UK Politics

John McDonnell promises no Labour MP will be deselected

John McDonnell

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has stressed there is "no way" any Labour MPs will face deselection.

He told BBC Radio 4's PM programme he hopes centrists would become more involved in the party's front line.

In a wide-ranging interview, he also revealed he had to seek police advice after receiving death threats.

And he described how Jeremy Corbyn replied "oh, go on then", after being told it was his "turn" to be the left's candidate for Labour Party leader.

'Lessons to be learned'

Mr McDonnell said he feared the left would face "crushing defeat" if they fielded a candidate - but that now Mr Corbyn is leader, he believes the party will win the 2020 general election.

Dismissing the prospect of any MPs being forced out, he told PM: "Almost on a daily basis, I'm saying there is no way there are going to be deselections and we would not support them.

"Quite the reverse - we want people back involved."

He specifically said he hoped Chuka Umunna would "come back", but named the former business secretary as one of those who had turned down serving in the shadow cabinet "on the basis of policies they had never read", describing such a move as "extraordinary".

"I'm hoping all of them will play a role because a lot of lessons have got to be learned by all of us really," said Mr McDonnell.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr McDonnell said he and Jeremy Corbyn had been friends for more than 30 years

He said while social media is a useful tool, he added that "of course there are trolls out there", describing how he had to speak to the police to boost his security.

"You get used to death threats after a while," the shadow chancellor said. "I had a meeting with the police on Monday morning because I had a couple of emails from someone.

"Once you get one you think 'oh never mind', but once they've followed it up, that triggered the meeting with the cops.

"They came in just to give some advice and they have done this thing about more security at the office and they met my wife just to sort out the security at home.

"It's appalling and it shouldn't be in politics."

'No more jokes'

On Mr Corbyn's nomination to be Labour leader, Mr McDonnell said he had convened meetings with left organisations who argued that a candidate should be put forward - despite his assertion that to do so would be "a disaster for the left".

He told PM: "We went around the table and said, 'come on, alright. We're under so much pressure. We've got to run a candidate'.

"So I said, 'I've done it twice, not again. I couldn't get on the ballot paper'.

"Diane [Abbott] had run twice and didn't want to do it. And so then we turned to Jeremy and said, 'well - it's your turn' and he said, 'oh, go on then' and that was it."

He described it as "really exciting" to be shadow chancellor, adding: "I was expecting a quiet drift into elder statesmanhood on the left."

Mr McDonnell said he had promised Mr Corbyn not to make any more jokes - but claimed some members of the public enjoyed his decision to throw a copy of Mao's Little Red Book to Chancellor George Osborne in the Commons.

"I'm reckless with my jokes and I've promised Jeremy no more jokes," he added.

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