John McDonnell's Question Time 'apology' was no such thing and I am amazed to see anybody for fall for it. It was obviously insisted upon by Labour party spin-doctors. But as the words themselves show, it was not an apology. Sure, he apologised for causing any offence or upset, but not for the fact that he was wholly and utterly wrong. And wrong not only to have praised people who spent three decades shooting people and planting bombs in public places but wrong on the facts too.
I cannot think how he can get away with this, but it seems like he will, not least because his boss has done so by mounting the same defence. Because of course McDonnell has adopted the Jeremy Corbyn tactic I have written about previously here and here. It was ludicrous enough when Jeremy Corbyn pretended to be doing anything other than shilling for Sinn Fein/IRA all those years. But for John McDonnell to also pretend that rather than being an obscure backbencher he was in fact the advance brigade of the Nobel prize committee is even more ridiculous. The idea that in honouring the IRA he was in fact - like Jeremy Corbyn - 'working for peace' is beyond absurd.
Explaining why he told a hardcore Republican audience in 2003 that 'it's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle', he was not (as he claimed last night) arguing for peace. When he said, 'it was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table' he was not the voice of the Good Friday agreement.
On last night's Question Time McDonnell explained these words by saying 'I went out and argued for the peace process'. But he uttered the words complained of in 2003. The Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998. There was no reason in 2003 to think that if an obscure backbencher with no involvement in any peace process praised Republican murderers this would advance that Agreement one jot. Indeed I would like to know what exactly it was McDonnell thought was happening that meant that the peace process was likely to fall apart unless an obscure backbencher went out and praised IRA murderers. The claim is risible. He was praising the IRA because he had sympathy with them. It really is - as with Corbyn - as simple as that. If you doubt that then consider Tony Blair or any of the other senior figures actually involved in negotiating the peace process and see if they ever 'had' to utter the sort of things McDonnell volunteered so effortlessly. Scour Tony Blair's speeches back in 1998 when the peace process was actually happening and you will search vainly.
But as I say - these things seem likely to be forgiven. Like the racist and sectarian connections which punctuate Mr Corbyn's life and friends-list, the Corbynistas will pretend that the facts are not facts but merely 'smears'. In the meantime, the rest of us will keep being reminded that much of Corbyn and McDonnell's fan-base seems to be made up not only of people who don't remember the 1970s but by people who have never even heard of them.