Labour members who express anti-Semitic views should be expelled with no possibility of return, John McDonnell has said, amid calls for the party to take stronger action following a series of damaging allegations.
“Out, out, out,” the shadow Chancellor told The Independent, speaking about concerns over how anti-Jewish views are dealt with. “If people express these views, full stop they’re out.”
The Labour Mayor of Bradford, Khadim Hussain, was suspended this week for sharing an anti-Semitic post on Facebook. That followed last week’s suspension of party member Vicki Kirby for a second time for sending anti-Semitic tweets – and conflicting claims over whether a Labour councillor in west London, Beinazir Lasharie, had been reinstated after suggesting on Facebook that Jews were responsible for 9/11 and the rise of Isis.
Lord Levy, a Labour peer, has threatened to quit the party unless the leadership sends a “clear message” that it will not tolerate anti-Semitism. The party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, also said this week any allegations of anti-Semitism would be properly investigated.
But Mr McDonnell’s comments suggest a desire to take a tougher approach. Asked whether they should be barred for life, he said: “My own view is yes. People might be able to reform their views and the rest of it. On this? I can’t see it.”
He added: “It is a harder line because I’m not having it. People might say ‘I’ve changed my views’ – well, do something in another organisation.”
However, he dismissed as “rubbish” the idea that the Stop the War Coalition, with which both he and Mr Corbyn have been closely associated, has a particular problem with anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism is in our society, it will rear its head as a result of that in any part of society and we’ve got to be eternally vigilant” he said.
Mr McDonnell dismissed the suggestion that the charge of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism is being used as a convenient stick with which to beat the Labour leadership by its enemies. “No. If people have raised this, we’ve got to deal with it – full stop.”
However, while he believes the party is right to be scrutinised over this matter and does not think it is part of an anti-Labour agenda, he is sure that the timing of the emergence of an embarrassing list purportedly of Mr Corbyn’s supporters and detractors within the Parliamentary Labour Party is no co-incidence. The list enabled David Cameron, still wounded by the Cabinet resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, to turn his full fire on Mr Corbyn at Prime Ministers’ Questions this week.
“It was dreadful – whoever’s done it, it’s certainly set us up… I’d like to see the fingerprints on it,” Mr McDonnell said of the document.
He insisted that he had no knowledge of the existence of such a list – and stressed that the idea of a cohort of “hostile” or “negative” MPs does not, in any case, reflect the mood within their contingent in the Commons. “The vast bulk of the Parliamentary Labour party – I’ve addressed them three times on the Budget – they’ve just been terrific. They just want to get on with the job. The atmosphere’s really good.”
He says his new fiscal credibility rule, which would require Labour to balance the current budget over five years, has had “overwhelming support” from party colleagues.
According to Mr McDonnell, George Osborne’s Budget now has not a £4bn hole but a £12bn gap. He singles out the new pension requirements on public service employers, which will eat into the budgets of nominally protected departments such as health and education. “Nothing is safe – no service, no job,” he said. “In every department, no one knows what is going to hit them.”
Following his fierce attack on the Chancellor in the House of Commons this week, Mr McDonnell suggested Mr Osborne’s mere presence in 11 Downing Street is now damaging the economy.
“Osborne’s credibility is shot – that will have consequences for our economy. My advice to Cameron is move him. Send him abroad, make him foreign secretary. Give him something else where he won’t do any more damage.”
But what would a Labour government cut in the current circumstances? “We’d start investing immediately,” he said. “Our savings would come from growth, they won’t come from cuts. More people working, more people paying taxes. House building would reduce the housing benefit bill. We’d reduce [the need for] in-work benefits.
“We’d reverse the corporation tax cuts, we’d reverse the capital gains tax cuts, we’d reverse the inheritance tax cuts that he’s given to the wealthy and corporations”. But he adds that the corporation tax won’t go back to the 28 per cent it was back in 2010, describing 20 per cent as a “reasonable compromise”.
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