John McDonnell: Labour split could keep Tories in power for a decade

Posted On: 
17th February 2019

Labour MPs who quit the party in protest against Jeremy Corbyn could install the Tories in Government for a decade, John McDonnell has warned.

John McDonnell appeared on the Andrew Marr show today

The Shadow Chancellor said those who stand against Labour MPs at the next general election would split the vote like those who quit the party to join the SDP did in the 1980s.

“It basically installed Mrs Thatcher in power for that decade,” he argued.

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Around six Labour MPs who back a second EU referendum are said to be mulling whether they should resign the whip and form a new centrist movement.

They are also said to be angry at the handling by the party of its anti-Semitism crisis, as well as the general direction under Mr Corbyn.

But Mr McDonnell argued the names in the frame were “Labour through and through” and argued there was no need “for anybody to split from the party”.

Appearing on the BBC Andrew Marr show, he added: “It would be like the 1980s. In my constituency in Hayes and Harlington we had a Labour MP join the SDP and we lost the seat to the Conservatives.

“And it basically installed Mrs Thatcher in power for that decade.

“I don’t think any of the people who have even been mentioned around this split would want that.”

The SDP-Liberal alliance, which was formed after Labour MPs quit the party over the leadership of Michael Foot, won more than 25% of the vote in the 1983 general election, while Labour won 28% and the Conservatives 44%.

Mr McDonnell made the comments after Labour grandee Dame Margaret Beckett who led Labour for a brief period after former leader John Smith died in 1994 - said a split would be a “big mistake”.

And it comes after former Labour vice chairman Michael Dugher revealed he is set to quit the party, saying it has become "institutionally anti-Semitic".

The ex-shadow transport minister, who stood down as MP for Barnsley East in 2017, said the party he joined nearly three decades ago “no longer exists” and he could not justify paying the membership fee.

His announcement comes days after Labour revealed it had received 673 allegations of anti-Semitism by its members over the past 10 months, resulting in 12 individuals being expelled.

Mr McDonnell admitted Labour was “not fast enough" when it comes to fighting anti-Semitism in Labour ranks, adding: "We’ve got to be ruthless."