Labour MPs attack John McDonnell over Hilary Benn comments and Ken Loach cinema stunt

Posted On: 
21st November 2016

Angry Labour MPs rounded on John McDonnell tonight over his refusal to defend Hilary Benn over threats he could be deselected by hard-left activists in his seat.

John McDonnell was criticised over his comments about Hilary Benn

The Shadow Chancellor was also challenged over the Labour leadership's promotion of Ken Loach's latest film, 'I, Daniel Blake', despite the veteran director's long record of criticising the party.

Former Shadow Foreign Secretary is at risk of being unseated after supporters of Jeremy Corbyn won key roles in his local party in Leeds Central.

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Asked about the development yesterday, Mr McDonnell said: "We've said we're not in favour of mandatory reselection, but where there are, because of boundary changes, re-selection, that is dealt with at the local level. Labour leadership doesn't involve itself in local selections. It's up to the local party - that's democracy."

At another stormy meeting of the parliamentary Labour party in the Commons tonight, Hove MP Peter Kyle both criticised Mr McDonnell for his comments.

A source said: "McDonnell described Hilary Benn as a friend and that was greeted with derision. Nobody could believe the gall of the man."

Labour MPs were last week encouraged to attend special screenings of 'I, Daniel Blake', which highlights the struggles many people face as a result of benefit cuts.

But MPs Kerry McCarthy and Angela Smith were among those who pointed out that Ken Loach set up Left Unity, which stood candidates against Labour at the last election.

Speaking in September, Mr Loach also gave his backing to the deselection of MPs.

He said: "The deselection of MPs is presented as a threat. It is not a job for life. Labour party members have the right to be represented by someone they choose."

A source said: "Ken Loach has never supported the Labour party, and in fact has always attacked the party and its MPs. John said he distanced himself from what he's said and would do so publicly."

A spokesman for Mr McDonnell said: "John was asked about Labour party democracy. He pointed out that Hilary Benn is a friend of his, and the Labour leadership will not intervene in local party democracy."