You can see what John McDonnell was trying to do today. ‘I’ll bring along a copy of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, wave it at George Osborne and make a joke about kowtowing to China’, he must have thought. It became obvious after his statement that the joke had backfired so McDonnell must have then thought ‘what should I do to show I’m not a Maoist?’. His response was to naturally indulge in some Stalinist censorship.
In the video above of McDonnell’s response to the Autumn Statement, released on his YouTube channel, the Mao joke has been erased. At 6:06, the video fades out from the shadow chancellor discussing the sale of public assets ‘the Chancellor wants to sell them to the People’s Republic of China’ and into ‘in the end this debate is about what sort of society we want to live in’:
By removing the Mao segment from his speech, McDonnell is likely to encounter the ‘Streisand effect’ of what happens when information is censored online. The Economist has a handy explanation of it:
‘Named after the American singer and actress Barbra Streisand, the Streisand Effect describes how efforts to suppress a juicy piece of online information can backfire and end up making things worse for the would-be censor’.
McDonnell was later quizzed on BBC News about the millions of deaths under Mao. ‘Yeah of course and I condemn all that,’ McDonnell casually said, before attempting to explain the point he was trying to make about selling off assets:
— Ross Hawkins (@rosschawkins) November 25, 2015
As Isabel reported earlier, Team McDonnell hasn’t held the normal press post-Autumn Statement press briefing — making it hard for Labour to score any points against Osborne and gain some ground after the Commons statement. So all we have to judge the shadow chancellor on is the BBC interview and his comments in the chamber.
Regardless of what McDonnell had to say to Osborne, which itself was pretty uninspiring, it has been another disastrous day for Labour’s messaging — once again showing that the party’s current leadership are prone to silly gaffes that make it look amateurish.