Conservative conference lookahead | 05 October 2011

The who, when and where of the Conservative conference.

Look out for:

Prime Minister David Cameron will address the Tory conference at 14:30. He will talk about the "anxious time", in which we find ourselves at present, but try to encourage voters by saying that the economy can still be lifted out of its current state.

Despite the job losses, high housing prices and austerity measures, he will say that British people should not be weighted down by "gloom and fear". Taking India and China as an example, Cameron will talk of finding the "Spirit of Britain", a home-grown formula for economic success.
"I am here to tell you that is not true. If we correct the mistakes and take on the vested interests of the past, I know we can turn this ship around," he will say.

The prime minister will speak of the need to deal with the European crisis and then dealing with the reduction of Britain's own deficit. As reported by the BBC, he will address the issue of the UK's deficit reduction by saying:

"This was no normal recession; we're in a debt crisis. It was caused by too much borrowing, by individuals, businesses, banks and - most of all - governments.

"The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households - all of us - paying off the credit card and store card bills."

In an uplifting note to end the party conference, Cameron will argue that the government will provide the people with strong leadership and that they continue their work to stabilise the country's economy. "Slowly, but surely", he will say, "we're laying the foundations for a better future".

Signs of Trouble

Cameron's speech will be an acknowledgement that the UK has not seen the end of the economic crisis. The instability in the Euro area requires the immediate attention of the European governments, as Greece's bailout is still being discussed and Italy's downgrading by the credit rating agency Moody's, has created further turmoil. The question that lies on everybody's lips is whether the Eurozone will survive in its current form and what knock-on effects there will be on the UK.

The prime minister's speech will also be overshadowed by a ComRes poll for ITV, shows that over half the voters described Cameron's leadership in economic matters and in his role in the Euro crisis as "fairly" or "very poor". Voter did however grade him positively on his statesman-like manner and his handling of the riots this summer.

Conference Timetable

10.00 - Policy forum
11.15 - Debate on defence and foreign policy with a speech by Defence Secretary Liam Fox
14.30 - Speech by Prime Minister David Cameron

Wikipedia.
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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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