Week 40: Hero – John McDonnell

by Charlie_East_West on October 4, 2015


This week’s hero of the week award goes to the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, for delivering an impressive keynote speech at Labour Party Conference – where he provided an insightful critique of the economy in the UK and delivered a withering attack on George Osborne’s austerity ideology.

“I found the Conservatives’ rant against Jeremy’s proposal to bring rail back into public ownership ironic when George Osborne was touring China selling off to the Chinese state bank any British asset he could lay his hands on.”
Quite, John. Quite.

McDonnell also got stuck into austerity. He really got stuck into austerity. It was bloody refreshing to hear a Labour Shadow Chancellor being so openly critical towards the Tories destructive forces at work within their austerity programme.

Finally, we now have a senior figure within the Labour Party eloquently articulating that the deficit was caused by the banks, not Gordon Brown.

I have been immediately impressed by McDonnell. I suspect his plain speaking, yet intelligent and pithy reposes to Tory economic policy is going to generate some momentum with the wider public. This is what a Shadow Chancellor should stand up and do – put the boot into the government and hold them to account.

We are likely to see a very strong opposition to the Tories on the economy. McDonnell will ensure that this happens. No more shadow boxing from Labour on the economy. Instead, we now have a Shadow Chancellor who will come out fighting.



There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” – Buffalo Springfield

Jeremy Corbyn may well be onto something.

Jeremy Corbyn has just bought himself a lot of time. A hell of a lot of time. His Labour Conference speech was a success. It was a speech packed full of compassion, sincerity, authenticity and ideas. It was extremely well received by Labour Party members. It was a refreshing antidote to that machine politics displayed by our political elite over the past 20 years. The neoliberal Thatcherite and Blairite triangulation settlement of a “put up and shut up” mentality of ‘there is no alternative’ finally has a mainstream forum for scrutinisation. What Corbyn did throughout his leadership campaign and then beautifully reinforced in his speech was to show quite clearly that there is alternative, and the best opportunity (in England and Wales) to receive that alternative is to vote for the Labour Party. New Labour is dead. Long live Real Labour.

So while the right wing media and Blairites get increasingly threatened by Corbyn and howl at the moon that Corbyn’s speech was a rambling incoherent shambles, they are only doing so because of their desperate need to frame a narrative against Corbyn to protect their own interests. In the case of the Blairites, they are increasingly looking like yesterday’s men and women. They are now the political dinosaurs, not Jeremy Corbyn.

In politics, like so much else in life, fortune depends on mastering the dark arts of communication. This skill manifests itself in three critical areas – 1. Delivery 2. Ideas 3. Resonate. It is now entirely possible that Jeremy Corbyn, from being the right person in the right place to capture the Labour Party may well be about to capture the mood of the country. Millions of people have been disenfranchised with endless political sleaze, banalities and spin. Millions of people have been disenfranchised by austerity. Millions of people have been disenfranchised by a feeling that their voice and their vote doesn’t really matter.

The political mood is shifting at a ferocious pace right across the world. We are seeing the rise of new politics based on grassroots and popular movements demanding an end to the old and antiquated models of the status quo. Refreshingly, more and more people are seeing through the sanitised, focus group based, corporatist, political platitudes and are wanting something more real, more normal…and something that resonates within their lives – right now and right within what is happening to them in this day and age. People want hope rather than fear and loathing.

The speeches from Jeremy Corbyn and indeed the excellent speech from John McDonnell have showed us that a different model of how to conduct politics is possible. Both were obviously pitched at the rank and file of the Labour Party, but their selected themes also reached out to the wider public. Their speeches were not, as certain lazy and threatened opposition commentators have suggested, left-wing extremism on steroids, but instead, normal and authentic ideas that millions of people in Britain can relate to: 100,000 children homeless in Britain today is a disgrace, 1 million visitors to foodbanks is a disgrace, our housing shortage is a disgrace, the wealth accumulating extremists within the 1% should not be allowed to capture as much wealth as they want at the expense of other 99 per cent is a disgrace. Corbyn highlighted all of these fault lines of Tory ideology within his speech.

