Commons confidential

Miliband loses the X factor

The mystery of who will head Labour's election campaign has been solved by Gordon Brown's conduct in private sessions. A snout muttered that Broon bestowed control on the assassin-turned-praetorian Lord Mandelson by opening the inaugural gathering with: "Right, Peter, what's our strategy?" Lord Mandy of Epithets has more titles than the darts champ Phil "The Power" Taylor, but I hear he fancies another bauble to announce his campaign status.

Dome-headed Eric Pickles is known to Cameroon Doctor Who fans as "the Sontaran". Disloyal Tories wonder if their chairman and the stocky humanoids were separated at birth. A Sontaran's weakness is a "probic vent" on the back of the neck; Pickles's weakness is meat pies. Dave's pet northerner is still the shadow cabinet's undisputed heavyweight after his latest diet ended like all the rest -- in failure.

Are the whips going soft? The Rasputin-like Nick "Newcastle" Brown recently allowed Labour bruisers to hold a charity cake sale in the party's Lubyanka. Jokes were being made about the MP for Eccles and about the Tory John Butterfill, until in wandered the West Midlands whip John Spellar. Spellar, who sees the dark cloud in every silver lining, declared that the office was supposed to cook votes, not sell cakes.

Zac Goldsmith, Tory playboy, has hired the PR manager Ian Monk (whose clients include the Band of the Coldstream Guards) to salvage his election attempt. After his tax-dodging revelations, Goldenboy may need the marines to win the seat in Richmond Park.

David Miliband, the MP for South Shields, has lost the X factor. The Foreign Secretary refused to add his name to a motion hailing the local hero Joe McElderry's singing success. Milibanana said constitutional convention dictates that very important ministers don't sign Commons motions. But Westminster's inner workings went over constituents' heads. At a Tyneside hostelry, one disgruntled drinker accused the MP of a heinous Geordie crime: favouring Strictly over X Factor.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to the carrot-crunching farming minister Jim Fitzpatrick, who has undergone a face operation. An unkind colleague opined that the veggie was lucky to have a spare, having been born with two.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

 

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Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

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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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