Election 2010 Lookahead: Thursday 8 April

The who, when and where of the campaign.

Each morning between now and 6 May we'll mark your card and highlight the main events of the coming day's campaigning, party by party and across the media.

 

Labour

Gordon Brown kicked off his morning on Radio 4's Today programme -- a typically combative exchange with John Humphrys in the 8.10 slot. Brown is expected to spend the day defending the intended rise in National Insurance contributions. He will host a London press conference with the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, and the Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson, focusing on the economy. Elsewhere, the sitting MP for the marginal Birmingham Edgbaston constituency, Gisela Stuart, takes part in a Question Time-style public debate on the environment with fellow general election candidates -- the Conservative Party's Deirdre Alden, the Liberal Democrat Roger Harmer and, for the Green Party, Phil Simpson.

 

Conservatives

David Cameron hosts his party's launch London press conference at 10.30 this morning. The Millbank Tower "presser" is likely to see him reveal plans for a voluntary "national citizen service". He then stops off at an academy school in London before heading to Norwich (3.15pm) and Plymouth (7pm) for a community meeting. Meanwhile, Samantha Cameron will be campaigning in Leeds (10am) and Brigg and Goole (2.30pm). By the way, it now looks likely that the Conservatives will unveil their manifesto on Tuesday 13 April.

 

Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg teams up this morning with the party's former leader Charles Kennedy and the current head of the Scottish Lib Dems, Tavish Scott MSP, to launch the Lib Dem campaign for Scotland. All three will be on the Pacific Quay in Glasgow (9.30am). From there, Clegg goes ahead of the Tories to the marginal seat of Eastleigh (notional majority of 534), where he will hold a joint event with the Lib Dem candidate and home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne (1pm). Finishes his afternoon in Bristol (3.20pm).

 

Other parties

Plaid Cymru officially launches its election campaign on Anglesey today. The Plaid leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, will then visit Plaid candidates from across the north of Wales in a tour of constituencies.

 

The media

While Brown kicked off the day on the Today programme, David Cameron was on the GMTV sofa. Later today, ITV's Tonight programme (7.30pm) investigates the prospects of a hung parliament and reveals which seats could prove decisive to the final result on 6 May.

 

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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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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