Iran and lazy journalism

Muddled Metro gets it wrong on nukes

Aidan Radnedge's cover story in Metro this morning is an abysmal piece of journalism -- if, indeed, it can be called journalism.

Headlined "We will rid world of nuclear arms" (sorry, there doesn't seem to be a link available for the piece on the Metro website) and focusing on the UN's "landmark pledge" to abolish nukes, his bizarre piece claims in its opening paragraph that the pledge was made "despite defiance from Iran and North Korea".

Really? Iran? Defiant on nuclear weapons? The Iranian regime is proudly, publicly and defiantly committed only to nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons. You could argue -- without a shred of evidence -- that the Iranians are secretly building a nuclear bomb, and should not therefore be trusted with a uranium enrichment programme, but you can't then pretend that they would be bragging about it at the United Nations. The reality is that as long ago as 2003 the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, proclaimed in a fatwa that "the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam" and that "the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons".

In the penultimate paragraph of the article, Radnedge chooses flatly to contradict his own inflammatory claim from the opening paragraph by actually quoting from the official Iranian statement at the UN yesterday: "Our commitment to non-proliferation remains intact."

Which is it, Aidan? Is (non-nuclear) Iran committed to "non-proliferation", or is it in "defiance"?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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