Morning Call: our pick of the papers

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

1. His calamity cabinet must be the despair of David Cameron (Observer)

An astonishing number of ministers are either deliberately stirring up trouble or stumbling into the mire, says Andrew Rawnsley.

2. Last gasp of the seigneurs (Sunday Times) (£)

Both Ken Clarke and Dominique Strauss-Kahn owe their predicaments largely to the same thing – an indifference to women's feelings, says Minette Marrin.

3. Ed Miliband and the End of the World (Independent on Sunday)

Labour's leader should be thinking about policy and not about Clarke's resignation – or anything else unlikely to happen, argues John Rentoul.

4. Kenneth Clarke has done his time. He should go without delay (Sunday Telegraph)

Until the Justice Secretary is sacked, Cameron's claim to be on the side of the public over crime will fail to ring true, says Matthew d'Ancona.

5. Speak up on crime, PM, or be punished (Sunday Times) (£)

Law and order is usually the Conservatives' strongest card, yet many voters think the Prime Minister has thrown it away, says Martin Ivens.

6. Obama's visit marks a new special relationship of the super-realists (Observer)

With a shared pragmatism about foreign policy, the president and David Cameron may have a good deal in common, says Jacob Weisberg.

7. The right seems reluctant to run against Obama (Independent on Sunday)

Six months ago, the Republicans triumphed in the midterm elections, but few have come forward for 2012, writes Rupert Cornwell.

8. Why drown Ken Clarke in this tidal wave of phony anger? (Observer)

The reaction to the Justice Secretary's remarks about rape proves that true political discurse is a thing of the past, writes Rachel Cooke.

9. Who are the standard-bearers of the Tory right? (Sunday Telegraph)

Liam Fox's intervention on overseas aid shows that the right of the Conservative Party is still a force to be reckoned with, says Tim Montgomerie.

10. They shoot horses, don't they? (New York Times)

The Syrian regime that has been so accustomed to staying in control is getting a taste of what it's like to lose it, says Thomas L Friedman.

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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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