Some lost by a lot more. Photo: Getty Images
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I lost to the Conservatives by just 378 votes. Here's what I've learned

Labour didn't have enough to say to businesses, or enough for people on long hours not zero hours. That must never happen again. 

In the month since I lost by 378 votes in Bury North, I’ve spent my time throwing my arms round my family and throwing myself back into my business. 

Defeat, like success, rarely happens overnight. Labour’s explosive loss last month can’t be put down to just one thing or person. One focus since the defeat has rightly been to ask why we appeared to be anti business and said so little on new jobs and job creation. As a Labour businessman myself, I ask, why aren’t we a party with a deference to business? Not just education, but business and starting up in business, should be our vehicle for social mobility. For it is. We need more employers, risk takers and entrepreneurs. Labour needs them and our country needs more of them.  Where the risk in an idea is embraced, an entrepreneur commits their idea to the economy, employs themselves with others and sets to the task of succeeding. Their business, good business, for and with others. Their contribution to the economic wealth of the whole country with a well run company, making money, growing employment, providing social mobility, paying for public services and increasing repeat opportunities for themselves and others.

Social mobility is not just being about equal opportunity but a second opportunity. Everyone having repeat access to opportunity. Much is made of mobility through good education, the arts and relationships with our fellow citizens but good business and sound employment promotes social mobility and makes it possible. Labour should redefine its support for business with a belief in the transformative impact that good business can have on an individual’s social mobility, providing repeat opportunity across society and increasing economic freedoms.

Labour’s political direction said very little about the future economy we’d help create, nothing of the new jobs, or the fresh ideas to deliver the greater equality we demand. On jobs, we’d change minimum wages, laws and taxes but said nothing of our design for decent jobs with an investment and understanding in private job creation. Job creation is not about outsourcing the risk of public services to the private sector either - as the Tories believe. Its about a vision, a white heat revolution in pursuit of better and new. This is as much about about how our universities and technical sectors work with our science industries as it is improving the access for small business to the supply chains of big business. It is especially about helping more of the trigger moments to happen in a small company when they decide they can commit to a new member of the team and another draw on the payroll. 

After some excellent work in government a decade ago, we forgot about skills, and said nothing on future high growth sectors that a Labour government would help bring to their tipping points, back up or spread. These sectors include high tech, creative and green industries along with a a deep commitment to help start ups of all kinds with an approach that helps share the risk of setting up your own business, encourages it, and not just stake claims on successes through taxation.

A prospective Labour government can play a vital role in ensuring the best of British business and new ideas for a fresh economy and greater equality. The model of successful growth funding successful public services is not broken, its just too narrow. So let’s outline a clear, enabling, pro business argument as the prospective government. Articulate a plan that addresses; the needs of priority sectors, talent supply chains for growth industries, offers incentives, shares risk, identifies regional priorities, considers the distribution of industry, improves small business lending, help start ups and their cash flow, and above all show we’ve a deep commitment to business growth and new jobs. In doing so we have a chance to move away from an all too often tendency to present to the wider public as judgemental of success.

At this election, our proposition was all opposition. We spoke of all we’d stop and little of what we’d do. Our offer was a complaint.  We spoke to those in need of a Labour government and said little to appeal to those who might be persuaded to want one. We rightly spoke of zero hours and wrongly said nothing to those working long hours. So as we jostle and jockey for a way ahead let’s make sure, well before next time, that we show we have the interests not just of those in need of a payday but those responsible for making payroll. 

Let’s appeal to those who know the humility and pride of what employing people feels like, creating opportunities for work, looking after a team, developing their talents and raising the bar on the best of British business. Small firms do far more every day to keep people gainfully employed, paying taxes and contributing to our economy, than any professional politician might. Let’s grasp the risk and reward deal of private enterprise, harness it and help spread it as an evangelical, pro worker, business believing, Labour party. And commit to fairness and fortune.

James Frith was Labour's candidate in Bury North. He owns a small business, and tweets as @JamesFrith.

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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.