The bitter feuding of the 1980s will be at the forefront of many Labour MPs’ minds after a fight broke out within the party over shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s decision not to support the government’s fiscal charter.
Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man had agreed to support Tory chancellor George Osborne’s plans to create a budgetary surplus, but reversed this decision in a letter to MPs, writing:
“I believe that we need to underline our position as an anti-austerity party by voting against the charter on Wednesday.
“We will rebuff any allegation of being deficit deniers by publishing for the debate our own statement on budget responsibility. We will set out our plan for tackling the deficit not through punishing the most vulnerable and decimating our public services but by ending the unfair tax cuts to the wealthy, tackling tax evasion and investing for growth.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a weaker round of applause at the PLP than the one John McDonnell just got,” one MP told the New Statesman.
The battle within the party appears to stem from confusion on McDonnell’s part about Osborne’s requirement for an absolute budget surplus rather than a current budget surplus, which would leave the government room to borrow for investment.
Many outlets are also reporting fears that the campaigning group Momentum, which was created out of the campaign that got Corbyn elected, will soon be targeting Labour MPs it views as unsympathetic to the Corbyn cause.
If true this would echo attempts by the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock to fight back against the Militant tendency, a hard left faction that was purged by the Labour leadership during the 80s.
Image Credit – John McDonnell, July 2009 by Plane Stupid