Labour MP John McDonnell, who serves as the party’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, actually read from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book in the British House of Commons in an exchange with George Osborne who is the Chancellor of th Exchequer in David Cameron’s Tory government:
Let me quote from Mao, rarely done in this chamber, ‘We must learn to do economic work from all who know how. No matter who they are, we must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. But we must not pretend to know what we do not know’.
I thought it would come in handy for you in your new relationship.
McDonnell then tossed the book across the dispatch box towards Osborne. But Osborne had a beautiful reply:
So the shadow chancellor literally stood at the Despatch Box and read out from Mao’s Little Red Book.
Opening the book, he went on: “Oh look! It’s his personal signed copy.
The problem is half the shadow cabinet have been sent off to re-education.
So why did McDonnell do it? Aside from the fact that he is a hard core socialist, he was ostensibly criticizing Osborne for encouraging China to invest in British infrastructure projects. Now there might be merit in criticizing that particular government policy, but to cite someone whose economic policies resulted in massive starvation and death just isn’t smart. Besides everyone knows if you carry a picture (or a book) of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.
When I was interning at Westminster 20 years ago, Tony Blair saw to it that the Labour Party remove Clause Four from its constitution. That was the provision which called for the “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.” Say what you will about Blair, no Labour MP would have been caught dead quoting Mao in the House of Commons two decades ago.
I am left with one question. Is Jeremy Corbyn still planning to ask Labour’s Shadow Agriculture Secretary to quote Stalin during the next debate on farm subsidies?