THE JOHN MCDONNELL COLUMN
AT SPECIAL LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE TO ELECT THE LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY, as Jeremy’s agent I went with him to an upstairs room in the QE2 Conference Centre in London to await the results of the ballot. We joined the other candidates for the leadership and their agents and engaged in friendly chat while we waited for Iain McNicol, Labour’s General Secretary to arrive. It was tense but we were reasonably confident of a good result. As every candidate will tell you, nothing is certain until the result is declared. Iain came in and announced the results of both the leadership and deputy leadership elections. Jeremy’s result was overwhelming. Although the scale of the victory was in line with our canvassing returns, nevertheless it was startling to see the actual size of Jeremy’s majorities in each section of the electorate, both members and supporters.
It was a political earthquake. There will be much comment and analysis in the weeks and months ahead on why this has happened. Put simply, it was obvious throughout the campaign that people wanted someone and, more importantly, something they could believe in once again. After years of the politics of spin and triangulation, people wanted what Jeremy’s campaign strapline offered “Honest Politics. Straight Talking.”
The tens of thousands who attended Jeremy’s rallies around the country and the thousands of volunteers in the campaign embraced a new kind of politics. It is the politics of inclusion, of principle, of stand up for what you believe in, and respect for the other’s point of view. Jeremy’s speech to the Conference, his talk to the TUC Congress and his first Prime Minister’s Questions, all reflected this new politics.
Since then a Shadow Cabinet has been appointed. It was regrettable that a small number of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party refused to serve in the Shadow Cabinet but they have all been offered the opportunity to serve the Party in some role if they wish to. The approach to the appointment of both the Shadow Cabinet and the overall administration has been inclusive, to erect a big tent politics.
Working with Rosie Winterton, Labour’s Chief Whip, Jeremy was successful in creating the first Shadow Cabinet with a majority of women, 16 women to 15 men. When some criticised the fact that there were no women in the so called “big jobs” it was clear that they had failed to understand that we rejected the notion of these supposedly senior posts. This is a 19th century throw back to when the state consisted of departments to fight wars, control the streets and collect the taxes. Responsibility for educating our children, treating our sick, protecting our environment and all the other government departmental services are equally, if not more, important in some people’s eyes than the traditional departments.
Throughout the first week the media have thrown everything they can at us and there will be more. Every crevice of family or personal life is being scoured to make a story for the right wing gutter press, whether true or not. I pay tribute to the way Jeremy and his family have stood up to this invasion of their personal privacy. Expect much more of the media distortions and attacks.
Nevertheless we are getting on with forming an effective opposition to the Tories. It is vitally important now that we transform the mass support we mobilised in the leadership campaign into a major movement against austerity and in support of the Corbyn Labour administration. People are buzzing with ideas on campaigns that need to be launched and how we can mobilise.
A new politics of hope has leapt onto the scene. It is crucial that we seize the moment to use this great surge of hope to lay the foundations of a Labour government being elected in 2020 to transform our society.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is MP for Hayes and Harlington and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and of the Labour Representation Committee.