Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. HS2 must terminate here. All change, please (Times)

I can no longer back high-speed rail, writes Alistair Darling. There are better ways to spend £50bn than on one line.

2. Ed, don’t listen to the advice – shouting louder won’t help you (Independent)

Miliband is not currently in a strong enough position to spell out his plans, says Steve Richards.

3. The financial crisis that refuses to go away (Daily Telegraph)

Emerging markets such as Brazil, India and Turkey have an outbreak of the jitters, and it’s hard to see a happy outcome, writes Jeremy Warner.

4. It's right to worry about security, but sometimes data trawls can be useful (Guardian)

For once the government has got something right – the NHS's electronic surveys could be more effective than randomised control trials, says Polly Toynbee.

5. India needs fixing – financially and morally (Independent)

The country's most famous economists, Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati, have different solutions, writes Peter Popham. But both ignore one key problem.

6. Will people really stay married for £150 a year? (Times)

If Conservatives are serious about protecting the family it would make more sense to tighten up divorce laws, says Philip Collins. 

7. Why Ed Miliband will be Britain's next prime minister (Guardian)

The Labour leader understands the nature of the UK's economic problems, write John Denham and Peter Hain. With the support of his colleagues, he will win in 2015.

8. Wilberforce’s heirs are ready to tackle the great evil of the age (Daily Telegraph)

Britain helped stamp out slavery once – now Theresa May is trying to do the same again, says Fraser Nelson.

9.  Syria: chemical weapons with impunity (Guardian)

The options for response are all bad, and it is doubtful whether airstrikes would establish deterrence, says a Guardian editorial.

10. Productivity is not everything (Financial Times)

There is nothing wrong with the US economy a measure of redistribution would not put right, writes Samuel Brittan.

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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.