With one small act of solidarity, John McDonnell proves he’s a politician with genuine guts

John McDonnell
Emily Apple

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has taken part in an important act of solidarity. And it shows exactly why he’s the sort of politician we need and should support. Because McDonnell has taken a risk. Despite the outrage expressed by many police officers and their allies against Lush’s spycops campaign, he has spoken out by signing a letter in support of the cosmetics retailer.

I’m not a member of the Labour Party. I wouldn’t describe myself as a Corbynista – although I welcome the direction and policies Jeremy Corbyn and his allies have brought to the Labour Party. I am, however, a core participant in the Undercover Policing Inquiry. And as someone who’s been spied on, I support Lush’s campaign to highlight both undercover policing and the various issues we have with the current inquiry.

A deafening silence

When the uproar over Lush’s posters broke, there was a deafening silence from Labour politicians. Green MP Caroline Lucas and peer Jenny Jones both tweeted messages of support. But while home secretary Sajid Javid deigned to finally notice the spycops campaign by tweeting his opposition to it, not a peep was heard from prominent Labour politicians.

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This silence led people to note on Twitter:

It felt like, while Labour can talk a good talk, when it came down to supporting us on controversial issues, the front bench was going to bury its head in the sand.

McDonnell’s letter

Happily, I got it wrong. McDonnell was one of 74 people, including lawyers and core participants, to sign a letter to the Guardian expressing support for the campaign. The letter states:

The cosmetics retailer Lush has used its facilities to help us as victims press for full disclosure and reform so that this never happens again…This is not an attack on police; it serves to help all those in the police service who wish to uphold the highest standards of policing. For this we thank Lush for its support. We condemn those who have misrepresented Lush and our campaign and especially those who have sought to intimidate Lush staff. #WeStandWithLush

Other signatories to the letter include Doreen Lawrence and Green Party co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley. It was also supported by representatives from several trade unions, including the Fire Brigades Union, Unite and the RMT.

McDonnell also tweeted:

Solidarity

Labour’s policies on policing have been pretty appalling. Instead of any meaningful critiques of policing, it has played the populist card. Pandering to the policing lobby, it has repeatedly called for more police on the streets and more money for the police.

But this is why McDonnell’s gesture is important. Through putting his name to something that has garnered such outrage from prominent policing figures and bodies, he is putting his support before political expediency.

It’s not going to turn me into a card-carrying supporter of the Labour Party. But I appreciate and support his act of solidarity while also lamenting that more of his colleagues haven’t added their support to the campaign. And while I’ll never stop believing that our current system of parliamentary democracy is inherently flawed, if we had more politicians like McDonnell and Lucas – who are prepared to stand up for what they believe in – then parliament could be a fundamentally better place.

Get Involved!

Leave Lush a nice review on Facebook. Or better yet, go to your local store and share your support with the staff directly.

Support Police Spies Out Of Lies, the organisation behind Lush’s campaign.

Check out more stories about the undercover policing inquiry on The Canary.

Learn more about a world without police in The Lockdown’s podcast with Alex Vitale, author of The End of Policing.

Featured image by John Ranson for The Canary

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