In this week’s New Statesman: the big choice

Behind Cameron’s “Big Society” | Philip Pullman interview | On the trail of the BNP.

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With the election campaign now in full swing, this week's New Statesman analyses the race so far and looks forward to the big moments to come.

In the Politics Column, Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre argue that David Cameron's "big society" rhetoric cannot disguise the fact that the Tories' plans would usher in a new era of privatisation and market rule.

Elsewhere, ahead of the first televised leaders' debate tonight, Dominic Sandbrook says that Brown, Cameron and Clegg should learn from Ronald Reagan's demolition of Jimmy Carter in 1980.

And to prepare you for tonight's event, we've selected the top ten moments from political debates around the world. Head to to revisit Sarah Palin's clash with Joe Biden, Nicolas Sarkozy's battle with Ségolène Royal and Barack Obama's debate with John McCain.

Meanwhile, back in the magazine, Daniel Trilling reports on the election campaign from Barking, where the BNP threatens to win its first seat in parliament.

In the columns, James Purnell explains why India should be more like Google, Andrew Stephen looks at who Obama will pick to fill the latest Supreme Court vacancy, and David Blanchflower shows that George Osborne's "efficiency savings" just don't add up.

And don't miss our interview with the acclaimed author Philip Pullman as well as Ryan Gilbey's review of Roman Polanski's new film, The Ghost.

The issue is on sale now, or you can subscribe through the website.

Join us for the first TV leaders' debate tonight.

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.”, 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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