David Cameron wants 2014 to be the year "Britain rises"

Answers on a postcard if you know what he's talking about.

David Cameron has delivered his New Year message, and with it a slogan we will no doubt be heartily sick of by February: Britain is on the rise. 

He writes in the Times that the "difficult decisions" he has taken since forming a government in 2010 are now beginning to pay off. "After three and a half years, it’s time for the next phase of that plan - 2014 is when we start to turn Britain into the flagship post-Great Recession success story. A country that is on the rise."

Later, he adds: "During the recession I insisted that we were all in it together. As we recover, let me be clear: we are still all in it together. The question now is how we move forward and make sure Britain and its people rise."

He then claims that Labour's policies - "more borrowing, more spending and more debt" - would be catastrophic (perhaps, following his earlier logic, people might sink? Perhaps Britain as a whole might sink?) and instead advocates a five-point plan.

1. Continuing to reduce the deficit, and "help keep mortgage bills low" - although how far he can control the latter, when the Bank of England sets interest rates, is questionable.

2. Continue cutting income tax, raise the personal allowance and freeze fuel duty. 

3. "Backing small business".

4. Capping welfare and controlling immigration.

5. A new national curriculum and a commitment to "deliver the best schools for every child".

Cameron concludes: "We’ve come a long way already. Let’s make 2014 the year when Britain really starts to rise."

The article distils the key messages we are likely to hear from the Tories until the next election: cautious optimism, budget responsibility, plus hard lines on immigration and welfare. As Mark Wallace writes at Conservative Home: "This article is the crib-sheet to [Cameron's] campaign plan – now we must see whether he sticks to it, and if it survives contact with events and the enemy."

Also noteworthy is the unsubtle dig at France in there - "If you doubt how disastrous a return to Labour-style economics would be, just look at countries that are currently following that approach. They face increasing unemployment, industrial stagnation and enterprise in free fall".

In recent days, Francois Hollande's flagship policy of a top tax rate of 75 per cent has been approved by France's highest court. This will no doubt lead to more protests from football clubs, showbusiness stars and business leaders in the coming months, although it has popular support. Hollande's personal polling is dire, so expect to see more attacks linking him and Miliband. 

David Cameron. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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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.