Lib Dem U-turn, number 774

Vince Cable says he WILL vote for tuition fee rise.

Obviously I have a duty as a minister to vote for my own policy – and that is what will happen.

* Vince Cable speaking to his local paper yesterday

We want to support each other, we try to agree these things as a group as other parties do. But as I say, my position is somewhat different, but I'm willing to go along with my colleagues.

* Vince Cable speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday

UPDATE:

Cable's confusion over his position on tuition fees is worse than I thought. The Telegraph notes:

He then later rowed back from his comments when asked about them in an interview with a student radio station.

Challenged over his newspaper interview, the Business Secretary said: "I didn't announce anything. I think there might have been some slight misunderstanding.

"What I did try to explain was that the Liberal Democrats as a parliamentary party will be deciding as a group how they will vote on Thursday and I would imagine that in the next few days there will be clarity on that issue."

Yes, Vince, some "clarity" would be great. I bumped into a Lib Dem minister the other night who told me: "We've made up our minds on how we're going to vote [on tuition fees]. We're just not going to tell you."

Peter Hoskin over at the Spectator's Coffee House blog writes:

To my mind, the most likely outcome – and one mooted in the papers today – is a three-way split. That is: Lib Dem ministers voting for the government's policy; most Lib Dem backbenchers abstaining as per the coalition agreement; and a handful of disgruntled Charles Kennedy types voting against it.

On Cable, he points out: "From proposing a graduate tax to backing down from it, from abstaining on tuition fees to voting for them, the Business Secretary has hardly been a model of consistency."

On a related note, Left Foot Forward has the classic video, from Thursday night's Question Time, of the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, squirming over the tuition fees issue and evading, again and again, the question of how he plans to vote.

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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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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