabinet elections, a decision currently languishing with the National Executive Committee. 

But anti-Corbyn MPs may still yet find their ability to influence policies blocked. Even if the decision goes ahead, the Corbyn leadership is understood to be planning a root and branch reform of party institutions, to be announced in the late autumn. If it is consistent with his previous rhetoric, it will hand more power to the pro-Corbyn grassroots members. The members of Labour's new awkward squad have seized on elections as a way to legitimise their voices. But with Corbyn in charge, they might get more democracy than they bargained for.