Opinionomics: Cream of the commentators

The best of the blogs and op-eds from this morning and last night

1. Will there be a British Business Bank? (BBC)

Following the leak of Vince Cable's letter to the Chancellor, and the Treasury acknowledging that he was overruled, Robert Peston asks, "what is the state of play on the government's ambition to correct the perceived lack of credit for small and medium-sized businesses?"

2. Recalculating Romney’s Four Percent Gimmick (The Cato Institute)

Christopher Preble takes a look, from a hard-libertarian angle, at Mitt Romney's promise to spend 4 per cent of GDP on the military.

3. Can Matter succeed? (Reuters)

Felix Salmond looks at innovative new journalism startup Matter, and debates whether or not it has a chance.

4. Knights, damsels, and tax-advantaged debt buybacks (FT alphaville)

Lisa Pollack explains exactly what the dodgy tax deal that sparked Barclay's wrist-slapping from HMRC involved, saying, "It’s as if the Knights dressed up as Damsels and rescued themselves."

5. Scale models (Free Exchange)

The Economist explains the importance of transport costs and returns to scale in looking at where future economic activity is likely to end up.

Vince Cable arrives for a cabinet meeting. Credit: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.