Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The all-powerful press baron is just a myth (Times) (£)

If the Machiavellian figure being hunted at the Leveson Inquiry ever existed he belongs to a long-gone era, says Philip Collins.

2. Leveson inquiry: after Murdoch, the trail leads to Downing Street (Guardian)

This week Leveson moved into its final and most dramatic act. Ian Katz says that the focus will soon be on No 10.

3. Just another businessman playing the power game (Financial Times)

Politicians come and go, but Murdoch represents long-lived, market-tested institutional power, says Philip Delves Broughton.

4. Murdoch and the Cameron entourage: a shameful tale laid out for all to see (Guardian)

If you think this is a navel-gazing media story, here's a reminder of what the Tories were about to unleash on the country, says Polly Toynbee.

5. Stand up, Tories, and embrace your poshness (Times) (£)

Being ‘privileged’ always seems to mean ‘out of touch’. Far from it, says Hugo Rifkind: it often means you have wider experience.

6. Rise of Europe's far right cannot be explained by recession alone (Independent)

Adrian Hamilton argues that Le Pen's success in France is based on the language of the outsider.

7. Now Charles Taylor has gone, Sierra Leone is on the rise (Guardian)

The nation has been booming since the civil war ended. Now his conviction offers the hope of political maturity too, says Aminatta Forna.

8. Welcome to tricolour Britain, a country divided along party lines (Daily Telegraph)

Fraser Nelson says that a political landscape is emerging in which no one can lay claim to nationwide appeal.

9. The great middle class power grab (Financial Times)

Even the most conservative assumptions point to an irrevocable redistribution of economic power, says Philip Stephens.

10. The Children of Fallujah - the hospital of horrors (Independent)

Robert Fisk asks what lies behind the stillbirths, disabilities, and deformities too distressing to describe that he sees at Fallujah hospital, Baghdad.
 

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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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