Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. My advice to Labour: be of good cheer, be bold, stop jumping at shadows (Guardian)

 Forget the Wallace and Grommit jibes, says Polly Toynbee. Leaders are the embodiment of their policies – and Ed Miliband's can win him the election.

2. Cameron has an inspiring message, so let's hear it (Daily Telegraph)

With the rise of Ukip, it is crucial that the PM makes the argument for a Tory government, says Fraser Nelson.

3. Syria deal holds a lesson – talk to Iran (Financial Times)

After all the mistakes with Damascus, the US has a chance to put things right with Tehran, writes Philip Stephens.

4. The Blair-Brown war cost the Labour party dear (Guardian)

When Labour returns to office, Ed Miliband must ensure that the errors of the last generation are not repeated by his, writes Benjamin Wegg-Prosser.

5. The Bedroom Tax: The Tories’ idea of fairness that could yet return to haunt them (Independent)

So is the bedroom tax the new poll tax, asks Donald Macintyre. The wording favours the critics.

6. Labour’s salvation? The hated Lib Dems (Times)

Fear and loathing of Nick Clegg’s party runs deep on the left, but wooing them is the way back to power, writes Philip Collins.

7. Who do you think you’re kidding, Mr Schauble? (Daily Telegraph)

The eurozone may have avoided calamity, but all the underlying problems are still there, says Jeremy Warner. 

8. How Labour's lies and spin poisoned politics (Daily Mail)

The revelations contained in Damian McBride's memoirs drag New Labour's reputation to even lower depths, says a Daily Mail editorial.

9. Fed gets it right but says it wrong (Financial Times)

It will now be harder for markets to trust the central bank, says an FT editorial.

10. Italy needs this to be the end of Berlusconi (Independent)

Can this disgraced man really even believe what he is saying, asks Peter Popham. 

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