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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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John McDonnell Can See Keir Starmer In No.10 But Tells Him To Stop Trying To “Re-Hash New Labour”

Former shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has urged Keir Starmer to re-admit Jeremy Corbyn to the Parliamentary Labour Party (Alamy)

3 min read

John McDonnell has said he believes Keir Starmer could be the next Prime Minister, but says attempting to “re-hash New Labour” will stand in his way.

Speaking at a conference fringe event the former Shadow Chancellor said the Labour leader’s team have “reached for the Blairite playbook” as Starmer’s personal polling has failed to rally.

"I'm worried that people are going to get a settled view of [Starmer] of not being a Prime Minister,” he said during the conversation with fellow former shadow Cabinet colleague Barry Gardiner.

“I think he could be, but he needs to mobilise the party behind him to do that."

McDonnell said Starmer and his team had "reached for the Blairite playbook" and attempted to show strong leadership by "attacking the party", which he did not believe was working for him, because it was an outdated approach.

“You can't re-hash New Labour, it isn't going to work for this period, things have moved on," McDonnell continued. 

“We all need a sense of humility about the party and what the winning strategy would be.”

McDonnell blamed Blair, who spent ten years in Downing Street, for laying the groundwork for the last eleven years of Conservative goverment, and urged Starmer not to follow in his footsteps.

“You just can't reach back into the past for strategies that are no longer relevant, and actually did in the end bring us into eleven years of Tory government,” he added. 

McDonnell also defended the timing of Andy McDonald’s resignation as shadow employment secretary yesterday afternoon, saying it was not done to try and undermine the leadership.

He described McDonald's resignation as “principled" and urged Starmer to accept a policy of a £15/hour minimum wage if the conference votes for it, and then to invite McDonald back to the frontbench.

He said the work his former colleague had done in developing Labour’s employment rights programme is “phenomenal” and hopes it will "set the standard for the future”.

McDonnell noted that Starmer had previously seemed to show support for the £15/hour minimum wage by joining one of the “McStrike” campaign group’s rallies, where workers endorsed such an increase.

“I just thought it was taken as read that was where we’re going to,” he said.

“I hope conference will support the £15/hour and actually if I was Keir Starmer I would accept the conference decision and invite Andy McDonald back to his role,” McDonnell said.

He also dismissed suggestions that McDonald's resignation was coordinated by his press officer to cause damage to Starmer during conference, saying the aide works with a number of MPs including McDonald, and the timing was simply related to the meeting where the minimum wage policy was being discussed.

“He felt he had to get out there and explain why he was standing down, if you listen to what he said it was about the issues,” he added.

Speaking at the fringe event ahead of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who continues to attract attention at this year's conference despite currently having the Labour whip suspended over the fallout from the inquiry into Labour anti-semitism, McDonnell implored Starmer to re-admit Corbyn to the Parliamentary party.

“I've been trying to say to Keir, Jeremy is a campaigning resource that we desperately need to win this election,” he added.

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