Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. China’s great leap forward hits the wall (Daily Telegraph)

This was supposed to be the Asian century, but the eastern boom is dying of exhaustion, writes Jeremy Warner.

2. Clegg is set to be kingmaker again in 2015 (Times)

The pundits are wrong about the Lib Dem leader, says John Kampfner. He is open to doing a deal with Miliband.

3. Boris wasn’t joking – work is becoming a woman’s world (Daily Telegraph)

Sexual inequality has reversed: fewer boys go to university, get a good job or earn as much, says Fraser Nelson.

4. The imperative that keeps the US in Asia (Financial Times)

By leaving, Washington would invite chaos; by staying it provokes Chinese resentment, says Philip Stephens.

5. Sorting the System (Times)

The IPSA proposals for MPs’ pay need to be protected from attempts to regain political control, says a Times editorial.

6. The Archbishop of Canterbury must wean the Church off its benefit addiction (Daily Telegraph)

Justin Welby understands that welfare benefits do not fix everything, writes Isabel Hardman. Now he needs to educate the Church of England.

7. UK's finest asset, the NHS, is in sick hands (Daily Mirror)

Jeremy Hunt’s advisers found time to give Murdoch market-sensitive information but not to tell an MP her local A&E was being closed, writes Andy Burnham. 

8. My cohabiting generation has not fallen out of love with marriage just yet (Guardian)

Some of us are quite happy to commit, but others can't afford a wedding or would actually prefer a heterosexual civil partnership, says Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett.

9. Russia can’t be allowed to get away with the Magnitsky case (Independent)

The style of "justice" disposed under Putin is becoming more and more baroque, but even next to Litvinenko and Khodorkovsky, the Magnitsky case stands out, writes Peter Popham. 

10. Who let this Gulf on Thames scar London's Southbank? Mayor Boris (Guardian)

Boris Johnson pledged to control the vulgarity of bigness, writes Simon Jenkins. But his city is alone in Europe in its slavery to 'anything goes'.

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Owen Smith is naïve if he thinks misogynist abuse in Labour started with Jeremy Corbyn

“We didn’t have this sort of abuse before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Owen Smith, the MP challenging Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, has told BBC News that the party’s nastier side is a result of its leader.

He said:

“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.

“It’s now become something that is being talked about on television, on radio, and in newspapers. And Angela is right, it has been effectively licenced within the last nine months.

“We’re the Labour party. We’ve got to be about fairness, and tolerance, and equality. It’s in our DNA. So for us to be reduced to this infighting is awful. Now, I understand why people feel passionately about the future of our party – I feel passionately about that. I feel we’re in danger of splitting and being destroyed.

“But we can’t tolerate it. And it isn’t good enough for Jeremy simply to say he has threats too. Well, I’ve had death threats, I’ve had threats too, but I’m telling him, it’s got to be stamped out. We’ve got to have zero tolerance of this in the Labour party.”

While Smith’s conclusion is correct, his analysis is worryingly wrong.

Whether it is out of incompetence or an unwillingness to see the extent of the situation, Corbyn has done very little to stamp out abuse in his party, which has thus been allowed to escalate. It is fair enough of Smith to criticise him for his failure to stem the flow and punish the perpetrators.

It is also reasonable to condemn Corbyn's inability to stop allies like Chancellor John McDonnell and Unite leader Len McCluskey using violent language (“lynch mob”, “fucking useless”, etc) about their opponents, which feeds into the aggressive atmosphere. Though, as I’ve written before, Labour politicians on all sides have a duty to watch their words.

But it’s when we see how Smith came to the point of urging Corbyn to take more responsibility that we should worry. Smith confidently argues that there wasn’t “this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism” in the party before Corbyn was voted in. (I assume when he says “this sort”, he means online, death threats, letters, and abuse at protests. The sort that has been high-profile recently).

This is naïve. Anyone involved in Labour politics – or anything close to it – for longer than Corbyn’s leadership could tell Smith that misogyny and antisemitism have been around for a pretty long time. Perhaps because Smith isn’t the prime target, he hasn’t been paying close enough attention. Sexism wasn’t just invented nine months ago, and we shouldn’t let the belief set in that it did – then it simply becomes a useful tool for Corbyn’s detractors to bash him with, rather than a longstanding, structural problem to solve.

Smith's lament that “it’s now become something that is being talked about” is also jarring. Isnt it a good thing that such abuse is now being called out so publicly, and closely scrutinised by the media?

In my eyes, this is a bit like the argument that Corbyn has lost Labour’s heartlands. No, he hasn’t. They have been slowly slipping away for years – and we all noticed when Labour took a beating in the last general election (way before Corbyn had anything to do with the Labour leadership). As with the abuse, Corbyn hasn’t done much to address this, and his inaction has therefore exacerbated it. But if we tell ourselves that it started with him, then we’re grasping for a very, very simple solution (remove Corbyn = automatic win in the North, and immediate erasure of misogyny and antisemitism) to a problem we have catastrophically failed to analyse.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.