Boris wouldn't have been elected mayor under his 50% strike turnout rule

The mayor wants strikes to be banned unless 50 per cent of staff vote, but turnout in the 2012 mayoral election was just 38 per cent.

Ahead of this week's anticipated tube strike by the RMT and the TSSA, Boris Johnson has used his Telegraph column to once again call for the coalition to introduce a 50 per cent turnout threshold for industrial action (turnout was 30 per cent in the most recent RMT ballot). He writes: "We need a ballot threshold – so that at least 50 per cent of the relevant workforce has to take the trouble to vote, or else the ballot is void. That is surely the least we can ask. It is time for the Government to legislate."

It's an idea that Boris has been championing for years, without success (and what happened to his promise of a "no-strike deal"?), but it appears increasingly that it will be included in the next Conservative manifesto. He told the Times last month: "This is something I wanted the coalition to do from the very beginning. We haven’t been able to do that and I’m reconciled to that now. Maybe it will be in our manifesto. I think it would be good if Dave put it in. I think there’s a good chance he will." Since it's Boris's brother, Jo, who will be responsible for much of the manifesto (he chairs the No. 10 policy board), the Mayor can be assumed to speak with some authority on this matter. 

On the subject of a 50 per cent threshold, it's worth noting one inconvenient truth for the Mayor: he wouldn't have been elected (or re-elected) under his own rule. In 2008, turnout in the London mayoral election was 45 per cent, before falling to 38 per cent in 2012. If Boris wants to lecture others on this point, he might want to consider the weakness of his own mandate first. 

Boris Johnson travels on the London Underground in May 2012. 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.