Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Coming through... the arrogance of power (Telegraph)
Andrew Mitchell can apologise all he wants, but he's done his bit to retoxify the Tory brand, says Matthew Norman 

2. It's the whale in the paddling pool of politics (Times £)
Party funding is a plague on us all, says Matthew Parris

3. Tory posh boys who think they're born to rule (Daily Mail)
You see the true character of a politician when they think they're off camera, says Amanda Platell

4. The real Mitt Romney is instensely relaxed among the filthy rich (Guardian)
Wanting politicians to drop the artifice and tell it to us straight is all very well, but we may not like what we hear, says Jonathan Freedland

5. The last thing the Church of England needs is a pleasant middle manager (Telegraph)
The next Archbishop of Canterbury must connect with all of Britain's people, says Charles Moore

6. Paul Burstow is not just a miffed ex-minister (Daily Mail)
He's right that social care needs reform, says Dominique Jackson

7. Morally repugnant tax avoiders can rest easy under Cameron (Guardian)
Moving from tax haven to tax haven is called success, says Tany Gold 

8. I'm not sorry for saying sorry (Independent)
The Lib Dem leader faces a difficult conference, says Andrew Grice 

9. Is the modern military really scared of a baby? (Times £)
The army should get its head out of the desert sand, says Janice Turner

10. When a sacred text is the word of man (Independent)
Christians are able to accept the reinterpretations of Jesus, says Selina O'Grady

Morning Call
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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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