Vince Cable at the Liberal Democrats' spring conference in Liverpool earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Vince Cable loses seat on a terrible night for the Lib Dems

Business Secretary is the biggest of the Lib Dem beasts to fall.

It just gets worse for the Lib Dems. In the biggest shock result of the night, Vince Cable has lost his Twickenham seat to the Conservatives. The Business Secretary was expected to survive on the basis of his personal popularity. But such is the scale of the swing against his party that the much-touted "incumbency advantage" counted for little. The Tories, for whom Cable became a hate figure in recent years, will relish this victory.

Cable is the biggest of the Lib Dem beasts to fall: Simon Hughes, Lynne Featherstone and Ed Davey have also been decapitated. The party's decision to enter coalition with the Tories has proved electorally ruinous. As Angela Merkel once remarked to David Cameron of coalition governments: "The little party always gets smashed!" Having won 57 seats in 2010, the Lib Dems will be lucky to hold more than 10 tonight. For the Tories, conversely, the decision to enter coalition in 2010 now looks like an electoral masterstroke. It is taking scores of seats from the Lib Dems but Labour is still struggling to make gains despite the collapse of its centre-left rival. While he has retained his own Sheffield Hallam seat, it is doubtful whether Nick Clegg can remain leader after a humiliation on this scale. Should he resign, it is Tim Farron, the activists' darling, who represents the safe seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale who will take over.

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.”

...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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