Labour’s new leaders initially said they would support the government’s fiscal charter. All seemed fine until MPs were told in a stormy meeting that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnel changed his mind and would now oppose it.
Therefore, Labour is now against the fiscal charter, which aims to force future governments to run budget surpluses within the next three years during ‘normal times’.
On September 25th, Mr. McDonnel told the Guardian in an interview:
“We accept we are going to have to live within our means and we always will do – full stop. We are not deficit deniers. We will support the charter.”
Mr. McDonnel said ‘Yes’ in September and then ‘No’ in October. Many Labour MPs are becoming seriously concerned about their leadership’s credibility.
According to several British media sources, many MPs at the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party were furious at the decision. According to Laura Kuenssberg, BBC Political Editor, party leader Jeremy Corbyn had no idea of the imminent U-turn.
During a BBC Radio 4 Today programme, former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said:
“To go from one extreme to the other is wrong in economic terms but also it sends the wrong message to the general public as well.”
“I think to be fair to John McDonnell this is a very difficult balancing act, it’s a very difficult topic, but it’s incredibly important that he is clear and consistent and explains fully not just what Labour’s position is but also why he backed George Osborne’s surplus a couple of weeks ago and is now against it apparently.”
Labour MPs openly mocking leadership
A large number of Labour MPs yesterday openly mocked their party’s leadership for undermining credibility and practising what they described as ‘student union politics’.
Several former shadow cabinet ministers said publicly that they were seriously considering voting against their party on Conservative proposals to balance the books.
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Diane Abbott, said she believes the MPs will calm down and decide the back the party line.
Source: Mike Gapes Twitter account
Mike Gapes, the Ilford South MP, wrote on Twitter not long after Ms. Abbott’s comments:
“There is now no collective shadow cabinet responsibility in our party, no clarity on economic policy and no credible leadership.” He later added “Of course leadership and PLP should engage with members. But government is not a student union general meeting.”
As Corbyn supporters turned on Mr. Gapes, he pointed out that the new Labour leader was an avid anti-party whip voter throughout his political career.
Chika Umunna and Emma Reynold, two former shadow cabinet ministers under Ed Miliband, told broadcasters they may abstain.
Labour Bassetlaw MP, John Mann, called Mr. McDonnell’s handling of the fiscal charter “clumsily and stupidly (done).” He added “I do hope he’s learnt his lesson.”