POLITICS

John McDonnell Warned A 'New Organisation' Could Replace The Labour Party

In 2012, told protestors to 'kick off' at Labour and Tory MPs over cuts

02/03/2017 03:18 | Updated 02 March 2017

John McDonnell told a meeting of Marxists that he was ready to consider alternatives to Labour if he and other left-wingers failed to “reclaim” the party.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Socialist Workers’ Party in 2011, McDonnell said that he had “no fetish” for the Labour party, audio clips have revealed.

And he warned that if it could not be changed “we need to look at a new organisational form” to help the working class.

McDonnell, who is now Shadow Chancellor, made the remarks when he was a backbencher at the ‘Marxism 2011: Ideas to Change the World’ event.

They emerged as video footage of another meeting showed he had also urged anti-cuts protestors to target Labour as well as Tory MPs, to ensure “wherever they go, it’s fucking kicking off”.

At the Marxism conference, audio clips of which have been passed to HuffPost UK, McDonnell made clear he was not wedded to the Labour party if it continued to ignore left-wing policies and tactics.

Speaking about the campaign to oppose Government cuts, he said: “Out of this struggle will come new organisational forms.

“I’ve no fetish about the Labour party, but at the moment there is still that connection with the working class, and they still keep voting for it.

“If we can reclaim the Labour Party, fine. If we can’t, well then we need to look at a new organisational form that comes out of struggle, not just intellectual debate.”

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Jeremy Corbyn congratulates John McDonnell after his 2016 conference speech

The remarks appear to foreshadow a similar 2012 statement McDonnell made which was cited by his critics during the Labour leadership contest last year.

He had told a small meeting that “I’m not in the Labour party because I’m a believer of the Labour party as some supreme body or something God-given or anything like that.

“It’s a tactic. It’s as simple as that. If it’s no longer a useful vehicle, move on.”

Those comments were seized on by critics of Corbyn and McDonnell as proof that they were not committed to Labour and were prepared to join or form a rival party to deliver left-wing objectives.

Owen Smith, who was beaten by Corbyn in his second landslide election, tried to exploit McDonnell’s words last year to hit back that Labour was not “a flag of convenience”. “Parliament is the fulcrum, and the Labour party is the vehicle first, last, always,” Smith said last year.

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Labour MP Jon Cruddas

Some Labour MPs believe that McDonnell backed proportional representation for Westminster last year in the hope that it would allow the creation of a new “workers’ party” which need not rely on Middle England or Tory switchers to win power.

At a meeting this week, former Ed Miliband policy adviser Jon Cruddas pointed out that Britain’s biggest union, Unite, had floated the idea of PR.

Referring to Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Cruddas said:  “Caroline [Lucas] suggests Unite have embraced PR.

“That might have something to do with them gaming out some future workers’ party and needing a changed electoral system in order to get a foothold. Maybe that’s what John McDonnell is thinking as well...”

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Jeremy Corbyn and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey in 2016

McDonnell told a Make Votes Matter meeting that: “It should be no surprise that there’s massive opposition to so many of the present government’s flagship policies.

“The stark reality is that most voters explicitly rejected the Conservative manifesto last year, and yet we all must suffer a majority government as it tries to force these extreme measures upon an unwilling country.”

At a House of Commons Press Gallery lunch in 2014, McCluskey said: “I’m now rethinking my position on PR. If a new party emerged, a new Workers’ Party, then you may well find that I’m in favour of PR.”

Addressing another anti-cuts event in 2011, the Right to Work Forum Austerity & Resistance rally, McDonnell said that he wanted protestors to take their fight to both Labour and Tory MPs to get the message across.

“I want to be in a situation where Tory MPs or Labour MPs, wherever they go, it’s fucking kicking off. Do you know what I mean?

“They turn up, there’s someone protesting, there’s someone written a slogan on the wall, there’s someone occupying, I just want it happening all the time. And it’s happening, it’s beginning to happen.”

Labour MPs critical of Corbyn and McDonnell have repeatedly complained that they fail to distinguish between their own party and Tory opponents.

Several MPs complain that left-wing activists have staged protests and backed de-selection calls in their local areas.

The Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) heard testimony from several female MPs who felt that they were being targeted online and offline and that the leadership was not doing enough to help them.

In other videos that emerged this week, McDonnell also urged protestors at meetings in 2011 and 2012 to defy strike laws, occupy buildings and blockade the City. He called for Tory ministers to be ‘tried’ as ‘social criminals’.

A spokesman for McDonnell said on Tuesday that: “It is well-documented that John has been a long-time campaigner and activist as a backbencher fighting for workplace rights, and standing up for those workers being overlooked by the political establishment”

In response to suggestions that the Shadow Chancellor was not committed to the Labour party, his office added on Thursday: “This is nonsense. John has been in the Labour party for 40 years.

“He has always believed that the Labour party is the only party for working people.”

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