Is "Comrade Castro" really giving up on the Cuba model?

Cameron praises former Cuban president as a deficit hawk at PMQs.

David Cameron amused the Commons at today's PMQs with his reference to "Comrade Castro", whose brother, Raul, the Cuban President, recently announced plans to cut more than a million public sector jobs. Asked by the Tory MP Priti Patel if he had received any submissions from Fidel on deficit reduction, Cameron replied:

Even communist Cuba has got with the programme that we need to cut the budget defict and actually get spending under control. We've got Comrade Castro on the same planet as the rest of us. We've just got to get the Labour Party and the trade unions onto that planet at the same time.

So is Cuba, one of the world's few remaining communist states, (the others are Vietnam, Laos, North Korea and China) about to embrace capitalism, warts and all? Not yet, at least, rather a country where the state still employs 85 per cent of all workers is learning to live with the world as it is, rather than as it should be.

In a sharp warning to Cuba's population, Raul Castro has declared: "We have to end forever the notion that Cuba is the only country in the world where you can live without working". His elder brother, for good measure, told the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that the "Cuba model doesn't even work for us". But in a recent speech at the University of Havana, Castro insisted that he meant "exactly the opposite" of how the remark was interpreted, declaring instead that the free-market "Washington model" could never work for Cuba.

Either way, if Cuba is looking for a new model, Cameron could do worse than dispatch Steve Hilton to Havana to proselytise for the "Big Society".


George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.