Hats off to John McDonnell. We’ve all been fretting about how the Corbyn gang would cope against the media slick Tories. We all think that, despite the
appeal of conviction politics, a shadow chancellor such as McDonnell will
be eaten alive by the Tory front bench.
John McDonnell’s performance on BBC Question Time last night suggested
otherwise. Question Time is a good test for politicians: they have to look
and sound passionate while saying nothing much at all. McDonnell did
exactly that, and with gusto. He masterfully shrugged off his ‘joke’ about
killing Margaret Thatcher. When asked about his support for the IRA, he
managed almost simultaneously to apologise and to take credit for bringing
peace to Northern Ireland. His answer is worth quoting at length because it
is a masterpiece in deceptive speech:
‘I think my choice of words was wrong. I accept that. I should not have
said the issue about the honouring. I actually said afterwards that there is no cause that justifies the loss of life in this way.
What I tried to do for both sides is to give them a way out with some
form of dignity otherwise they wouldn’t lay their arms down. I accept it was a mistake to use those words. But if it contributed towards saving one life or preventing someone else being maimed it was worth doing because we did hold on to the peace process. There was a real risk of the republican movement splitting and some of them continuing with the armed process.’
Genius! That amounts to ‘What I said was wrong; but by saying it I helped
end a major conflict so, er, basically, it wasn’t.’ He just wanted to give
peace a chance, see? He even welled up a little as he said ‘bottom of my
heart’. It was a performance worthy of the master, Tony Blair. As Douglas and others have already pointed out, his self-defence is bilge. But as we know, in politics, right and wrong do not matter. It is about making the public feel good. The QT audience applauded his apology, and I expect many people watching at home did too. The new new Labour might be better at spin than anyone realises.