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Sunday shows round-up: McDonnell – ‘I am to blame for election disaster’

15 December 2019

2:33 PM

15 December 2019

2:33 PM

John McDonnell – I am responsible for Labour’s ‘catastrophic’ loss

Thursday’s general election saw the Conservatives returned to office with a majority of 80, their best performance since Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1987. Boris Johnson’s gain was almost exclusively Labour’s loss, with the party achieving its lowest total number of seats since 1935. Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have since made clear that they will not try to fight another election as part of Labour’s top team. Andrew Marr asked McDonnell about who bore responsibility for Labour’s historic defeat:

JM: It’s on me… I own this disaster. I apologise to all those wonderful Labour MPs who have lost their seats, who worked so hard. I apologise to all our campaigners… If anyone is to blame it is me. Full stop.


…But it was also the media

McDonnell said that he accepted his position of pushing for Remain in a second Brexit referendum had probably helped to alienate potential supporters. However, he made clear that he felt the blame did not lie entirely on Labour’s shoulders:

JM: The media did a number on Jeremy for four years solid every day… They did the same with Ed Miliband, they did the same with Neil Kinnock… I think it’s anyone who challenges the establishment will be portrayed in this way.


Next Labour leader ‘should be a woman’

McDonnell denied that he was seeking to engineer the next leadership contest in favour of the Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, but he made sure to draw attention to several female candidates (though he was less keen on the idea of Jess Phillips):

JM: It’s interesting how many women are actually there… I think it should be a woman leader next time around… I don’t think there’s… much difference in terms of policy.


Lisa Nandy – I’m ‘seriously thinking’ about running for leader

One candidate who may throw her hat into the ring is Wigan’s Lisa Nandy. Nandy, whose majority was halved in the election, told Marr that she had her eyes on getting Labour back into government:

LN: We’ve just had the most shattering defeat where you really felt in towns like mine that the town was quaking… We need to think seriously about how we’re going to take that very hard road back to power and who is best placed to fix it.


Nicola Sturgeon – ‘Scotland cannot be imprisoned’ inside the UK

The SNP were the other big winners from Thursday’s result, making a net 13 gains from their unionist opponents. Scotland’s First Minister was keen to leave Boris Johnson in no doubt about how she would interpret her success:

NS: If the United Kingdom is to continue then it can only be by consent, and if Boris Johnson is confident in the case for the union, then he should be confident enough to make that case and allow people to decide… Scotland cannot be imprisoned within the UK against its will.


Michael Gove – No ‘indyref2’ under this government

However, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove told Sophy Ridge that Sturgeon’s proposal for a second independence referendum was not on the cards anytime soon:

MG: We have just seen what happens when politicians try to overturn a referendum result. In the same way, we should respect the [Scottish] referendum result of 2014… We are not going to have an independence referendum in Scotland.


We will have a trade deal by the end of 2020

Gove insisted that despite the delays to the UK’s withdrawal date from the EU, the UK was still on course to leave with a completed trade deal, without having to extend negotiations beyond the current deadline of December 2020:

MG: Quite a lot of the detail that we need to negotiate is already laid out in the political declaration… There are areas where the European Union’s interests and the United Kingdom’s interests are already closely aligned, so I’m confident that we will be able not just to leave the EU on 31 January but also to conclude all the details of a new relationship in short order.


The NHS is our ‘number one focus’ after Brexit

Gove stressed that the Conservatives intended to put extra funding for the health service at the forefront of their domestic agenda, having made such pledges a central plank of their campaign:

MG: The NHS is the number one focus of this government when it comes to domestic policy. We need to make sure the NHS is properly funded, and we will be bringing forward legislation to ensure that there is an NHS funding guarantee. That’s the first and most important thing.


Conservative anti-Semitism ‘a cause of concern’

Shortly after the Conservative’s election victory, Gove castigated Labour’s record on anti-Semitism for causing British Jews to ‘live in fear’. Ridge confronted him about anti-Semitism allegations against two of his party’s newest MPs:

MG: It is a cause of concern, but what I cannot do is pass judgement here… We do need to be scrupulous in looking at the behaviour of all candidates. There is no place for anti-Semitism, for Islamophobia, or for any form of prejudice in our politics.


Caroline Flint – Our next leader can’t be ‘Corbyn without a beard’

Caroline Flint, who lost her Don Valley seat to the Conservatives, told Ridge that Labour should keep away from continuity candidates if the party is to rebuild itself:

CF: I don’t think it should be anybody who has had a hand in our Brexit strategy over the last few years. I don’t think it can be Corbyn without a beard. I think that would be the wrong move as well.


‘Ardent Remainers’ have cost us seats

Flint took aim at a number of senior Labour politicians, both in the party’s top team and outside it.

CF: I do believe that in the pursuit of Remain, a number of people who have been ardent Remainers… have contributed to sacrificing 59 seats… but ‘don’t worry, we’ve got Putney and we’ve got Canterbury’. With all due respect… I don’t believe that was worth it.


Thornberry called voters ‘stupid’

Flint also said that the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry had described a fellow Labour MP’s constituents as ‘stupid’, supposedly for voting for Brexit. Thornberry has denied the claim as a ‘total and utter lie’:

CF: She said to one of my colleagues ‘I’m glad my constituents aren’t as stupid as yours’. I’m sorry, it’s not acceptable.


Sir Ed Davey – ‘She’s not very dignified, is she?’

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats expressed his disappointment at Nicola Sturgeon’s triumphalist reaction to her SNP candidate ousting Jo Swinson in her East Dunbartonshire constituency:

ED: She’s not very dignified, is she? And I think that approach to politics, taking glee in someone else’s defeat in the way that she does… isn’t appropriate for the First Minister of Scotland.


Rishi Sunak – Russia report will be published

And finally, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury told Marr that the controversial ‘Russia report’ investigating links between Russian business interests and British politics will be published in due course, but when exactly is another matter:

RS: I can’t tell you exactly when it is going to be published… It is a sensitive report… This report is well within the timeframe that is normal to be vetted, and of course when its appropriate the Prime Minister will release it.

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