Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The humbling of David Cameron: This outbreak of petulance may cost the PM dearly (Independent)

The PM was stung into revealing a side of his personality that he has kept hidden, writes John Rentoul.

2. Simon Stevens, new head of NHS England, is in for a rude awakening (Guardian)

Under Labour, Stevens began the culture of competition in health, writes Polly Toynbee. He will now find out just how perverse this has become.

3. Why the BoE must gamble on growth (Financial Times)

The job of policy makers is to shift the economy on to a better path, writes Martin Wolf. This means taking risks.

4. The power companies are not the bad guys (Daily Telegraph)

Britain's 'energy debate' is populist nonsense - as are price freezes and windfall taxes, says Jeremy Warner.

5. Poorly executed and wrongly priced - the betrayal of the Royal Mail flotation (Daily Mail)

The government didn’t want a flop on its hands and allowed the offer to be 'priced to go', writes Alex Brummer. The misjudgement was huge.

6. If Britain leaves Europe, Scotland leaves Britain (Financial Times)

Scots who support the union will have second thoughts if England heads for the door, says Philip Stephens.

7. Nick Clegg is rejecting liberalism just as the Conservatives are embracing it (Daily Telegraph)

A new generation of voters is associating radical politics with the PM, not his deputy, says Fraser Nelson. 

8. Pain, passion and empathy – what I've learned about peacemaking (Guardian)

From Northern Ireland to the Middle East, to end long-running conflicts, mediators have to absorb the hurt of both sides, says Tony Blair.

9. Cop-cameras won’t rebuild trust in the police (Times)

Filming every encounter will make officers more defensive and members of the public less candid, writes Philip Collins. 

10. Owen Paterson: the minister for GM hype (Guardian)

The environment secretary's stance on GM food is grotesque, says Zac Goldsmith. It would be wicked not to question the industry's motives.

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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.