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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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.