John McDonnell dismissed rumours of plots by his team against Jeremy Corbyn at a Labour rally on Monday evening, which saw the Shadow Chancellor brush off reports about alleged tensions as media attempts to divide the party.
“One year they ran stories about me, in the same week, plotting a coup against Jeremy but also holding him hostage and refusing to let him resign,” McDonnell told an audience of Labour activists in Westminster.
“This is the season for that kind of story. We just have to tell the media out there: they will never divide us,” the shadow cabinet member and top Corbyn ally concluded.
Referring to demands that he apologise for repeating a suggestion that Esther McVey should be “lynched”, McDonnell later said: “I get asked by the media whether I have Tory friends. No, I bloody well don’t. And they ask me to apologise to Esther McVey. Don’t even go there.”
McDonnell has always refused to apologise for the comment, which was made at a public meeting before he became a Labour frontbencher. He maintains that he was quoting someone else and not inciting violence against McVey.
Corbyn closed the rally, which also saw Tan Dhesi, Laura Pidcock, Dawn Butler and Diane Abbott speak. He explained the thinking behind Labour’s Brexit plan to supportive attendees.
“I want to bring the movement and the party together. That has been my whole objective during this whole saga over Brexit,” the Labour leader said. “That we would negotiate a deal with the EU, which would be a customs union, access to European markets, protection of the rights of worker, consumer and environment.
“Because the alternative – the alternative is what? We give the people a choice between that deal and Remain and hopefully some reforms to the European Union.” These words reflected comments made today by shadow cabinet member Jon Trickett, who also suggested that Labour’s ‘Remain’ option would entail EU reforms.
Corbyn concluded: “It’s my privilege and pride to work with comrades across Europe and indeed across the world in challenging that whole neoliberal economic agenda that has brought so much austerity and so much poverty to so many people.
“Our objective as a party, our objective as a movement, is not to manage those systems. Our objective is to bring in something very different. A system that’s based on the socialist values we have.”
The Labour leader also remarked: “Johnson has something in common with my friends in Merseyside – a 100% record: Liverpool have won every game, Johnson’s lost every vote”. He later added: “When we win an election, it’s not me, John, Diane, Dawn, Tan. It’s all of us, our movement, that goes into government.”