Helen Goodman MP. Photo: Channel 5
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Labour MP slammed for "sexist" Tweet about female Tory ministers

Helen Goodman upbraided for declaring Tory women promoted to the government this week "puppets".

Labour politician Helen Goodman has come under fire for a "sexist" attack on the female Tory MPs newly promoted to the Cabinet.

The shadow minister for media gave her backing to a widely derided Daily Mail spread that focused on the clothing and appearance of the women appointed to the government in this week's reshuffle.

Referencing the article about the "battle of the Downing St catwalk", she tweeted:

Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland in County Durham, has since apologised and deleted the Tweet:

Her initial sentiments have provoked outrage in Westminster and on social media, however.

Deputy chair of the Conservative party Sarah Newton has written to Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman this afternoon demanding disciplinary action against Goodman by Labour. She wrote:

This disgraceful and demeaning slur damages not only those Conservative MPs referred to, but all women in politics.

Ms Goodman is a member of your Shadow Ministerial team. It is therefore incumbent upon you either to condemn her remarks, or pass the matter to Ed Miliband to take disciplinary action.

Ms Goodman must make a full and personal apology to all those Conservative MPs that she smeared, and both you and Ed Miliband must make clear that her comment was utterly unacceptable.

Given that you have devoted much of your political career to advancing the cause of women in public life, it will be deeply disappointing if you ignore Ms Goodman’s repulsive remarks.

Conservative minister for women Nicky Morgan said it showed that Labour is "weak" that "it took two hours for her to delete her comments and no proper apology has been made."

Anna Soubry, another Tory MP, added that the comment was "deliberately insulting".

Members of the public have also rebuked Goodman for her words. One man tweeted:

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.


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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.