Labour MP tells Louise Mensch: "a good wife doesn't disagree with her master"

A nasty slice of sexism from Labour MP Austin Mitchell.

Louise Mensch was embarrassed yesterday when her husband, rock manager Peter Mensch, suggested in an interview with the Sunday Times (£) that she resigned as MP for Corby because she feared she would lose her seat at the next election. He told the paper: "She thought - and I wasn’t going to argue with her - that she’d get killed in the next election. So, to her, it seemed much more short-term than my job as a manager, which is going to go on for another 20 years. And listen, they hadn’t promoted her yet, and it’s not like she thought she had a future because perhaps she felt she was too outspoken."

In response, his wife took to Twitter to set the record straight. She tweeted: "Nothing, repeat nothing, influenced decision to resign other than inability to hold family life together away from him. Can honestly say I had no fear whatsoever of defeat at next election since had already decided not to stand again."

Whether or not one accepts her version of events, few will feel sympathy with the response of Labour MP Austin Mitchell. He tweeted this morning:

Shut up Menschkin. A good wife doesn't disagree with her master in public and a good little girl doesn't lie about why she quit politics.

Were a Tory MP to serve up sexism in this manner, Labour would immediately demand an apology. Let’s hope the party is no softer on Mitchell.

Update: With grim inevitability, Mitchell has responded by claiming that he was being ironic. He tweeted:

Calm down dears.Irony may be a low form of wit but it's clearly above my level.And yours.So my wife has banned me from tweeting today.

Given that Mitchell isn't a renowed defender of women's rights, it's hard to identify the "irony" he refers to. And there's no sign of an apology.

Update 2: Labour has now responded to Mitchell's tweet. A party source told The Staggers:

Austin Mitchell has made clear the tweet was a joke not a serious comment. It’s not funny, understandable that people find it offensive, and it is not the view of the Labour Party.

Louise Mensch, who stepped down as the Conservative MP for Corby earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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The future of policing is still at risk even after George Osborne's U-Turn

The police have avoided the worst, but crime is changing and they cannot stand still. 

We will have to wait for the unofficial briefings and the ministerial memoirs to understand what role the tragic events in Paris had on the Chancellor’s decision to sustain the police budget in cash terms and increase it overall by the end of the parliament.  Higher projected tax revenues gave the Chancellor a surprising degree of fiscal flexibility, but the atrocities in Paris certainly pushed questions of policing and security to the top of the political agenda. For a police service expecting anything from a 20 to a 30 per cent cut in funding, fears reinforced by the apparent hard line the Chancellor took over the weekend, this reprieve is an almighty relief.  

So, what was announced?  The overall police budget will be protected in real terms (£900 million more in cash terms) up to 2019/20 with the following important caveats.  First, central government grant to forces will be reduced in cash terms by 2019/20, but forces will be able to bid into a new transformation fund designed to finance moves such as greater collaboration between forces.  In other words there is a cash frozen budget (given important assumptions about council tax) eaten away by inflation and therefore requiring further efficiencies and service redesign.

Second, the flat cash budget for forces assumes increases in the police element of the council tax. Here, there is an interesting new flexibility for Police and Crime Commissioners.  One interpretation is that instead of precept increases being capped at 2%, they will be capped at £12 million, although we need further detail to be certain.  This may mean that forces which currently raise relatively small cash amounts from their precept will be able to raise considerably more if Police and Crime Commissioners have the courage to put up taxes.  

With those caveats, however, this is clearly a much better deal for policing than most commentators (myself included) predicted.  There will be less pressure to reduce officer numbers. Neighbourhood policing, previously under real threat, is likely to remain an important component of the policing model in England and Wales.  This is good news.

However, the police service should not use this financial reprieve as an excuse to duck important reforms.  The reforms that the police have already planned should continue, with any savings reinvested in an improved and more effective service.

It would be a retrograde step for candidates in the 2016 PCC elections to start pledging (as I am certain many will) to ‘protect officer numbers’.  We still need to rebalance the police workforce.   We need more staff with the kind of digital skills required to tackle cybercrime.  We need more crime analysts to help deploy police resources more effectively.  Blanket commitments to maintain officer numbers will get in the way of important reforms.

The argument for inter-force collaboration and, indeed, force mergers does not go away. The new top sliced transformation fund is designed in part to facilitate collaboration, but the fact remains that a 43 force structure no longer makes sense in operational or financial terms.

The police still have to adapt to a changing world. Falling levels of traditional crime and the explosion in online crime, particularly fraud and hacking, means we need an entirely different kind of police service.  Many of the pressures the police experience from non-crime demand will not go away. Big cuts to local government funding and the wider criminal justice system mean we need to reorganise the public service frontline to deal with problems such as high reoffending rates, child safeguarding and rising levels of mental illness.

Before yesterday I thought policing faced an existential moment and I stand by that. While the service has now secured significant financial breathing space, it still needs to adapt to an increasingly complex world. 

Rick Muir is director of the Police Foundation