The media have been complicit in giving the Tories a free ride on the economy, with lazy misplaced assumptions that “Labour spent all the money” and the Tories were “cleaning up Labour’s mess”. Corbyn and McDonnell have challenged this falsely framed perceived media wisdom. They opened up an attack media smearing and with a sense of clarity that has been missing within the Labour Party since 2010, also pointed out that austerity is a myth that hasn’t lowered our national debt, but instead doubled the debt to £1.5 trillion since the Tories came into power in 2010. Austerity has set about destroying our public services and welfare that hammer the daily requirements for the poor and vulnerable who are punished for the mistakes of the banks – who got us all into the economic mess in the first place.

Political commentators (fuelled by their own narrow self interests) are now peddling the narrative that Corbyn is either an “extremist” a “Luddite throwback” or stuck between a rock and a hard place of having to either betray his supporters or alienate the parliamentary Labour party. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps. But, the political scribes are forgetting an inconvenient truth – Corbyn is capturing something outside of parliamentary politics. Rather than conforming to the Westminster bubble, Corbyn cares about being on the side of the most important group of them all – the British public.

Obviously, to become elected as Labour Leader he had to initially reach out and embrace the echo chamber of the members of the Labour Party. But, with his refresningly unspun style, he outlined a number of policy ideas such as rail nationalisation, council houses programme, national bank, fairer taxation, support for small businesses, a national education service, an end to free schools, and a quantitative easing programme for infrastructure projects rather than for bank hoarding. In effect, he has reached out to way beyond the warm bosom of his own party members.

This is a compassionate programme of reform, but without descending into student idealism. These are ideas that will benefit millions of people whilst wrapped up in a form of grown up politics that embraces debate rather than tribal division.

The political establishment would like Britain to think that Corbyn will present a threat to your economic security. This is bullshit hoodwinking. Corbyn has clearly set out a need to provide support to the poor and vulnerable and rebuild our public services and programme of welfare. I am sure that most taxpayers who pay their taxes only to see their money spent on public services being dismantled and sold off to venture capitalists – therefore seeing their own social contract being torn up in front of their eyes would concur.

The political establishment also want you to believe that Corbyn wants his form of socialism to smash capitalism. Again, this is bullshit. Corbyn has now made it very clear that his brand of socialism can also be pro business, but only if the business deservedly needs state support. He reached out to the one in seven workers in this country who are now self employed. But, quite rightly, he wants to take away from the corporates who are failing to pay their fair share of taxes.

The most intriguing aspect to Corbyn’s speech was a deep and compelling campaign message to reclaim real British values as the natural preserve of the Labour Party – to create an outward looking country that focuses on helping the poor and vulnerable, supporting those who want to achieve but at the same time hammering the underserving rich. He wants to connect with the voters through the message of the British values of fair play, compassion and kindness and try and outflank the Tory theft of British values as greed masquerading as “hard working families” or “big society”.

Anyone who cares about getting real progressive and compassionate change; anyone who care about fairness and equality; anyone who wants to reboot our country towards a kinder, better place needs to get behind Jeremy Corbyn. He represents our best (and perhaps only) chance to end years of neoliberal politics that has divided and ruled our country. We need to support, campaign and get involved. This speech was only a starting point. But, as we have seen in many other countries, this starting point can only become a reality if we all actually get off our backsides to rally round Corbyn, the Labour Party and bloody well get involved.

Jeremy Corbyn may well be onto something. He may well be about to capture the public mood. A Corbyn-led Labour that connects with the public would frighten the Tories. As such, we shouldn’t be frightened to support him.

The outcome to Corbyn’s leadership is uncertain and fraught with difficulties, but I welcome his willingness to try and offer the country a different model of politics.

Labour previously failed to offer a tangible and biting opposition to Tory neoliberalism. At least we now have a political leader who will offer a significant ideological point of difference to the government.


Week 39: Villain – Volkswagen

September 29, 2015

The world’s second-largest car maker is our winner of this week’s award for greatest villain The villainous cheek of the Volkswagen Group’s subversion of US emissions tests is breath-taking. To get around the tests on its diesel engines, it installed software that ensured that its engines behaved differently when it could tell it was experiencing […]

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What Next For Jeremy?

