John McDonnell Did Not Ask Seema Malhotra If He Should Quote Mao And Wave Little Red Book

John McDonnell did not ask his deputy in Labour's shadow Treasury team whether she thought it would be a good idea for him to brandish the Little Red Book and quote Chairman Mao in the Commons on Wednesday.

The shadow chancellor's attempt at a joke about George Osborne selling British infrastructure to Beijing backfired yesterday - as Tory MPs could not believe their luck at the sight of McDonnell quoting the communist leader in parliament.

Asked on BBC Newsnight whether McDonnell had told her about his plan, Seema Malhotra, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "He didn't, he made his own decision."

Malhotra added the shadow chancellor's decision to use the Little Red Book as a prop was "his choice".

Asked if she had ever read the collected speeches of Mao, she replied: "I've studied politics. I've read a lot."

Appearing alongside Malhotra for a debate about the government's Autumn Statement, the Tory chief secretary Greg Hands could not resist a quick dig at McDonnell. He asked his Labour shadow: "Does he always carry it around with him?"

On Wednesday, McDonnell surprised the Commons by producing the communist book from his pocket.

"I never envisioned when it came to nationalising I would be outdone by a conservative chancellor," he told MPs. "I would like to bring services like rail back into ownership of the British people. The chancellor wants to sell the to the People's Republic of China."

He added: "Nationalisation is OK for him as long a it is by any other state but ours."

"To assist comrade Osborne in his dealings with his new found comrades, I’ve brought him along Mao's Little Red Book."

Quoting from the book, McDonnell read: "We must learn to do economic work from all who know how, no matter who they are. We must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. We must not pretend to know when we do not know."

Osborne, who is desperate to paint McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn as far-left, could not believe his luck. "The shadow chancellor literally stood at the Despatch Box and read out from Mao's Little Red Book," he said with glee. "It’s his personal signed copy."

Noting divisions between Corbyn and several senior Labour MPs, the chancellor added: "The problem is half the shadow cabinet have been sent off for reeducation."

"People treat this Labour leadership as a joke. They are actually a deadly threat to the economic and national security of this country."

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