Anne McIntosh montage by Dan Murrell
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Commons confidential: Anne McIntosh’s big gamble

The dumped Tory MP for Thirsk is hosting a party in September in London’s Hippodrome Casino.

Scotland is already a separate country in the eyes of Qataris. On a trip to the natural-gas-powered Gulf monarchy to report on the exploitation of migrant workers mainly from developing countries such as India and Nepal, I spied a workforce listed at a construction site in the capital, Doha. Next to 80 workers named as being from the UK were three from Scotland.

Should the 2022 World Cup kick off in the conservative state, I’d advise female footie fans to pack a wedding certificate. In the Building and Wood Workers’ International delegation was Ellie Reeves. The Labour NEC member was stopped by a police officer as she strolled along the Corniche in the group. The copper demanded to know if she was married to any of the men present: three officials from the Ucatt construction union and the Labour MPs Stephen Hepburn and Chris Williamson. The union’s chief politico, Jim Kennedy, stepped forward to play the role of the gallant Sir Walter Raleigh by pretending that Reeves was his wife for the duration of the walk. Reeves, married to the MP John Cryer, is a feminist but recognised that argument is futile in a dictatorship if you want to catch a flight home later in the day. 

Keeps nasty company, David Cameron. It was brought to my attention that the PM rubbed shoulders with a Nazi apologist during a Brussels gathering of his party’s far-right allies. With the chief Con at the meeting of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group was the MEP Roberts Zile of Latvia’s For Fatherland and Freedom party, an organisation that every year honours Nazi SS veterans. I bet Cameron kept quiet about the association on his recent flying visit to Israel.

A Liberal Democrat leaflet popped through your correspondent’s letter box. It positioned Clegg’s Yellow Peril as the champion of “ordinary working people”. With Cameron’s Conservatives posing as representatives of “hard-working people”, is there a gap in the market for Miliband’s Labour? I’ve long felt “reluctantly working people” are ignored politically.

Is Anne McIntosh under starter’s orders to save her Thirsk seat? The dumped MP, deselected by a North Yorkshire hunting set rallying behind another Old Etonian chap, is hosting a party in September. The “save the date” invitation misdirected my way reveals that the venue is the Hippodrome Casino in London. The choice is peculiar for someone the Public Whip website judges is “against permissiveness” on gambling after a study of her voting record. Intriguing.

I hear there was a kerfuffle at the TUC women’s conference. The Ucatt political officer Kate Purcell was unceremoniously bundled out of the room after holding up a large, home-made message requesting that the chair, Prospect’s Sue Ferns, persuade her lecturer other half not to do a Tristram Hunt by crossing university picket lines. Nothing sisterly in the strong-arm reaction to the doughty Ms Purcell’s protest.

 

Editor's note: This column mistakenly referred to Jeremy Hunt crossing picket lines, this has been corrected to Tristram Hunt. (7th April 2014).

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 10 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Tech Issue

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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.