September 29, 2015

I think if anyone had said six months ago, that Jeremy Corbyn would have been addressing the Labour Party Conference as leader, they’d have been derided as a total loony – and understandably so, because 6 months ago, Labour were all about slick photo-ops, tight fiscal policy, careful public policy and the squeezed middle. Labour […]

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Week 39: Hero – The Welsh Rugby Team

September 28, 2015

This Week’s Heroes are the Welsh Rugby Team. I’m grateful to the Allthatsleft Hero, Villain and Prat Sub-committee for allowing my nomination of the Welsh Rugby team to succeed – you see, they know how much that win means to me. It’s a funny thing being Welsh, funny and not always particularly positive – and […]

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Week 39: Prat – David Cameron

September 27, 2015

Our prat of the week award goes to our Prime Minister, David Cameron, for allegedly performing an obscene act involving his penis and a dead pig’s head. What people find both appalling and amusing in equal measure is that fact that this sordid little tale of David Cameron’s student days is actually believable. Here is […]

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What Pig-gate really tells us about David Cameron

September 23, 2015

According to a book authorised by Lord Ashcroft and written by Isabel Oakeshott, David Cameron may have performed an obscene act on a dead pig’s head while attending a braying toffs-only private members club at Oxford University. Who knows if this is true. But, the reason that this sordid little story received so much coverage […]

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#1041: 1994, Suede, We Are The Pigs

September 22, 2015

The news this week for some reason brought this song to mind. This one is dedicated to all the people the Tories have screwed over the last five and a half years, and will screw over the next four and a half. It all leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth. And as the […]

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Week 38: Villain – Victor Orban

September 22, 2015

This week, the Hungarian premier wins our award for the greatest villain of the last seven days A number of European nations have been found wanting in their response to the refugee crisis, including of course the United Kingdom. In contrast, Germany has become a paragon of virtue in its willingness to house and support […]

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Week 38: Prat – The Lib-Dems

September 22, 2015

This week’s Prats are the Lib-Dems Ah, it’s been a while since they last featured on our hallowed blog – but, I’m pleased to welcome the Liberal Democrats back to our pages. And why? Well, this week they have met in Bournemouth (biggest numbers ever apparently!) and their clarion call has been ‘only the Lib-Dems […]

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Week 38: Hero – Japan Rugby Team

September 20, 2015

The heroes of the week are the Japan rugby team for causing the biggest ever upset in the history of rugby union by beating the mighty South Africa 34-32 in the Rugby World Cup. Sometimes sport can be quite magical. On Saturday afternoon, I arrived back home and switched on the television and noticed that […]

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Ray North’s Rugby World Cup Preview

September 18, 2015

Ah the Rugby World Cup – if ever a sporting event epitomised the class struggle that burns at the heart of our world, it is this; If ever there was a better contest between young men at the peak of their physical abilities, it is rugby union. I am biased of course, but if there […]

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Scottish Independence Referendum: One Year On

September 18, 2015

A year ago today, Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom. A year on from this historic day, it seems pretty clear that the genie has been let out of the independence bottle, and we have entered the world of Neverendum. The No vote secured a reasonably comfortable 55% of the vote on 18th […]

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Week 37: Prat – resigning Labour frontbenchers

September 16, 2015

This week, the eight Labour frontbenchers who refused to serve under Jeremy Corbyn win our regular prat award As I have previously posted, Jeremy Corbyn was not my first choice as Labour leader. I am also concerned about the decision to appoint John McDonnell as shadow chancellor, and that none of the shadow four great […]

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Week 37: Hero – Jeremy Corbyn

September 14, 2015

This week’s hero of the week is the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Things you never think you’ll see – Jeremy Corbyn elected as leader of the Labour Party. For various reasons our blog has been quiet in recent weeks – but, all of us have been enthralled by the contest to […]

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Britain & The Middle East: An Idiot’s Guide to Failed Geopolitics

September 11, 2015

Syria before and after… The Middle East is a mess. Right across the region we have civil war and an escalating humanitarian disaster that has now created an unprecidented refugee crisis that is spilling across EU borders. It is heartening to see the huge surge in Western solidarity for the refugees, but rather worryingly, this […]

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Week 36: Prat – The British Press

September 7, 2015

This week, our glorious British papers win our regular award for the most ridiculous behaviour over the last seven days The British right wing press has been spewing bile relentlessly about immigration. The Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun in particular regularly sport front pages with screamingly vitriolic and hyperbolic headlines. The sharp change […]

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Week 36: Villain – David Cameron

