David Miliband wins leadership “primaries”

Two constituency votes favour David, but Brother Ed isn’t far behind.

David Miliband has won his second Labour leadership "primary" in Edinburgh East, securing 39 per cent of the vote. Ed Miliband came second with 34 per cent, and Andy Burnham was the only other candidate to make it into double figures.

This vote was held by the Labour MP for Edinburgh East, Sheila Gilmore, as a way of determining her constituents' intentions before casting her own vote. A similar ballot has also been held in Bassetlaw, and resulted in the local MP, John Mann, switching his support from Ed Miliband (whom he initially nominated) to David after 50.3 per cent of those balloted opted for the elder brother. David also scored well on second preferences, a good sign going into the ballot itself. Another primary is planned for Dudley North.

These so-called primaries will have little meaning in the long run, but in August's political drought they provide something of an indication of how the candidates are perceived. As Mehdi Hasan pointed out weeks ago, the leadership contest is very much a two-horse race.

More interesting, perhaps, is Ed Balls's mediocre showing in these ballots. He came a poor third in Bassetlaw and has now been beaten into fourth place by Andy Burnham in Edinburgh East. Tthis is only going to prompt further discussion about whether Balls will withdraw from the race and back one of the Miliband brothers, perhaps as a way of securing the post of shadow chancellor, as Jim Pickard over at FT Westminster suggests.

All we can really infer from these primaries, then, is that neither Miliband has opened up a particularly strong lead yet, and that the other three candidates have yet to mount a serious challenge.

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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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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