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.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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