Labour is wise to target the Mumsnet vote

Attack ad highlights Tory plans to cut tax credits.

Unable to match the Conservatives' billboard blitz, Labour has taken to Mumsnet in an effort to woo female voters away from David Cameron. The attack ad (see screen grabs, below) targets Tory plans to scale back child tax credits and warns mothers that they'll "get less than they bargained for" if they vote Conservative.

George Osborne promised in his party conference speech to save £400m by scrapping "tax credits to families with incomes over £50,000". But the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week calculated that such a cut would save only £45m. For Osborne to save £400m, the IFS worked out, he would need to lower the threshold to £31,000, not £50,000.

Mumsnet 1

Labour's decision to target female voters through the campaign is a canny move. It was the defection of women from the Tories that handed power to Labour in 1997, and that secured the party's re-election in 2001 and 2005.

Mumsnet 2

At the last election, 38 per cent of women voted for Labour, compared to 34 per cent of men. Without female voters, Labour's majority in 2005 would have been 23 seats, rather than the 66 it actually won. Women are one of the key groups yet to be won over by Cameron: a recent ComRes poll gave Labour a 4-point lead among female voters.

Mumsnet 3

As the economy begins to recover, the Tories' plan to curb middle-class welfare could well turn out to be a vote loser. Expect Labour to use this line of attack repeatedly in the election campaign.

Mumsnet 4

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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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