CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. It's madness to split the centre-left vote (Independent)

It is nonsense to pretend that the Lib Dems are equidistant from Labour and the Tories, writes Andrew Adonis. The return of a Labour government offers Nick Clegg the best chance to implement his agenda.

2. Labour are now the reactionaries, we the radicals (Guardian)

Elsewhere, David Cameron argues that his party's pledge to investigate public pay inequality proves that it is the Tories who offer the chance for bold, progressive change.

3. The Tories have just the man to find more jobs for British workers (Daily Telegraph)

Iain Duncan Smith's benefit reform proposals could transform the British labour market, says Fraser Nelson. If the Tories win, he should head a new Department of Social Justice, dedicated to healing our "broken society".

Read the CommentPlus summary

4. The long parliament is over. Good riddance (Times)

The disillusion caused by the MPs' expenses scandal holds back any chance of an inspiring election campaign, writes Roy Hattersley. The one hope is that the rehabilitation of democracy can now begin for real.

Read the CommentPlus summary

5. Now Obama is president with an endgame (Financial Times)

Obama now looks like a leader in command of his agenda, says Philip Stephens. That he has rebuilt his political authority at home means that he is being taken more seriously abroad.

6. As democracy unravels at home, the west thuggishly exports it elsewhere (Guardian)

The west has greatly oversold the benefits of democracy, writes Simon Jenkins. The forced elections in Afghanistan and Iraq do little to justify the death and destruction we have seen in both countries.

Read the CommentPlus summary

7. If you're looking for class war, just read Cameron's policies (Independent)

The right may accuse Gordon Brown of waging "class war" but it's the Tories who are truly guilty of the charge, argues Johann Hari. If elected, David Cameron would institute a huge redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest.

Read the CommentPlus summary

8. The case for a written constitution (Financial Times)

We need a written constitution to act as a further barrier against parliamentary misconduct, writes Samuel Brittan.

Read the CommentPlus summary

9. Arms and the plan (Times)

The case for Britain retaining an independent nuclear deterrent is strong, argues a leader in the Times. Future generations would pay a high price for any mistakes.

Read the CommentPlus summary

10. First round to the Tories, but the debate remains unreal (Independent)

Cameron has won the political battle over National Insurance but he has not answered the charge that he has gone soft on the deficit, says a leader in the Independent.

Sign up now to CommentPlus for the pick of the day's opinion, comment and analysis in your inbox at 8am, every weekday.

Getty
Show Hide image

Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.