Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. An EU referendum is the political mouse that roared (Sunday Telegraph)

David Cameron's promise of a new deal has won few friends, writes Matthew d'Ancona. To too many eyes, it looks like compromise.

2. Both the Tory and Labour leaders need lessons in political geometry (Observer)

As David Cameron and Ed Miliband move away from the centre, they leave a space for Nick Clegg, writes Andrew Rawnsley.

3. Tories need a leader now, Dave... not in a few weeks' time (Mail on Sunday)

Downing Street has been caught napping and David Cameron must lead on Europe, writes James Forsyth.

4. Lies, damned lies and Iain Duncan Smith (Observer)

The way the work and pensions secretary manipulates statistics is a shaming indictment of his department's failings, says Nick Cohen.

5. Tories must dump Clegg and get into bed with UKIP (Sun on Sunday)

Smart Conservative MPs should begin to sound out their local association and moot the possibility of joint Tory-UKIP candidates, says Nadine Dorries.

6. Europe again, and it was all going so well... (Independent on Sunday)

The next election may be a contest to see who is more determined to lose, writes John Rentoul.

7. Let's stop cringing and look America in the eye (Sunday Times)

Sucking up is embarrassing to all sides; what works is practical co-operation on matters of mutual interest, says Adam Boulton.

8. History is where the great battles of public life are now being fought (Observer)

From curriculum rows to Niall Ferguson's remarks on Keynes, our past is the fuel for debate about the future, writes Tristram Hunt.

9. We need to get going on jobs and growth (Independent on Sunday)

On the economy, the government has no answers and nothing to offer, argues Ed Balls.

10. We all lose when we separate our children at the school gate (Observer)

If more schools are converted to academies, state pupils will be better equipped to compete with their privileged peers, says Will Hutton.

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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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