Drowning in an ocean of sleaze

Owen Walker rounds up blog reaction to the week's revelations of dodgy dealings in Westminster

As the parliamentary sleaze-fest continued, with Labour passing the baton to the Tories over monetary irregularities, the blogosphere was quick to pounce. Bloggers from all quarters united in their condemnation of the Derek Conway & Sons revelations.

But Iain Dale outlined his reasons for not commenting on the Conway affair, and received a barrage of rebuttals from posters and bloggers alike. He writes: “I have no hesitation in telling you that Derek Conway is a friend of mine. Anything I have to say about his conduct, I will say to his face.”

Labour stalwart Phil Dilks sees hypocrisy in Dale’s stance: “Only a few days ago, Iain was quite happy to personally lead ‘the baying mob’ attacking Peter Hain for late reporting of private donations to fund an internal Labour Party election.”

Dizzy Thinks warns the financial misdemeanours of both parties could have murkier permutations: “Parties like the BNP will use these incidents and point out that they are not tainted by such things. You may think that people won’t vote in droves for the bigots and that is probably true, but the more they see the non-bigots acting so appallingly the more they will ponder of spoiling their ballots or protesting.”

While Chris Paul seeks to dispel any comparisons made over sleaze between Labour and the Tories, Recess Monkey has dug up a three-year-old Daily Telegraph article on Conway Junior mk 2 and his extravagant taste in clothing. He concludes: “I can’t help feeling pity for the boy unable to buy £2,000 suits. Perhaps he should have asked his boss for a pay rise?”

Paul Walters highlights the lack of sleaze on the PMQ agenda over recent weeks, with Labour and the Conservatives avoiding the issue for fear of what skeletons may lurk within their own party’s cupboards: “The parliamentary equivalent of dancing round the handbags or ‘don’t mention the war’. The three party ‘beasts’ have bitten so many chunks out of each other than there is now an uneasy truce.”

Finally, Nich Starling reflects on the Conservatives’ former criticism of student grants because they saw students being subsidised to earn a higher income at tax payers’ expense. He comments: “It is perhaps a real throwback that Derek Conway also appears to me to see his parliamentary allowance as a means of subsiding students, even if they are his sons.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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No, Jeremy Corbyn did not refuse to condemn the IRA. Please stop saying he did

Guys, seriously.

Okay, I’ll bite. Someone’s gotta say it, so really might as well be me:

No, Jeremy Corbyn did not, this weekend, refuse to condemn the IRA. And no, his choice of words was not just “and all other forms of racism” all over again.

Can’t wait to read my mentions after this one.

Let’s take the two contentions there in order. The claim that Corbyn refused to condem the IRA relates to his appearance on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme yesterday. (For those who haven’t had the pleasure, it’s a weekly political programme, hosted by Sophy Ridge and broadcast on a Sunday. Don’t say I never teach you anything.)

Here’s how Sky’s website reported that interview:

 

The first paragraph of that story reads:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised after he refused five times to directly condemn the IRA in an interview with Sky News.

The funny thing is, though, that the third paragraph of that story is this:

He said: “I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”

Apparently Jeremy Corbyn has been so widely criticised for refusing to condemn the IRA that people didn’t notice the bit where he specifically said that he condemned the IRA.

Hasn’t he done this before, though? Corbyn’s inability to say he that opposed anti-semitism without appending “and all other forms of racism” was widely – and, to my mind, rightly – criticised. These were weasel words, people argued: an attempt to deflect from a narrow subject where the hard left has often been in the wrong, to a broader one where it wasn’t.

Well, that pissed me off too: an inability to say simply “I oppose anti-semitism” made it look like he did not really think anti-semitism was that big a problem, an impression not relieved by, well, take your pick.

But no, to my mind, this....

“I condemn all the bombing by both the loyalists and the IRA.”

...is, despite its obvious structural similarities, not the same thing.

That’s because the “all other forms of racism thing” is an attempt to distract by bringing in something un-related. It implies that you can’t possibly be soft on anti-semitism if you were tough on Islamophobia or apartheid, and experience shows that simply isn’t true.

But loyalist bombing were not unrelated to IRA ones: they’re very related indeed. There really were atrocities committed on both sides of the Troubles, and while the fatalities were not numerically balanced, neither were they orders of magnitude apart.

As a result, specifically condemning both sides as Corbyn did seems like an entirely reasonable position to take. Far creepier, indeed, is to minimise one set of atrocities to score political points about something else entirely.

The point I’m making here isn’t really about Corbyn at all. Historically, his position on Northern Ireland has been pro-Republican, rather than pro-peace, and I’d be lying if I said I was entirely comfortable with that.

No, the point I’m making is about the media, and its bias against Labour. Whatever he may have said in the past, whatever may be written on his heart, yesterday morning Jeremy Corbyn condemned IRA bombings. This was the correct thing to do. His words were nonetheless reported as “Jeremy Corbyn refuses to condemn IRA”.

I mean, I don’t generally hold with blaming the mainstream media for politicians’ failures, but it’s a bit rum isn’t it?

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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