June 11, 2016


Labour's next great battle : The Labour leader and his Shadow Chancellor like to present a united front. But John McDonnell is manoeuvring for the top job (Alex Wickham, 11 June 2016, Spectator)

If the rise of Corbyn was hard for outsiders to understand, it would be even more mystifying if a man with McDonnell's baggage were to lead the Labour party. A lecturer at Brunel University recalls that as a student he was a Trotskyite. 'Anyone thinking today that he was a hard, humourless and determined left-winger would recognise the John who was our student at Brunel,' he says. A long-term friend says in his defence: 'John may have been [a Trot], but it was 40 years ago when he was a teenager.'

McDonnell infamously praised the 'bombs and bullets' of the IRA, though his links to Irish republicanism › go deeper than words. A party grandee shares a curious tale from the 1980s. The story goes that McDonnell used to frequent a working men's club in Camden which was known as a hub of IRA activity at the time. He was said to be so pally with the republicans who drank there that it allegedly led to him being given the nickname 'The Quartermaster'. The joke among local Labour figures was that he was so involved he must have had his own quasi-military rank. His spokesman does not deny he was a regular visitor, but says: 'It may have been a nickname for him as he was resourceful and in charge of budgets at the GLA.'

McDonnell's opposition to the peace process was troubling even for Sinn Fein. Sources in both Ireland and the Labour party recall senior Shinners pleading with Tony Blair's government to keep McDonnell quiet because his rhetoric was discouraging hardliners from accepting a deal. 'An assembly is not what people have laid down their lives for over 30 years,' McDonnell told An Phoblacht, Sinn Fein's newspaper, in 1998. DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds warns: 'If we think Corbyn is bad, McDonnell is a much more sinister character with a much deeper attachment to violent Irish republicanism. For those who stood by democracy during the Eighties and Nineties and tried to work for a peace process, there would be extreme anger at the idea of this man becoming leader of the Labour party.'

A Labour MP who represents a seat bombed by the IRA despairs: 'What am I supposed to say when people who had family members killed by the IRA come up to me and say, "Your shadow chancellor said the bombs and bullets of the IRA were a good thing"? How can I tell them to vote for the Labour party?'

Just as opposition to the Third Way politics of W and Jeb has forced the GOP into its nativist thickets, so too has opposition to the Third Way of Tony Blair forced Labour back to its Marxist roots. Politics throughout the Anglosphere is always the same : the most Third Way party wins while the other party savages itself.

Posted by at June 11, 2016 6:58 AM