Morning call: pick of the comment

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

1. The Greeks must be rueing the day they whacked the drachma (Daily Telegraph)

Boris Johnson says that Greece relinquished its independence when it joined the euro. When the EU steps in to help, we will see a further erosion of democracy.

2. Compared to Europe, the US can at least make a pretence of democracy (Guardian)

Gary Younge agrees that nation states have been superseded by greater forces. The people of Greece are now seeing the naked disregard for their will, as their leaders are dictated to on economic policy by unelected officials and foreign leaders.

3. The political constraints of the eurozone (Financial Times)

Over at the FT, Wolfgang Münchau is certain that Germany will show solidarity with eurozone members if they are subject to attack -- but not much more, due to past rulings by the German constitutional court.

4. A match made in heaven will end an unholy rift (Times)

Methodism's merger with Anglicanism is inevitable, says Roy Hattersley. It would have John Wesley's blessing: he sought reform, not schism.

5. Ms Tymoshenko's unwise move (Independent)

The leading article argues that Ukraine's prime minister and disappointed presidential run-off candidate, Yulia Tymoshenko, is wrong to challenge the result of the election in court.

6. Mandarins in the margins (Guardian)

The Chilcot inquiry has shown that the advice of worldly, well-educated Foreign Office diplomats is simply being ignored, says Peter Preston.

7. A new watchdog would guard us from debt (Times)

The economists Tim Besley and Andrew Scott argue that, with the Budget deficit soaring, an independent committee should test government credibility.

8. Gordon Brown deserves our sympathy, not our vote (Daily Telegraph)

Matthew d'Ancona discusses Gordon Brown's TV interview with Piers Morgan, concluding that the pain he expressed is real, but Brown makes for a rather desperate romantic.

9. A true apology to Aboriginal people means action as well (Guardian)

Australia's prime minister was right to say sorry, says Kate Grenville, but, two years on, little has changed for the better in indigenous communities.

10. We ignore the lessons of history at our peril (Times)

William Rees-Mogg criticises Sussex University's decision to shrink its history faculty, saying it is dangerous to use such a sacrifice as a bargaining tool over swingeing education cuts.

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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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