Although the weekly meeting of the parliamentary Labour party is a private affair, Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman offers journalists lurking in the committee corridor outside a briefing as soon as it has concluded. Today he had to take questions from hacks on whether or not his boss goes to McDonald’s – prompted by the news that the Labour party is banning the fast food outlet from having a stall at its party conference.
Both the staff and the burger ban came up at the meeting. It started with an observation from Baroness Armstrong that the Labour leader now has a phalanx of staff with him when he attends these sessions, as opposed to just one or two advisers. Corbyn was confronted by Toby Perkins and Wes Streeting about the decision, with Perkins raising the case of a constituent who is being made redundant by the party, and asking why, if Labour is so short of money that it is laying people off, it is turning down £30,000 from McDonald’s? He then asked what sort of a message this move sent. Streeting insisted that he wanted McDonald’s to pay the living wage and recognise trade unions – the gripes that the leader’s office has cited when explaining the ban – but asked whether there was some sort of new test for whether or not a company could have a stand at the conference. MPs afterwards were wondering where the move to boycotts would end, and what it meant for the party coffers. Corbyn defended the ban to the meeting, making clear that he had decided that he did not like McDonald’s. He argued that workers were entitled to representation.
Corbyn also listed – in what one MP present called ‘the manner of someone going through the church notices’ – the work he was doing to campaign in the local elections. He told the meeting that there was no point in making any predictions about the number of seats it will win or lose in these elections.
The leader did receive a number of rounds of applause from the not-particularly-full meeting. One was in response to him congratulating the various MPs who have just had babies. There was also a long question from Stephen Kinnock about steel – and Corbyn thanked the Aberavon MP, Angela Eagle and John McDonnell for their efforts on the steel crisis.
Party General Secretary Iain McNicol also presented a report on anti-Semitism, saying that everyone who had been reported for anti-Semitism had either been suspended or excluded, and that people should report any other incidents. Some MPs were unhappy, though, that Corbyn himself didn’t raise this issue. His spokesman afterwards explained that this was because the Labour leader felt that it had been dealt with by McNicol.
And as for whether Corbyn has been in McDonald’s himself, his spokesman said: ‘I’m not sure what’s on the menu for him… I’ve never seen him in a McDonald’s, but I will have to ask him.’