Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. The new cabinet: shuffling to the right (Guardian)

The reshuffle will stir searching questions for the dwindling band of progressives who have until now given this government the benefit of the doubt, says a Guardian editorial.

2. Mr Cameron throws down the gauntlet (Daily Mail)

The biggest question of all is how the new Tory team will fare against entrenched Lib Dem resistance, says a Daily Mail editorial.

3. Obstacles removed. Now get on and govern (Times) (£)

By moving a few big beasts and tweaking the lower ranks, Cameron has created a team more in his own image, writes Daniel Finkelstein.

4. What a reshuffle. It's the return of Brown and Blair (Guardian)

David Cameron can wail, but he is the real ditherer – ever more Tony Blair to George Osborne's Gordon Brown, says Simon Jenkins.

5. Belfast riots are price of poor politics (Independent)

Riots on the streets of Belfast look alarmingly like a return to the bad old days, says an Independent editorial.

6. Memo to ministers – ignore the briefing (Financial Times)

The newcomers need to take a calculated risk and settle on a main priority, writes James Purnell.

7. Hard graft can make Britain great again (Daily Telegraph)

We need to take a long, hard look at the policies that discourage the strivers in our society, says Dominic Raab.

8. Chancellors are supposed to be hated – it's part of their job (Independent)

The general squeeze will not relent, writes Hamish McRae. Finance ministers will be unpopular.

9. Merkel’s good politics and bad economics (Financial Times)

Draghi’s medicine may deliver short-term relief but no long-term cure, writes Josef Joffe.

10. Longer speeches only signal a hard slog ahead (Daily Telegraph)

The first day back at Holyrood suggests there's not much to look forward to this term, writes Alan Cochrane.

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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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