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22nd Nov 2018

Labour’s John McDonnell says he could not be friends with a Conservative

James Dawson

“It’s not about tribalism, it’s about being honest with people about what this government has done and what the alternative is”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said he could not be friends with a Tory as he “can’t forgive them” for the “human suffering” they have caused.

Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday night, Jeremy Corbyn’s number two said that he refused to befriend Conservative MPs, not because of tribalism, but because he wanted to be “honest with people” about the effects of government policies.

He said: “I can’t forgive them for what they’ve done. I go back to my constituency and I’ve never seen human suffering like this in all the times I’ve been an MP, in the 40 years I’ve lived in my constituency.

“I can’t forgive them for what they have done, the level of poverty.

“The number of children that can only eat each day because their family are going to food banks, the number of people who sanctioned no benefit whatsoever, the number of disabled people, and I have had them in my constituency surgery, who’ve attempted suicide as a result of the sanctions – I can’t forgive them for.”

Although he conceded that he was “perfectly civil” and willing to work with Conservative MPs on a cross-party basis, he added that he was unable to forgive Theresa May’s party.

He said: “It’s not about tribalism, it’s about being honest with people about what this government has done and what the alternative is. For a large number of people who voted Conservative up the last election some of them are as angry as me.

“How do we have a UN reporter on poverty visit this country and accuse this government of causing destitution? And I think many of those people who voted Conservative at the last election will be angry at what they have voted for and for what hasn’t happened.”

The remarks received widespread backlash on social media, including from the Conservative deputy chair, James Cleverly, and scientist Professor Brian Cox.

“I’ve never understood why some in the Labour Party wear prejudice and hatred as a badge of pride,” Cleverly responded.

While Cox tweeted: “If you struggle to be friends with someone of the ‘opposite political persuasion’ then it seems to me that you believe a one party state is the way forward – because the only ‘good’ people are people who agree with you. Certainty suggests hubris – doubt suggests wisdom.”

Broadcaster Kate Bevan added: “I have Tory friends, Green friends, swivel-eyed libertarian friends, Labour friends, religious friends, Brexit friends, and I’m grateful for and love them all.”

Later in the interview, asked if he would move into Downing Street if Labour was to take power, McDonnell also said he would break with tradition and remain in his current residence in Hayes as chancellor.

He said: “The most important thing for me is the community and family that I’m in. That’s what I like going back to every night. That’s why when we get elected I won’t be going into Number 11 I will be staying at home.”

He added: “I will use it as an office, I won’t live there.”