Boris Johnson addresses delegates at the CBI conference in London on November 4, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Boris hasn't ruled out becoming an MP in 2015

Contrary to reports, the mayor is keeping all options open.

Boris Johnson's comments on his LBC phone-in show ("Ask Boris") this morning are being reported as him ruling himself out of standing for parliament in 2015. Asked by presenter Nick Ferrari whether he was preparing to return to the Commons (following the Times's story on Saturday), he said: 

As I've never tired of telling you in the past 18 months, I'm going to get on with my job as Mayor of London.

Think of the joy of being Mayor of London. Do you know the things we're doing?

Let me tell you about something we've been doing. They've been working for months in Hammersmith and Fulham on plans to take that flyover and make it a flyunder. We've been listening to these plans for months, thinking it's never going to happen.

But actually, it is brilliant. It's a most fantastic scheme. We're going to tunnelise the flyover. The timescale will be in three or four years. What was so interesting was that even the hardened TfL engineers looked at this, having been pretty skeptical, and they thought it was a great scheme.

"If you've got that kind of scheme on your agenda, the daily excitement of helping to run the greatest city on Earth, why would you want to do anything else?

Then asked if he was "not going into the Commons prior to 2015 because of the excitement of the Hammersmith flyunder?", he replied: "Correct. The sheer excitement of the Hammersmith flyunder is...the answer is I’m sticking to my job that I was elected to do in 2012." 

It is this response that has prompted the headlines stating he will not stand as an MP in 2015. But the question, as you will have noticed, was on whether he would seek to enter the Commons before 2015 (through a by-election), not whether he would do so at that year's general election. 

As for Boris's assertion that he's sticking to his job, there is nothing to stop him becoming an MP and continuing to serve as mayor. Indeed, there is a precedent. As he will know, after the 2000 mayoral election, Ken Livingstone remained the MP for Brent East until 2001.

One senior Conservative told the Independent last year:

He could not wear two hats for a long period but doing it for 12 months would not cause a great controversy. Tory associations in London and the Home Counties would queue up to have him as their candidate. He would say he was representing London in Parliament for a year.

For now, the mayor is wisely keeping all options open. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Wikipedia.
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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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