John McDonnell: I was joking when I called Labour rebels 'f***ing useless'
John McDonnell has said he was joking when he described Labour MPs plotting to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as “f***ing useless”.
The Shadow Chancellor insisted he knew he was being filmed when he made the comments at a pro-Corbyn rally last night and said it was part of a stand up routine.
Mr McDonnell was speaking shortly after Labour's National Executive Committee ruled that Mr Corbyn would be automatically added to the leadership ballot.
He said: “They’ve been planning this coup from the day Jeremy got elected. They’ve been plotting and conniving. The only good thing about it: as plotters, they’re fucking useless.
“Don’t think they’ll stop there; they’ll come back and they’ll try to hit us again, and we’ll defeat them again, won’t we?...
“Why do you think this coup was mounted? It was because they cannot tolerate a socialist as the leader of the Labour party leading a socialist administration.”
Speaking to Radio 4 this morning, Mr McDonnell played down the controversy.
He said: “It was a stand-up comedy event. I know I promised Jeremy Corbyn I won’t do any more jokes, and I broke my promise to him.
“It was a joke, it was taken in a light-hearted way – you can listen to the audience laughing and people appreciated it in that way.
“I’m an ordinary bloke, I use some bad language.”
Mr McDonnell also insisted that his reference to “plotters” was not directed at Angela Eagle, who launched a leadership challenge against Mr Corbyn.
“No, no, Angela’s a friend of mine,” he said.
“There’s a small group in the Labour party who from day one have not accepted Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate – they just haven’t. And we’ve known at different times over the last ten months that, well, they were plotting a coup I’m afraid.
“They wanted to get rid of Jeremy and that’s what’s been happening. That’s happened – it’s better to be honest than that rather than try to cover it up.”