‘Inspiring’ McDonnell wages war on corporate welfare
LABOUR would target “corporate welfare” and not Britain’s poor and vulnerable in its battle to cancel the deficit, John McDonnell said yesterday.
In his first party conference speech as shadow chancellor, he put tax-dodging transnationals, rogue landlords and the wealthiest 1 per cent on notice for an “aggressive” deficit reduction drive by the next Labour government.
That would pay for a real living wage for every worker, houses for Britain’s 100,000 homeless families and investment in services, he said.
“As socialists we will display our competence with our compassion,” said Mr McDonnell.
“Idealists yes, but ours is a pragmatic idealism to get things done — to transform our society.
“We remain inspired by the belief and hope that another world is possible.”
After a confident speech that defied critics of his appointment to a crescendo with the word “solidarity,” he won a standing ovation from party members and MPs.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey told the Star: “I thought it was absolutely inspirational.
“I have never seen a shadow chancellor — or chancellor — received like that at our conference.
“It’s another sign of the new politics that is energising this party.”
Mr McDonnell began by telling members not to expect any jokes or his “usual rant.”
But the Hayes and Harlington MP had the hall gripped as he described how Michael O’Sullivan, who suffered with severe mental illness, killed himself after being stripped of his benefits.
“For Michael O’Sullivan austerity was more than a word,” said Mr McDonnell.
He pledged that Labour would end the Tories’ “brutal treatment” of disabled people and said: “Let’s be clear. Austerity is not an economic necessity, it’s a political choice.”
Mr McDonnell vowed to “tackle the deficit fairly” by growing the economy.
He pledged to scrap the Tories’ tax cut for millionaires to pay for a living wage.
He named and shamed Starbucks, Vodafone, Amazon and Google as companies who will be forced to “pay their fair share of taxes.”
He promised cuts to the “corporate welfare” that sees taxpayers subsidising poverty-pay bosses and buy-to-let landlords.
And he launched a review of the Bank of England’s functions, saying that institutions must change if they are to deliver progressive policies.
The Tories responded with warnings that “Labour’s tax rises would hurt hard-working people.”
But tackling their scaremongering, Mr McDonnell said: “Where money needs to be raised it will be raised from fairer, more progressive taxation.
“We will lift the burden from middle and low-income earners who are paying for a crisis they did not cause.”
He called out Chancellor George Osborne’s “grandiose fiscal charter” as a political “trap.”
Speaking directly to his Tory counterpart, he said: “We are not playing those games any more.
“We are moving the economic debate in this country on from puerile knockabout to an adult conversation.”
Mr McDonnell, who has admitted that he has previously been a “divisive” figure among Labour MPs, also reached out to colleagues who quit the shadow cabinet when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader.
In an appeal to MPs watching from the audience, he said: “In the spirit of solidarity upon which our movement was founded I say: come back and help us succeed.”
While the veteran left-winger is ready to co-operate with MPs from across the party, he was in no mood to compromise his convictions yesterday.
Speaking on BBC radio, he said that Karl Marx had “come back in to fashion” and was one of the “definitive analysts” of the capitalist system.