John McDonnell’s U-turn on backing the government’s fiscal charter is just the sort of inconsistent positioning some in Labour fear will destroy the party’s reputation under Jeremy Corbyn. No one from the shadow treasury team was willing to speak on the Today programme about the U-turn so it was left to seasoned media performer Diane Abbott, now the shadow international development secretary, to defend the party’s position. In a rather bizarre interview, Abbott claimed that Labour was not in a shambles:
‘No, no, no, I think we’re in the right position to oppose Osborne’s mismanagement of the economy’.
Before declining to explain why McDonnell has changed his mind on backing the charter:
‘He will be explaining that to the House of Commons tomorrow so you will have long to wait to find out.’
Abbott went on to say Labour ‘shouldn’t get caught up in a process story’ but reiterated ‘we are in the right position now, it’s a position most of the PLP is comfortable and I think all party members. When Abbott was asked why she was avoiding the question, she decided to congratulate herself on giving a good answer:
‘I don’t think it’s sad at all, I think it’s a great answer, we have 24 hours to wait. The point is we’re in the right position.’
Abbott denied to John Humphreys that the party is in a bad place aat the moment— disregarding reports of an angry PLP meeting last night:
‘You know John that at any given time there will a group of MPs in Parliament of whatever party who are unhappy but I suspect my colleagues on reflection will calm down and devote their energies to attacking Osborne and his mismanagement of the economy.’
She blamed any anger on the fact some people haven’t got their heads around the idea that Corbyn won the leadership contest:
‘Look, some people are only slowly coming to terms with the fact that Jeremy won. Once they’ve come to terms with that, they’ll be happy.’
And when might that be? ‘Ooooh, I hope weeks rather than months’ she said. The Corbynites are deluding themselves if they believe Labour MPs will suddenly realise they have been wrong about Corbyn, drop their opposition to what he is doing and suddenly accept him as their leader. In reality, Abbott’s interview will confirm all of the sceptics’ worst fears: there is no messaging, no positioning and no solid policies behind Labour’s New Politics. If this is what Corbyn’s leadership is going to sound like, the Tories will be having Bucks Fizz for breakfast every day when listening to Radio 4, while the Labour moderates will be crying into their porridge.