John McDonnell says ‘Jeremy was the right leader’ but was ‘demonised’ by a media smear campaign as he steps down

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John McDonnell has confirmed he will not be part of Labour’s next shadow cabinet following the party’s defeat in Thursday’s election.

The shadow chancellor, who played a prominent role in Labour’s election campaign, said “I’ve done my bit”, and suggested a big reshuffle of Labour’s front bench team will now take place.

McDonnell added that “Jeremy was the right leader”.

McDonnell, who retained the Hayes and Harlington seat he has held since 1997 in Thursday’s election, added that Corbyn had been “demonised by a smear campaign against him” by the media. He fully backed Corbyn saying:

I didn’t back the wrong person because Jeremy was the right leader. We could have won in 2017. Things moved on. Brexit dominated everything.

Asked if Corbyn was the reason for the party’s defeat, he added:

I think there is an issue to be discussed about how the use of the social media – but also the overall media – has turned someone who I think is one of the most principled, honest, sincere, committed anti-racist politicians demonised by a smear campaign against him.

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He told BBC News:

We will all go now. The new leader will come in place and appoint a shadow cabinet. I won’t be part of the shadow cabinet.

I’ve done my bit. We need to move on at that stage with that new leader.

A senior source  close to McDonnell, who has been shadow chancellor since 2015, said: “John will stay in place until a new leader and new frontbench team is in place.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said ‘I’ve done my bit’ (PA)

McDonnell added that Brexit was not the only reason for Labour’s significant defeat:

I think we will be in a position, learning lessons listening to people, constructing a broad coalition right across the country. In those seats we have lost, it is about listening to people.

I think it wasn’t just Brexit. I think a long history of maybe 40 years of neglect and them saying to politicians ‘you never listen to us and you have allowed our community to run down in this way’.

I am hoping that will enable us to construct a programme to address those issues, but it has got to be from the grassroots and community upwards.

The election saw Labour swept aside by the Conservatives in its heartlands in the Midlands, north Wales and north-eastern England. Some traditional Labour constituencies, such as Darlington in the north of England, now have a Conservative MP for the first time in decades – in the case of Bishop Auckland, for the first time since the seat was created.

Corbyn has said he will not be leading the party into another general election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said it was up to the National Executive to decide when he would go (PA)

Speaking about the timetable for him to leave, Corbyn said:

The National Executive will have to meet, of course, in the very near future and it is up to them. It will be in the early part of next year.

Positioning in the race to become the next Labour leader has already started, with ardent Remainer David Lammy confirming he was considering putting his name forward.

Others being touted to take over include Lisa Nandy, who represents Leave-voting Wigan, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner, Sir Keir Starmer, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry.

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  • Show Comments
    1. who would be best placed to win the trust of those we’ve just lost? certainly not Thonberry, Lammy Starmer, McDonnell (he’s gone anyway). Still can’t forgive him and Abbott for kicking out Murphy about which Owen Jones later triumphantly penned in the Guardian. someone dare to mention Jess Philips. unbelievable stuff. hopefully no Cooper, no Benn, no Kinnock. if any of them were elected to key positions, quite likely Labour will not get my vote. Maybe a rule of thumb is to look out for anyone recommended in the Guardian (including theCanary’s favs Owen Jones, Mason and Monbiot although I’ve not seen him tipping anyone) and cross them out.

      I still deeply want Jeremy to continue to be our leader. Despite what is said on the media, in my heart I still think these are mere myths or exaggerations. I don’t see how a decent person like him could be despised. I simply couldn’t. Hard not to cry…

      1. General elections Blair played 3 won 3
        Corbyn played 2 lost 2. Biggest defeat in nearly 100 years.
        Absolutely ironic that a man who ‘loves’ the party probably more than anything in his life might end up destroying it.
        The idea that Richard Burton might run for deputy leader is astounding, probably the stupidest man in parliament bar Mark Francois.

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