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10 February 2016

Leeds meeting expresses Corbyn and McDonnell's contradictions

Iain Dalton, Socialist Party member in Leeds East constituency

Hundreds crammed into a Leeds meeting hall recently to hear Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell speak at a meeting organised by left-wing Leeds East MP, Richard Burgon.

Burgon opened the meeting commenting that there was nowhere he would like to be more than in a room full of people wanting to change society. The discussion that followed whetted people's appetite for more discussion and action to challenge the austerity agenda.

In recounting the whirlwind process of the Corbyn for leader campaign, McDonnell raised again many of the policies that had won Corbyn so much support - from free education to reinstating trade union rights, a mass council house building programme to an end to privatisation in the NHS.

Responding to the looming climate change catastrophe McDonnell raised "making the energy companies pay for investing in renewables." Yet the method suggested to deliver this was a windfall tax rather than a bold policy of nationalisation.

Unfortunately McDonnell also praised Ed Miliband as 'doing the best job he could' prior to the last election. His claim that "a majority, in fact virtually all of the PLP have come to terms" with Corbyn's leadership, seems a stretch to say the least.

Notwithstanding this papering over of divisions inside the Labour Party, the meeting still expressed the breath of fresh air represented by Corbyn and McDonnell's leadership. McDonnell expressed his wish to see the Tories kicked out of office before 2020 and pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder with any trade union in resisting the anti-union laws.