Labour PPC suspended for obscene online comments

Has social media claimed its second scalp of the campaign?

It looks like social media may have claimed its second scalp of the campaign. Labour PPC John Cowan has just been suspended as the party's candidate in South East Cambridgeshire after admitting to posting a series of sexually explicit and offensive comments online.

It's rather worrying that alarm bells didn't ring at Labour HQ after he was expelled from the Lib Dems in 2004 for sending "sexual emails".

It's now too late for the party to select a new candidate so this is another piece of good news for the Lib Dems, who will to hope pick up most of the Labour vote in the Tory-held seat.

In the meantime, here are some of Cowan's words of wisdom.

On paying his cleaner cash-in-hand:

Its (sic) a cash in hand job so she does not have any Income Tax or National Insurnace (sic) on it and both her and her boyfriend live on benefits so they are quids in.

On Muslims:

Whilst I would not be happy if my future son or daughter wanted to date a Muslim it would be there (sic) decision at the end of the day.

On his love life:

Why limit it to just one woman? I would prefer one for each day of the week!"

Cowan apparently appealed on one forum for "some people to pose nude for me". As in the case of Stuart MacLennan, the PPC who was suspended over a series of obsence tweets, one despairs that this man was standing for Parliament at all.

What's still remarkable is that neither of the pair thought to go back and erase their digital footprint. But there's still a casual assumption among some candidates that they can get away with saying online what they wouldn't say on Newsnight or on Today. They can't.

 

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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.