John McDonnell has accused Theresa May of “almost provoking” public sector workers into more industrial unrest by failing to take action to address years of pay restraint.
The shadow chancellor said he had not seen this level of anger among health workers, civil servants, teachers and others in more than 20 years, and said people had “had enough” of struggling to get by.
He dismissed a Downing Street hint that steps could be taken to address the concerns, warning that ministers were likely to pick out certain groups of workers for help rather than fully lifting the 1% cap that has been in place for seven years. He said such a policy would amount to “divide and rule”.
They’ll choose individual targets which they think they can buy off. They think they can buy off the public’s anger about some of these issues but others they will leave alone – and they are some of the lowest-paid workers,” he said.
“If you look at the health service, they might do something for nurses, because they’ve lost so much pay, but what about some of the ancillary workers, some of the lowest paid?”
Asked whether there was likely to be an increase in industrial unrest, McDonnell replied: “Inevitably. If they [the Conservatives] don’t do something, inevitably. It is almost as if they are provoking it.
“And I think you’ll find across the health service and teaching there will be people acting in solidarity – they are provoking real anger.”
McDonnell said he had been shocked by what he had found at picket lines in recent months. “I’ve not felt the anger being expressed for 20 years.”
McDonnell also said Labour had celebrated May’s recent suggestion that she was “not a quitter” and would lead the Conservative party into...
Straight talking and an awful lot of common sense from this down to earth, pragmatic politician.
Would that I could report that it was a solid wall of red that greeted John McDonnell as he bounded on to the stage at the New Town Theatre. But this Liverpool supporter peers out instead onto a smudge of grey and pink, a mix of Labour diehards and younger, more curious potential supporters. And it’s in the latter that McDonnell sees the potential for growth in the party that he and Corbyn have, as it transpires, somewhat serendipitously come to lead these past two years.
Pairing McDonnell with that volcano of a comedian, Susan Morrison, proved a master stroke as well. He is instantly at his ease, charmed, as we all are, by her infectious enthusiasm and clever wit and by her gentle but nonetheless penetrating questions.
McDonnell has done things the hard way, that’s for sure. Brought up in a Liverpool tenement before his parents decamped with him to the deep south and London, he worked his way through a series of tough shop-floor jobs in manufacturing (that gives you a clue as to the era he hails from), then doing a degree via night school before landing a job as a researcher in the National Union of Mineworkers, at the time headed up by Joe Gormley.
McDonnell’s entry into politics was, like a lot of things in his life, a bit of a chance happening – the withdrawal of a candidate for a seat in the now defunct GLC led him to being nominated and elected as a replacement. Within twelve months he was in charge of the council’s finances (enough said on that!) just as colourful “Red Ken” Livingstone was taking the...
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