John McDonnell says he will 'learn lessons' after 'soft coup' row

Posted On: 
2nd March 2017

John McDonnell has said he will “learn lessons” after claiming there was a “soft coup” underway within Labour to replace Jeremy Corbyn. 

John McDonnell giving a speech in London this morning
BBC iPlayer

The Shadow Chancellor revealed he would reach out to critics of Mr Corbyn, and issued an invitation to Peter Mandelson to join him for a cup of tea.

The comments came after a speech this morning laying out Labour’s priorities for next week’s Budget, with a focus on boosting funding for the NHS.

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Tensions within Labour flared up again in the wake of the defeat in the Copeland by-election, which saw the Conservatives take the seat for the first time since the 1930s.

Before the vote, Mr McDonnell wrote an article claiming there was an “alliance between elements in the Labour party and the Murdoch media empire” trying to unseat Mr Corbyn.

He repeated the “soft coup” remark after the Copeland defeat, but has since said that the piece was borne out of frustration with Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson and did not reflect his current thinking.

Mr McDonnell today admitted he may have to rein in his “pugnacious” approach.

He said: “Now is the time for us to unite. We all need to learn lessons, and that includes me. I know I've got a pugnacious approach, I need to learn a few lessons.

“We need to unite now and listen to one another, make sure that we work together to secure the best we can for the country on Brexit, and then lead into the next general election.”

That requires “holding out hands” from Corbyn-supporting organisation Momentum to the centrist Progress group, Mr McDonnell added.

He said he would invite Lord Mandelson to “have a cup of tea and discuss issues of common concern”, and praised the New Labour grandee’s stance on membership of the single market.

“I thought it was an incredibly interesting speech and after that I took the view that I would meet him and talk it through because we need everyone’s advice on how we go forward – particularly on the Brexit negotiations.”


Among his proposals were that the Government should use higher-than-expected tax receipts to boost funding immediately for the NHS and social care, and requiring all those who earn more than £1m to release their tax returns.

He also called for a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion, as well as reversing corporation tax cuts, to fund longer-term increases in health and care budgets.

Mr McDonnell published his own tax return at the height of the Panama Papers furore last year.