Nick Clegg prior to giving a television interview during a visit to Hughes Safety Showers on May 21, 2014 in Stockport, England. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Lib Dems endure mixed results in parliamentary seats

The party held onto Eastleigh and Sutton but lost Cambridge and Kingston.

The defining test for the Lib Dems in the local elections is how they perform in those areas where they have MPs. If the party can hold on in its local strongholds, Nick Clegg will be able to put a positive spin on what are generally terrible results.

To the relief of Lib Dem HQ, then, they can point to signs of resilience. The party won comfortably in Eastleigh, where the Conservative vote collapsed from 28 per cent to just 16 per cent, and in Birmingham Yardley, where it defeated Labour by 46 per cent to 28 per cent. In addition, it held Sutton, where it has two MPs - Paul Burstow and Tom Brake - and gained four seats from the Tories and Labour.

The main exception is Kingston, home to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, where the party lost control to the Tories having held the council for 12 years. Davey will hope that the result says more about the performance of the council, which has the highest rate of council tax in London and saw its leader jailed, then it does about his general election chances.

But while the party has performed credibly in Tory-facing seats, it has suffered in areas where Labour is the main challenger. It lost control of Cambridge, where Julian Huppert is MP, and lost seats in Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone's constituency.

If it's clear that the Lib Dems aren't destined for wipeout in 2015, it's also clear that some of its best-known figures are in serious danger of losing their seats next year.

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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