John McDonnell MP Blog Headlines
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...
John McDonnell is sunk deep in a leather sofa in a corner of the bustling cafe bar of Norwich Playhouse, clutching a mug of tea. The shadow chancellor has taken a break from his regular holiday boating on the Norfolk Broads with his wife and a revolving cast of other family members to pop into the city for a chat.
It’s no secret that many of his colleagues view McDonnell as controlling, and see him and Jeremy Corbyn as fossilised relics of a politics they thought was consigned to the past. But the 65-year-old, a veteran of many picket lines who cut his teeth in his 20s working with Ken Livingstone in the lefty bastion of the Greater London Council, argues that the economic impact of the financial crash and its aftermath have become a fertile breeding ground for his brand of political radicalism.
“What the Labour party manifesto appealed to, I think, is people’s sense of insecurity,” he says. “They’ve had seven years of hard, hard austerity – their wages are worth less now than before the recession. The public services they rely upon have been cut to shreds, some of them are in absolute crisis. Even where they’re doing everything right, our young people are now clobbered with debt.”
The moment is ripe, believes McDonnell, for a fightback. “All those securities they’ve had have been stripped away. When you’re in the depths of a recession, that isn’t the time when people want to challenge the system, they’re too busy trying to survive. It’s when they’re told we’re coming out of a recession, growth is returning, and they’re not seeing the benefits of it, or they’re not seeing them quick enough.”
Restored by his break and from a visit by his five grandchildren, McDonnell appears relaxed, expansive and magnanimous. But when parliament resumes...
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has hit back at Tony Blair’s criticism of Labour’s Brexit policy, accusing him of being out of touch with ordinary people.
The Labour leadership has dismissed a call by Blair to leave open the option of Britain remaining a member of a reformed European Union.
The former prime minister said in an article that the election of Emmanuel Macron as French president had opened up the prospect of real change in Europe, which could enable Britain to stay in the bloc.
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the party respected the outcome of last year’s referendum vote to leave, while McDonnell insisted there was no desire to reopen the divisions over Brexit.“
Speaking at a strike rally for low-paid hospital workers in east London, McDonnell said Labour was confident it would be able to negotiate continued access to European markets after Brexit.
He said the result of the referendum had to be respected and that what most “ordinary people” now wanted was a Brexit that would protect the economy and their jobs.
“We believe we can achieve that traditional British compromise of bringing people back together again,” he said. “That is what we need now. What we don’t want is to have divisions in the country again.
“To be frank, Mr Blair hasn’t really listened to the nature of the debate that is going on in the pubs, the clubs and school gates.”
McDonnell’s comments were echoed by the Brexit minister Robin Walker, who called Blair “out of touch”.
“The majority of British people voted to leave the EU. The majority of MPs, including Blair’s own Labour party, voted to trigger article 50,” he said.
“By calling for the will of the people and parliament to be overturned, Tony...
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