He is above spin
“My speech is going to be stultifyingly boring, like talking to your bank manager in the old days.”
Long-winded discussions of economic policy can be dreary, to say the least. Yet the political class so often refuses to admit its inherent dullness, injecting eye-catching headlines and superfluous catchphrases wherever they can.
Some have criticised John McDonnell for ‘living down’ to expectations by delivering a speech which, rather than bursting with pomp and circumstance, instead simply laid out how a Labour government would seek to tackle the challenges faced by the British economy. But politics doesn’t have to be the flashy “showbiz for ugly people” as it has for the last few decades and he knows it.
After announcing the last budget, George Osborne said he was offering Britain “a new contract”, a statement which comes with the underlying assumption that the British people work for the good of the treasury - and not, as John McDonnell outlines, the other way around.
He is true to his convictions
“We will not tackle the deficit on the backs of middle and low earners and especially not by attacking the poorest in our society.”
McDonnell has been a member of parliament for almost twenty years and has never sought to trade in his principles for political power.
He hasn't been afraid to rebel against the party line, casting opposing votes against the invasion of Iraq, the introduction of student top-up fees and Tony Blair’s invasive anti-terror laws. Even when it would have been much easier to exchange these values in order to gain favour with the party leadership, McDonnell has stuck to his guns and sought to represent the views of his constituents. He and Jeremy Corbyn have that in common.
He believes in the voice of the people
“I believe the British people are fed up of being patronised and talked down to by politicians with little more than silly slogans and misleading analogies.”
Modern British politics is dogged by the belief, held by many working people, that “politicians are all the same”. Save for some funny-haired buffoonery or pint-swilling banter from the likes of Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage, normal people are fed up of Slick Oxbridge Politician #2873. They want to empower people genuinely seeking to represent their voice.
The right-wing press has already gone to town on McDonnell for saying, “Sometimes, in addition to parliamentary debates, we do need a bit of protest in this country”, but such an admission should not be taken lightly. Unlike Boris Johnson, McDonnell doesn’t dismiss his critics as “tossers” (be they left or right) but instead advocates trying to understand what they want to change. McDonnell is trying to address the disconnect between the everyday man and the political class that has been infecting British politics for decades – and, considering how many people don’t even make it to the polling station to vote, ridding the public of political disillusionment has huge potential.
He is willing to make a stand against the big companies
“We will force people like Starbucks, Vodafone, Amazon and Google and all the others to pay their fair share of taxes… There will be cuts to the corporate welfare system.”
At last a mainstream politician tackles an issue which has been bubbling away for years head-on. No more obvious is HMRC’s ‘one rule for them, one rule for us’ ethos than in its collection of tax. Thousands of people are forced to cough up income tax every year after inadvertently underpaying; all the while big businesses file their earnings offshore and reap the benefits of a flawed legal system.
Critics say an overhaul of the system is too complex to effectively reclaim the enormous sum of tax left unpaid by these multinational corporations. But the key difference between McDonnell and his counterpart Osborne is that he actually wants to try.
He is not afraid of change
“After clearing the debris from our path, we are opening up a national discussion on the reality of the roles of deficits, surpluses, long-term investment, debt and monetary policy.”
Ultimately McDonnell, like his colleague and party leader Corbyn, does not want to dictate to his party - or the country - what is best for them. He wants an open forum in which people can share their thoughts and help to create a fairer and more equal society.
No longer do we need the Tories telling us what’s good for us, he says. If we work together, we can come up with an adequate, and perhaps even better, solution ourselves.Reuse content