What we learnt about John McDonnell from Alastair Campbell’s interview

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

New Labour strategist Alastair Campbell has interviewed John McDonnell for GQ magazine and obtained a few scoops in the process. Below are the eight key things we’ve learned about the Shadow Chancellor from the new piece, which you can read in full here.

1. He didn’t support Alastair Campbell’s expulsion from the Labour Party and thinks he should return.

With reference to Campbell being automatically expelled from the party after announcing on television that he had voted for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections…

AC: Did you support my expulsion from the party?

JM: No.

AC: Would you have me back?

JM: Yes.

2. He thinks Labour can win outright – and won’t make deals.

AC: You think you can win a majority at the next election?

JM: Yeah, I do.

AC: You don’t think you’d have to rely on the SNP or the Lib Dems?

JM: No. Well, I think we can win a majority, but if we go into a minority government situation, there will be no deals, we’ll just lay out our programme and they either support it or they don’t.

3. He would still prefer an election before a referendum but says a “large number” disagree.

With reference to the many Labour MPs who say they won’t back an election before a referendum

AC: Do you agree with me that there shouldn’t be an election?

JM: I’m more of the view that we’ve said up until now that we want a general election. That, of course, is what our objective is, but let’s see what actually parliament will wear in the end. Within parliament itself there is a large number of people who are saying we’d rather have a referendum attached to any deal.

AC: What would you rather have?

JM: I want a general election, actually. I would like a general election.

4. He reckons Labour is “on top of” the issue of antisemitism in the party.

AC: The antisemitism stuff, you’re not happy with the way it has been handled?

JM: No, I’m not. And you know my view, we should have been firmer, more ruthless and faster. I think we are on top of that now but we are learning lessons all the time.

5. He hints that some Lib Dems are unhappy about their party’s approach to a Corbyn-led government.

With reference to Jo Swinson refusing to support a Corbyn-led ‘government of national unity’ to prevent no deal…

AC: Have you been surprised at Jo Swinson’s approach vis-à-vis a Jeremy government?

JM: Not her personally, but I have been surprised that other elements within the Lib Dems haven’t asserted themselves a bit more, but I think that is beginning to happen.

AC: So, you think that, talking about the constitution, if the government falls for any reason, Jeremy has to be the first person?

JM: Yes. We’re the largest party. That’s the convention.

6. He can’t see Corbyn or himself staying on if Labour loses the election.

AC: OK. Another hypothetical. If he were to lose another election, is it possible for him to stay on?

JM: I can’t see… I think it is the same for my own personal position, I can’t see so. What we’d do is as the tradition, which is have an election for a new leader. I’m still of the view now that whoever comes after Jeremy has got to be a woman. We’ve got to have a woman leader. If you look at the new youngsters that have come through, they are fantastic.

7. He thinks the next Labour leader will be a woman.

JM: I think we are in that situation now where we’ve got such a range of talented women in the shadow cabinet that it’s obvious it’s going to be a woman next time.

AC: So, it’s Emily Thornberry, Rebecca Long-Bailey…

JM: There is a whole range of women. Angela Rayner… There is a whole range of women and it’s fantastic.

AC: OK. So, you’re ruling yourself out again?

JM: Yeah, of course.

8. He agrees the attempt to oust Tom Watson was a “fiasco”.

With reference to Jon Lansman moving a motion to abolish the deputy leader post on the eve of conference…

AC: What about the Tom Watson fiasco at conference?

JM: Yeah. It was a fiasco.

AC: Was Jeremy just not present or not engaged? Or was he engaged and it went wrong?

JM: Things happened that Jeremy wasn’t aware of and when he became aware he intervened. But he intervened by providing his view to the NEC and they adopted it.

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