Labour challenges Cameron on his Bullingdon past

The party questions Cameron's claim that he never saw a restaurant smashed up.

As I predicted, David Cameron's flawed defence of his Bullingdon Club past has left him politically exposed. Labour has issued a press release challenging Cameron's questionable claim that he never saw a restaurant smashed up, and urging him to "take responsibility" for what he dismisses as youthful indiscretions.

Here's the full statement from Labour MP John Mann:

David Cameron has questions to answer after his claim today that he did not witness people throwing things through windows or smashing up restaurants during his days as a Bullingdon Club member.

This is very different to what other people remember.

He needs to start admitting what he did and start taking responsibility for what he shrugs off as youthful indiscretions.

If we are to get more responsibility throughout our society following the riots then the Prime Minister should set an example.

No doubt some will dismiss this as more "toff-bashing" from Labour. But unlike Cameron's expensive schooling, the party regards this as legitimate political territory. The key point, they say, is that Cameron chose to join the Bullingdon Club. It provides Ed Miliband, who was more likely to be found reading Fabian pamphlets than smashing restaurant windows, with another opportunity to restate his call for responsibility at the top and the bottom of the society.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Europe's elections show why liberals should avoid fatalism

France, Germany and the Netherlands suggest there is nothing inevitable about the right's advance.

Humans are unavoidably pattern-seeking creatures. We give meaning to disparate events where little or none may exist. So it is with Brexit and Donald Trump. The proximity of these results led to declarations of liberalism's demise. After decades of progress, the tide was said to have unavoidably turned.

Every election is now treated as another round in the great duel between libralism and populism. In the Netherlands, the perennial nativist Geert Wilders was gifted outsize attention in the belief that he could surf the Brexit-Trump wave to victory. Yet far from triumphing, the Freedom Party finished a distant second, increasing its seats total to 20 (four fewer than in 2010). Wilders' defeat was always more likely than not (and he would have been unable to form a government) but global events gifted him an aura of invincibility.

In France, for several years, Marine Le Pen has been likely to make the final round of the next presidential election. But it was only after Brexit and Trump's election that she was widely seen as a potential victor. As in 2002, the front républicain is likely to defeat the Front National. The winner, however, will not be a conservative but a liberal. According to the post-Trump narrative, Emmanuel Macron's rise should have been impossible. But his surge (albeit one that has left him tied with Le Pen in the first round) suggests liberalism is in better health than suggested.

In Germany, where the far-right Alternative für Deutschland was said to be remorselessly advancing, politics is returning to traditional two-party combat. The election of Martin Schulz has transformed the SPD's fortunes to the point where it could form the next government. As some Labour MPs resign themselves to perpeutal opposition, they could be forgiven for noting what a difference a new leader can make.

2016 will be forever remembered as the year of Brexit and Trump. Yet both events could conceivably have happened in liberalism's supposed heyday. The UK has long been the EU's most reluctant member and, having not joined the euro or the Schengen Zone, already had one foot outside the door. In the US, the conditions for the election of a Trump-like figure have been in place for decades. For all this, Leave only narrowly won and Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than her opponent. Liberalism is neither as weak as it is now thought, nor as strong as it was once thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.