September 6, 2015

Our villain of the week is David Cameron, for his complete and utter lack of leadership over the refugee crisis. It has been escalating for months, but it took one tragically iconic image of a little three year old boy washed up dead on a beach in Greece, for the world to collectively wake up […]

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Week 35: Villain – Iain Duncan-Smith

September 2, 2015

Last week’s Villain of the Week Award goes to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith for making shit up again. The Freedom of Information Act is a useful thing. So useful that passing it was Tony Blair’s biggest legistlative regret and David Cameron’s government are committed to gutting it. It […]

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Week 35: Prat – Justin Gatlin

August 31, 2015

This week’s Prat is the USA drugs cheat and athlete, Justin Gatlin. We like our sport on this site, and this week’s awards demonstrate that with Mo Farah getting the hero award and twice banned Justin Gatlin getting the award for Prat. And bloody deservedly so. In 2001, he was banned for taking Amphetamines! I […]

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Week 35: Hero – Mo Farah

August 30, 2015

Our hero of the week is the marvellous Mo Farah for becoming the most successful British athlete in global athletics championships and completing a unique treble double of major titles at 10,000m and 5,000m at two World Championships and an Olympics. “Mo Farah is the greatest sportsman Britain has ever had,” said Brendan Foster. “And […]

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#1040: 1993, Senseless Things, Primary Instinct

August 25, 2015

I felt like something a bit noisier today, so how about this slice of early 90s indie-punk pop. Strong guitar riff, big bass, nice hooks,  and a healthy anti-racism message. What’s not to like!? Used to love it back in the day. The UK’s answer to Nirvana, or something like that…

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Week 34: Prat – Jeremy Corbyn

August 25, 2015

This week’s Prat is the Labour Leadership Candidate and MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn. Yes Jeremy, you may be the poster boy of the left, you may be the people’s champion, you may or not be the most invigorating positive force that British politics has seen for a generation, but if you are to […]

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Week 34: Villain – Islamic State

August 23, 2015

This week, Islamic State thoroughly deserves our regular award for the greatest villain of the last seven days All Khaled al-Asaad was doing was his job, to safeguard the legacy of Palmyra, one of the world’s cultural wonders that dates back at least four thousand years. Ever since Islamic State took over these historic ruins […]

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Week 34: Hero – Usain Bolt

August 23, 2015

Our hero award goes to Usain Bolt for winning the 100m at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing and defeating the twice banned drugs cheat, Justin Gatlin, by one hundredth of a second. Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman with rope-a-dope. Usain Bolt beat Justin Gatlin with rope-a-doper. Usain Bolt is often compared to Muhammad Ali […]

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Labour leadership: some reflections and analysis

August 22, 2015

I’ve been in Washington DC for a couple of days. Halfway between Capitol Hill and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue is the monumental old Post Office building, its tower a Washington landmark. The Postal Service sold it a few years ago to a certain hotel chain. The hoarding outside announces the process of the […]

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Week 33: Prat – Jose Mourinho

August 18, 2015

This week’s Prat of the Week award goes to the ‘Special One’Jose Mourinho. Special one, my arse. I have to admit that I have a fairly mixed opinion of Jose Mourinho, on one hand, you can’t but respect what he has achieved in football, but on the other, he does seem to personify much that […]

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Week 33: Heroes – Cuba and USA

August 17, 2015

This week, the governments of Cuba and the USA jointly win our regular Hero award for their historic decision to reopen their respective embassies I’m in the United States at the moment: a country I have visited many times and love. Another American country I’ve been too and love is Cuba. But for the last […]

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Labour and Corbyn: Some Barely Palatable Truths (for both sides)

August 16, 2015

When Ed Miliband resigned as Leader of the Labour Party, I don’t think that anyone would have predicted that the election to succeed him would have proved to be such a fascinating and divisive contest. But, love him or loathe him, tolerate them or detest them, the surge of Corbyn and travails of Burnham, Cooper […]

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Why a Corbyn-led Left Wing Labour Could Win in 2020

August 14, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn, on current polling, is on course to win Labour’s leadership campaign. The latest polling has him 32% ahead of his rivals. This is staggering stuff. But, something more than just a new wave protest movement is rumbling on behind all of this. There are a number of factors behind this – ranging from […]

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