In last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions – John McDonnell audaciously brandished a copy of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell dropped a political bombshell in the House of Commons What was it over? A book. Not just any book, mind. A book conveying a philosophy that is most certainly taboo in British politics. A book that was none other than Mao Zeodong’s very own ‘Little Red Book’. The commotion caused by it was far from little, however.
The immediate reactions of everyone in the House of Commons were indeed telling. The Conservatives were overjoyed. It was an early Christmas present for them. Many MPs were chorusing “more! more!” On the Labour side of the hall, some found it amusing; yet it clearly stirred up much discontent. Even Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who could be seen sat beside McDonnell at the time, had a faint look of despair as this historic book was pulled out; which is, to some extent, the scriptures, or holy book, of the far left.
Cameron and Obsourne’s reactions show their delight
Clearly it was done as a mere jest, and nothing more than a humoured attack at Chancellor George Osborne – who he ironically labelled “Comrade Osborne” – in criticism for his approach to Britain’s relations with China. His direct quote from Chairman Mao was as follows:
“We must learn to do economic work from all who know how. No matter who they are, we must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. But we must not pretend to know what we do not know.”
Yet it is an unsuitable affiliation. Surely you’d expect something like this from the Communist Party of Great Britain themselves; not from a serious opposition party vying to win power in modern-day Britain – where Thatcherism still lingers and private property is still at large.
Most Marxists I have ever associated with would actually distance themselves from Mao Zedong: a dictator of the People’s Republic of China, responsible for the deaths of millions of his own civilians – from famine and executing those against the rule. Even if you are going to cite a Communist figure at all in British politics, better to use a figure such as Lenin or Trotsky; not a brutal mass-murdering despot.
Many feel content with a more narrow view of politics. Even if it isn’t one that directly mirrors the Conservative party’s ideology, it wouldn’t drift too far from this. Hence by both the Conservative party and the then-austerity-favouring Labour party gained 330 and 232 seats respectively (562 out of 650 overall) in the General Election last May. Many predict the latter figure, which is that of Labour of course, will be trimmed away if trends stay the same.
However, if this incident is played upon, it could slash away much of Labour’s moderate support base. If even their own backbenchers disapprove of this move, does this not amplify the attitudes that will be stirred in the voters? A poll on the Daily Telegraph showed that 84% believe it is a bad move.
Who would play upon this? That’s right, the Conservative party themselves, and the media which backs them. The Tory supporting ‘The Sun’ and the ‘Daily Mail’ have torn into Corbyn and his new reign over the Labour Party in recent months. And the episode during PMQs has quite frankly handed them material on a plate. They will no doubt berate Labour with this for years to come. Even Osborne, when opening Mao’s book in the House of Commons, claimed that it was a signed copy – therefore solidifying a “connection” between the Shadow Chancellor and Maoism. While I personally doubt that John McDonnell is currently a Maoist, the right-wing element of Britain will try and portray him to be so.
Corbyn himself has admitted in the past that his favourite philosopher is Karl Marx. A good move for a political leader? Probably not. Even worse when the media will broadcast that the Labour Party is run by Communist sympathisers? Most certainly. Corbyn has already been accused of: befriending terrorist groups ‘Hamas’ and ‘Hezbollah’; allegedly saying that Osama Bin Laden’s death was a tragedy (clearly taken out of context); that the shoot-to-kill policy against terrorists is unethical; and has said that Britain should scrap its nuclear deterrent system.
Remember how Labour’s very subtle fraternizing with the centre-left Scottish National Party was seen as the potential dawn of a Marxist rule over Britain? Obviously that’s nothing compared to what has just happened. Poor McDonnell; in his own mind he meant well. Yet he further revealed a secret love-affair with the far left that is present in the Labour party. This could truly haunt them for years to come, and could seriously tarnish any hope they had at winning public support.
You can watch the video below: