7 Jan 2016

John McDonnell: Labour right the new fringe


Where does this reshuffle leave things?

The Tories have been able to add to their mountain of quotable Labour attacks on the Labour leader. They may have to get a bigger database.  

Jeremy Corbyn’s critics in Labour have spent a day getting angrier than their GPs would probably advise.

But Jeremy Corbyn has held on to almost all the non-Corbyn supporting frontbench talent he had when he started.

He hasn’t had the muscle to dare to take on his Shadow Foreign Secretary or his Chief Whip or the whips’ office. But he’s thrown out two people his team believe were disloyal (Pat McFadden’s departure seems to be a particularly late creation in the reshuffle – Jeremy Corbyn didn’t even have the offending disloyal quote from Mr McFadden in front of him when he sacked Mr McFadden).

When I spoke to John McDonnell he talked of how a hardline, extremist clique dominated the dissidents. He rejected my suggestion that maybe he wanted them to leave but he agreed with the suggestion that they, the departing frontbenchers, were the new fringe of Labour politics, now occupying the area he used to occupy. 

John McDonnell denied (a little implausibly) that Maria Eagle was moved because of her support for Trident. He signalled very clearly that he is hoping to change party policy on the nuclear deterrent ahead of the debate and vote on Trident which the government is expected to table this Spring.

Mr McDonnell said that though the National Policy Forum feeding into the Party Conference decides policy under Labour rules, he hoped that the party’s National Executive Committee “on this issue will decide whether that process will appertain to the decision on Trident or whether or not there will be a new consultative process … they haven’t made their mind up on that. The NEC can determine the nature of the consultation and the decision making process.”

By that, Mr McDonnell meant a plebiscite of the members, where Jeremy Corbyn has very strong support. I put it to him that Unite and the GMB might feel their positions, for Trident, were being circumvented.

 Mr McDonnell said “there’s a mixed view” amongst the unions and “we’ll see what the debate is like.”

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