Brexit: Labour ‘is not in turmoil’, says John McDonnell

John McDonnellImage copyright
EPA

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has insisted Labour is not in “turmoil” over its Brexit stance, following a heated party meeting in which Jeremy Corbyn faced criticism from his MPs.

Speaking at the Times CEO summit, Mr McDonnell said he welcomed lively debate in a democracy.

But MP Anna Turley said colleagues were “shell shocked” afterwards, such had been the level of anger expressed.

“I think the cleaners are probably still mopping up the blood,” she added.

Ms Turley, who did not attend Monday’s meeting herself, is calling for a “firmer position on Brexit” from the party leader – with her preference being for a confirmatory vote on any deal agreed between the UK and the EU.

She told the BBC’s Politics Live programme colleagues who had been present made clear it had been a “messy and difficult” meeting.

At the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting, a number of MPs expressed concerns that it had now become “normalised” for Labour voters to back other parties over Brexit.

Others strongly criticised Mr Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism.

When asked whether his party was in turmoil over Brexit, Mr McDonnell said: “It’s not turmoil.”

He said the party had promised to respect the referendum result in its manifesto and now, after failing to secure a deal with the Conservatives in cross-party talks, the situation meant “most probably going back to a public vote” – his preference being a general election.

“I would rather have people get up and say, ‘This is what I feel,’ passionately, rather than sneak away to the corners,” he added.

Mr McDonnell also said he was frustrated that Alastair Campbell was expelled more swiftly than some accused of those within Labour accused of anti-Semitism, after the former spin doctor for Tony Blair voted for the Liberal Democrats in the European elections.

“I was annoyed, but here’s the irony – the process that removed Alastair Campbell was brought in by New Labour under Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair,” the shadow chancellor said.

“We should review that procedure, it doesn’t work.”

After the PLP meeting, a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said there were strong feelings about Brexit and the shadow cabinet would discuss Labour’s “evolving” position on Tuesday.

“The PLP [the parliamentary Labour Party] is generally quite a robust meeting,” he said. “The PLP is very passionate about lots of issues not just about Brexit. That’s what we would expect.”

Brexit: Labour ‘is not in turmoil’, says John McDonnell}

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