Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham with Ed Miliband in 2010. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Burnham set to win further support among Miliband allies

Lucy Powell and Neil Kinnock expected to endorse Labour leadership frontrunner. 

As Ed Miliband's allies recover from the disappointment of his failure to become prime minister, they are throwing their support behind Andy Burnham as the best candidate to succeed him as leader. Lucy Powell, Miliband's former deputy chief of staff, who served as vice chair of Labour's election campaign, will endorse him, according to sources. Neil Kinnock, who backed Miliband in 2010, is also expected to support Burnham. The former Labour leader patted the shadow health secretary on the back and spoke warmly to him outside Monday night's PLP meeting.

Burnham has already won the support of Rachel Reeves, Owen Smith, Luciana Berger and Ian Lavery, who endorsed Miliband in 2010, and is in line to win the Unite nomination (as Miliband did). It is partly this crossover of support that has led some in the party to describe Burnham as a "prettier Miliband". But the shadow health secretary has sought to dispel this impression by rejecting the mansion tax as "symbolism" and "the politics of envy", and by arguing that Labour should have run a budget surplus before the financial crash. One member of the Miliband circle who is not backing Burnham, however, is Jon Trickett. The shadow cabinet member, who was a senior adviser to the former Labour leader, told me that he still wanted to see a "left candidate" make the ballot. 

Meanwhile, having returned from his holiday in Ibiza, I'm told that Miliband has been advising MPs on the lessons to learn from the defeat. The former leader has told colleagues not to listen to figures such as Peter Mandelson and not to turn rightwards, according to sources. "He's not staying out of it," one Labour insider told me (although the former leader will not be endorsing a candidate). Miliband is said to have emphasised that his party lost due to the failure of millions of notional supporters to turn out. The pollster Ipsos MORI has used the term "lazy Labour" to the describe the 2.9 million who supported the party in pre-election polling but did not go on to vote. Left-wingers have argued that this demonstrates the need for a more radical offer to enthuse this group, rather than a more moderate pitch aimed at winning over Conservative voters. 

Update: A friend of Ed Miliband said: "Ed will keep his counsel for the moment. He will spend some time with his family. He is very unlikely to say anything while there is a leadership election taking place." 

Now listen to George discussing the Labour leadership contest on the NS podcast:

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Ann Summers can’t claim to empower women when it is teaming up with Pornhub

This is not about mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

I can’t understand why erotic retailers like Ann Summers have persisted into the twenty-first century. The store claims to be “sexy, daring, provocative and naughty”, and somewhat predictably positions itself as empowering for women. As a feminist of the unfashionable type, I can’t help but be suspicious of any form of sexual liberation that can be bought or sold.

And yet, I’d never really thought of Ann Summers as being particularly threatening to the rights of women, more just a faintly depressing reflection of heteronormativity. This changed when I saw they’d teamed-up with Pornhub. The website is reputedly the largest purveyor of online pornography in the world. Pornhub guidelines state that content flagged as  “illegal, unlawful, harassing, harmful, offensive” will be removed. Nonetheless, the site still contains simulated incest and rape with some of the more easily published film titles including “Exploited Teen Asia” (236 million views) and “How to sexually harass your secretary properly” (10.5 million views.)  With campaigns such as #metoo and #timesup are sweeping social media, it seems bizarre that a high street brand would not consider Pornhub merchandise as toxic.

Society is still bound by taboos: our hyper-sexual society glossy magazines like Teen Vogue offer girls tips on receiving anal sex, while advice on pleasuring women is notably rare. As an unabashed wanker, I find it baffling that in the year that largely female audiences queued to watch Fifty Shades Darker, a survey revealed that 20 per cent of U.S. women have never masturbated. It is an odd truth that in our apparently open society, any criticism of pornography or sexual practices is shut down as illiberal. 

Guardian-reading men who wring their hands about Fair Trade coffee will passionately defend the right to view women being abused on film. Conservative men who make claims about morals and marriage are aroused by images that in any other setting would be considered abuse. Pornography is not only misogynistic, but the tropes and language are often also racist. In what other context would racist slurs and scenarios be acceptable?

I have no doubt that some reading this will be burning to point out that feminist pornography exists. In name of course it does, but then again, Theresa May calls herself a feminist when it suits. Whether you believe feminist pornography is either possible or desirable, it is worth remembering that what is marketed as such comprises a tiny portion of the market. This won’t make me popular, but it is worth remembering feminism is not about celebrating every choice a woman makes – it is about analysing the social context in which choices are made. Furthermore, that some women also watch porn is evidence of how patriarchy shapes our desire, not that pornography is woman-friendly.  

Ann Summers parts the net curtains of nation’s suburban bedrooms and offers a glimpse into our peccadillos and preferences. That a mainstream high street retailer blithely offers guidance on hair-pulling, whipping and clamps, as well as a full range of Pornhub branded products is disturbing. This is not about women’s empowerment or mutual sexual fulfilment, it is about eroticising women’s pain. 

We are living in a world saturated with images of women and girls suffering; to pretend that there is no connection between pornography and the four-in-ten teenage girls who say they have been coerced into sex acts is naive in the extreme. For too long the state claimed that violence in the home was a domestic matter. Women and girls are now facing an epidemic of sexual violence behind bedroom doors and it is not a private matter. We need to ask ourselves which matters more: the sexual rights of men or the human rights of women?