CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Like Canute, we can't turn back the WikiTide (Times) (£)

The history of the human race shows that information will always spread as power shifts from group to group, says Daniel Finkelstein.

2. WikiLeaks – Mervyn King is consistently wrong: now his hawkish dogma has been exposed (Guardian)

Polly Toynbee writes about how WikiLeaks has exposed the Bank of England governor's central role in pushing an agenda of harsh cuts on successive governments.

3. Secrecy makes the world go round (Financial TImes)

WikiLeaks risks forgetting the value of diplomatic "back channels", warns Robert Baer. Secrecy has its drawbacks, but sometimes there is no choice.

4. WikiLeaks: Do they have a right to privacy? (Daily Telegraph)

The candid diplomatic information revealed by WikiLeaks is embarrassing, but it could also cause real harm, says Malcolm Rifkind.

5. We need to save more lives – with less (Independent)

Bill Clinton warns that momentum in the fight against Aids will be lost unless new ways are found to fill gaps left by funding cuts.

6. Liberal Democrats: the student debt trap (Guardian)

This leading article says that graduates are less vulnerable than the frail and impoverished, but the indignation of students who took to the streets was justified.

7. A fairer pay gap between top and bottom (Financial Times)

Capitalism at its best is the most reliable generator of wealth we know, writes Will Hutton, as his interim report on fairness in public-sector pay is published.

8. This self-serving coalition is ripping up our constitution (Daily Telegraph)

The Lib Dems' determination to end collective responsibility in the cabinet will end in chaos, argues Simon Heffer.

9. Iran's isolation (Times) (£)

The most important WikiLeaks disclosure is of the consensus that opposes Tehran's nuclear adventurism, says this leading article.

10. Tehran's hubris may now know no bounds (Financial Times)

Iranian leaders have been given a copy of their opponents' playbook, writes Suzanne Maloney.

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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.