"House of Lords reform? Who gives a f***?"

Tory donors and activists give their verdict on the coalition.

In February, the Sunday Telegraph asked Tory donors, "big beasts" and young activists what they thought of the coalition, and of David Cameron's performance as prime minister. Now, as recess begins, they have returned to them - and thrown in the views of their opposite numbers in the Lib Dems too. 

The quotes firmly suggest that Tory donors don't feel the coalition is Tory enough; that it is pursuing all kinds of footling Lib Dem projects while the economy should be the focus. For example, here's Lord Harris of Peckham:

“I don’t think David Cameron is representing core Conservative voters or values — he’s a different generation to mine. I’m against gay marriage — may be it’s my age. And when our economy is faltering, I’d rather we didn’t spend hundreds of millions of pounds on [holding] an EU referendum.”

And here is the exquisitely forthright entrepreneur Hugh Osmond: 

"They need to be radical and pro-growth. And House of Lords reform? Who gives a f***? Get the economy growing at 2, 3, 4% a year then do stuff like that. Nick Clegg is a banana for getting involved with that stuff now.”

Meanwhile, the big preoccupation among the Liberal Democrats was how to disentangle the party from the Tories in voters' minds -- in time not to be wiped out at the next election. Lord Oakeshott wins runner-up prize in the colourful metaphor stakes with this:

"It will be far easier to get our Lib Dem message across at the next election if Lib Dem ministers are not still in Government playing the pantomime horse with their Conservative colleagues right up to polling day.”

You can read the full set of interviews here

David Cameron. Photo: Getty Images

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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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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