"Is he the stripper?" Photo: Getty
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Partying with Paddy Ashdown, Ed's Labour HQ rules, and a literally rubbish Tory

Plus young Tory exploits with the Northern Ireland Secretary's red box.

One suspects that Theresa Villiers will be unhappy to discover what a bunch of Tory youths did with one of her ministerial red boxes. Come to think of it, the Northern Ireland Secretary might be in trouble, too – aren’t ministers supposed to take care of them? A snout whispered that a mob from the youth group Conservative Future found the box at Villiers’s Chipping Barnet Conservative Association offices following a talk by Peter Lilley MP. Unable to open the case, the excitable Boris minors took it to the nearby Ye Olde Monken Holt pub and posed for photographs on social media before thinking better of it and deleting the snaps. My informant saw one picture of a young Tory holding the box aloft. The next generation of Cons is as stupidly arrogant as the old.

 

Nick Clegg’s election chief, Paddy Ashdown, revels in his Action Man image but the former Royal Marine met his match on a train to London after the 2 April TV debate. Outgunned and outnumbered, the Lib Dem peer was forced to surrender to a Yorkshire hen party in fancy dress. On this occasion, a radar-lugged snout was settling down to hear Ashdown discussing campaign strategy on his phone when the carriage filled up with shrieking lasses. Captain Paddy hastily terminated the call with a giggly: “Save me! Save me!”
 

“Get it sorted!” is Ed Miliband’s most used phrase when on visits to Labour Party HQ on Brewer’s Green, barely a shout away from Westminster. Staff are instructed to keep his battle bus stocked with Pret A Manger sandwiches. You can take the socialist out of Hampstead . . . I’m told his favourite is the BLT. There’s a “no photos” edict.
 

Back on the train, Captain Paddy looked on open-mouthed as the Yorkshire hen party drank Cava for breakfast and noisily told lewd stories. “Just imagine what they’ll be like by the time they get to London,” a rueful Ashdown muttered to his companion. “This is going to be the journey from hell.”
 

The Tory wannabe and barrister Anna Firth isn’t the sharpest tool in the election campaign kit. Decamping to Labour-held Erith and Thamesmead after failing to secure her party’s nomination for the November 2014 Rochester by-election, Firth has made litter her big issue. She posted fewer pictures of rubbish, though, after rivals noted that most were taken in the constituency’s Bexley wards – where Tories run the council and are responsible for street cleaning.

One of the hens eventually recognised Ashdown. A glass of Cava was thrust into his hand. Selfies were taken. “Is he the stripper?” one asked. Cue more cheering. Paddy Pantsdown kept his trousers on. He looked terrified.

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 09 April 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Anniversary Issue 2015

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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.