Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has slammed Chancellor Philip Hammond after his speech to the Conservative Party conference, claiming he has “borrowed” policies from the Labour Party. But he went further, saying that the Tories have presided over the growth of a “dangerous divide in society”.
The most boring speech in 20 years
McDonnell’s comments came after Hammond gave his headline speech to the Tory conference in Birmingham on Monday 3 October. Described by The Guardian‘s Andrew Sparrow as “the most boring speech delivered by a chancellor to a party conference for at least two decades”, it outlined the following policies:
- Dropping attempts to eliminate the so-called deficit by 2020.
- Replacing any EU funding for projects lost due to Brexit.
- Providing £320m for technological innovation.
- Boosting the ‘Midlands Engine‘ (similar to George Osborne’s ‘Northern Powerhouse‘).
- Creating a £3bn ‘homebuilders’ fund’ and providing £2bn to speed-up construction on public land.
The BBC’s Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, described Hammond’s speech as ‘unflash‘, with a lot of talk about improving ‘productivity’ but no actual ideas on how to do it.
McDonnell was less than impressed, saying in a statement that:
This morning Philip Hammond may have performed a u-turn on investment spending, admitting that the failed ‘long-term economic plan’ never really existed, [but] he still intends to go ahead with cuts to in-work benefits, and local authority funding.
Hammond didn’t directly ‘admit’ that Osborne and former Prime Minister David Cameron’s “long-term economic plan” didn’t exist. What he said was that those policies were “right for the time”, and that he would “set out a new plan, for the new circumstances the UK faces”. Hammond described this as doing economics in “a pragmatic way that reflects the new circumstances we face”, but warned of a Brexit “rollercoaster” ride.
McDonnell: Hammond’s a thief!
But this ‘sensible’ approach didn’t wash with McDonnell, who claimed that only Labour now supported “patient” long-term investment. He then outright accused Hammond of stealing Labour policies, saying:
…it’s clear that Philip Hammond is now borrowing from Labour to invest in his own speech. As well as abandoning their own fiscal charter this was full of the same empty promises George Osborne made, only with worse gags.
The “gags” McDonnell was referring to were ones aimed at former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, and his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing. In humour that The Mirror’s Kevin MaGuire said was “drier than a chicken”, the Chancellor ‘joked’ of Labour that:
Ed wasn’t their first choice for Strictly. They were going to ask Corbyn to do it but then someone told him he had two left feet. I don’t want to sound like Craig Revel Horwood but I expect his Charleston is probably better than his economic analysis.
But McDonnell found little to amuse in the Chancellor’s speech. He concluded that:
The chancellor should apologise today for the failed Tory approach that has meant he has had to abandon the failed economic agenda of the last six years, an approach which has seen them dragging their heels on tax avoidance, an increase in child poverty, and house-building falling to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s. The dangerous divide in society the chancellor mentioned has come about as a direct result of the policies he has voted for since 2010.
And McDonnell may well be right. With child poverty having rocketed, the Tories apparently borrowing more in six years than all Labour governments combined, and inequality levels through the roof, the country may well be facing a “rollercoaster” ride with Brexit. But after six years of Tory rule, most people in the UK are used to ups and downs. And it’s a damning indictment that the only ‘ups’ seem to have been for the richest in society.
Watch John McDonnell’s response to the Chancellor’s speech:
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) October 3, 2016
– Read The Canary’s other articles on the Conservative Party conference.
– Support The Canary, so we can keep bringing you the news that matters.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?