The Shadow Chancellor's speech yesterday was both offensive and incompetentby John McTernan / November 26, 2015 / Leave a comment
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It turns out there is something worse than Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions. Unfortunately, it is John McDonnell responding to the Autumn Statement.
There is something strangely and appropriately Stakhanovite about the current Labour leadership. Stolidly, doggedly and dully they dedicate themselves to being worse this week then they were last week. It’s a dirty job—but someone’s got to do it.
It was in this mood, surely, that John McDonnell chose the joke for his speech. Building himself up to what was clearly the crux of his speech, McDonnell signalled that he was going to make a funny. Now, politicians are not naturally amusing—except unintentionally. They frantically use body language to signal that a joke is trundling—ever so slowly—towards the audience. So it was with McDonnell, labouring towards his punchline like a man climbing up Everest without oxygen.
The Shadow Chancellor is possibly the greatest clown since Grock—the Swiss genius who famously did not care if his audience laughed, the shock was the point. And with McDonnell shock was all you got. There are many reasons to mock George Osborne and his kowtowing to China. Human rights abuses. Geo-political concerns. Threats to our allies. The sheer humiliation.
But making a Chairman Mao based joke is not one of them.
Mao is the greatest mass murderer in history. Not the worst in some carefully curated category but the worst ever. 45m people were killed in the Great Leap Forward. At the time—in the early sixties—that would have basically been the entire population of the UK. All of us.
What McDonnell did was to read a quote from Mao’s Little Red Book. It was probably the first time that book was quoted in the Commons. And it was certainly one of the most boring things ever quoted in the chamber: