Miliband's phone confiscated after texts to Cable

Labour leader's phone taken away by aides and replaced by one with a new number.

After perhaps one too many text exchanges with Vince Cable, Ed Miliband has reportedly had his phone confiscated by aides. Today's Times (£) reports that Labour tribalist Dennis Skinner and Ken Livingstone challenged Miliband over his conversations with Cable at a preconference meeting of the NEC, to which he replied that his phone had "recently been taken away by his aides". It has apparently been replaced by one with a phone number that has been given to "a much smaller number of people". Thus, politics continues in its mission to put The Thick Of It's writers out of a job.

It's not the first time Miliband has been parted from his phone. In his interview with the New Statesman earlier this month, the Labour leader revealed that he left his phone at home during his holiday in Greece. "It was such a relief and a liberation not having a phone," he said. If someone needed to contact him, they were told to ring his wife, Justine, "which of course they were reluctant to do".

Ed Miliband told Labour's NEC that his phone had "recently been taken away by his aides". Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The Brexit slowdown is real

As Europe surges ahead, the UK is enduring its worst economic growth for five years. 

The recession that the Treasury and others forecast would follow the EU referendum never came. But there is now unmistakable evidence of an economic slowdown. 

Growth in the second quarter of this year was 0.3 per cent, which, following quarter one's 0.2 per cent, makes this the worst opening half since 2012. For individuals, growth is now almost non-existent. GDP per capita rose by just 0.1 per cent, continuing the worst living standards recovery on record. 

That Brexit helped cause the slowdown, rather than merely coincided with it, is evidenced by several facts. One is that, as George Osborne's former chief of staff Rupert Harrison observes, "the rest of Europe is booming and we're not". In the year since the EU referendum, Britain has gone from being one of the west's strongest performers to one of its weakest. 

The long-promised economic rebalancing, meanwhile, is further away than ever. Industrial production and manufacturing declined by 0.4 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively, with only services (up 0.5 per cent) making up for the shortfall. But with real wage growth negative (falling by 0.7 per cent in the three months to May 2017), and household saving at a record low, there is limited potential for consumers to continue to power growth. The pound's sharp depreciation since the Brexit vote has cut wages (by increasing inflation) without producing a corresponding rise in exports. 

To the UK's existing defects – low productivity, low investment and low pay – new ones have been added: political uncertainty and economic instability. As the clock runs down on its departure date, Britain is drifting towards Brexit in ever-worse shape. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.