The problem with Cameron's "global race": we're losing it

What the Tories' latest PPB didn't mention: the UK has grown at a slower rate than every G20 country except Italy and Japan.

As you might have noticed by now, David Cameron is keen to remind us that we're in a "global race". In the latest Conservative party political broadcast (Britain in the Global Race), the PM declares: "we're in a global race competing against these new rising countries in the south and the east of our world, China and India, now I want Britain to be a success story". 

But while Cameron's international perspective might be commendable, it's not clear that it's in his interests to adopt it. If we are in a "global race", it's one we're unambiguously losing. As an analysis of growth by the House of Commons library showed last month, Britain is at the bottom of the G20 league table, having grown by just 0.4 per cent since the 2010 Spending Review, a worse performance than every country except Japan and Italy. 

Worse, as the TUC's Duncan Weldon has shown, IMF data reveals that the UK is currently 158th out of 184 countries, with total growth in the last three years of just 2.2 per cent, compared to 8.4 per cent for Germany, 7.7 per cent for Canada, 6.5 per cent for the US, 6 per cent for Japan and 3.5 per cent for France. While Cameron sets his sights on India and China, we're lagging behind "sclerotic" Europe.

Fortunately for the PM, voters aren't in the habit of consulting IMF tables and, after years of Labour "profligacy", are largely resigned to austerity. Liam Byrne's famously unhelpful note to David Laws ("Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid there is no money left"), cited by Cameron at the start of the broadcast, remains the gift that keep giving. 

David Cameron speaks to youth during his visit to the Mercedes-Benz UK National Apprentice Academy in Milton Keynes. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.