Nick Clegg: Plan B "not a Plan B"

DPM denies priorities have changed.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Nick Clegg has signaled that the coalition government will take on board the criticisms of the IMF and launch a "massive" push for growth, but has denied that the plan is a "Plan B", "insisting," the FT report, "the coalition’s deficit reduction plan had earned Britain market credibility."

In the interview, Clegg said that the government's "absolute priority" was to use the government's position as the holder of extremely cheap funds to inject credit into the economy, "massively amplifying the principle of what we did on credit easing". This chimes perfectly with the IMF's advice to ease monetary policy, but there is less word from Clegg as to whether or not he will take up the recommendation to perform fiscally neutral "growth-friendly" policies of infrastructure spending.

The Deputy Prime Minister denies, however, that the plan is in response to the IMF, saying:

From the top of government, a few weeks ago we decided this was the route we’re going to take. That’s the instruction we’ve issued to the Treasury.

And rather than accepting the accusation that the UK's switch from deficit reduction at all costs to a slower paced plan involving, in the Prime Minster's words, "radical" monetary policy and some fiscal looseness represents a Plan B (which George Osborne famously said didn't exist), Clegg instead seems to claiming that the prior tough talk was all an act. Apparently the coalition had no choice but to set out:

In very lurid terms the state of the emergency we were facing... That kind of language over a prolonged period of time can have a dampening effect on mood, which is very important in an economy.

Language or not, Plan B or not, something has definitely changed.

Nick Clegg speaks as David Cameron looks on. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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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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