Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell urged audiences to “get involved in politics” at Lush Creative Showcase this morning (14/09/16).
Speaking at the showcase ahead of Prime Minister's Questions, he said "Don’t stand to one side, because others will take reckless decisions. Get involved, get stuck in. We all have a responsibility to exercise our right to vote and speak and act.”
When asked about the Labour party’s commitment to diversity, he announced a new initiative to get more representation in parliament by setting up Labour Training Academies in every region.
He said: “We are going to set up training academies, so we can learn from each other. To boost confidence on public speaking, education on Labour rules, research and resources, and most importantly, to encourage people to stand for election.”
“We've got to say to people ‘we'll support you and give you the skill set and funding’. We want to make it easier to become an MP and councillor.
“We're targeting women, we're targeting ethnic minorities, because we are still underrepresented and also people with disabilities and disabled people. I think in less than a generation we can transform how we are represented and who we are representing.”
One invigorated audience member replied ‘Do it quicker!”
McDonnell’s comments are part of a much bigger debate on the nature of politics in post-Brexit Britain.
McDonnell emphasised that we must respect the democratic vote to leave Europe. Instead, he advocated creating a new Europe, and putting that new Europe back to the people.
He said: “We must build on the virtues of the old Europe, but without the perceived drawbacks, to create something that is radically fairer and more prosperous. That prosperity must be shared.”
Answering the question on everybody’s lips, McDonnell addressed the issue of migration/immigration.
“A lot of the arguments for Brexit were about migration. But it is migration that made us the sixth richest country in the world.”
“On the doorstep it was difficult to find anyone that is more than four generations British.
“I think there is a real challenge for all of us to debate the nature of our society. How fair and democratic do we want it, and how can we make sure there aren't people sleeping on the floors of our cities?
“We must recognise we have a responsibility to live together in peace and harmony internationally.”
McDonnell’s address was finished with questions. Ethics Director, and self confessed non-voter, Hilary Jones asked: “The conversation in the media is very narrow and right wing. When are you going to sort out the media?”
The Shadow Chancellor was breathtakingly honest in answering: “Don't expect it. Media treatment of Corbyn has gone from media watchdog to media attack dog. It has been a disgrace.”
Explaining how the party is navigating this issue, McDonnell talked about the Momentum movement and the use of old-fashioned word of mouth, debates and local and national gatherings in spreading the party’s message.
McDonnell also believed this was the best way to tackle the in-party issues currently tearing Labour apart. He said: “The party is not united at the moment. We are witnessing a British coup. We are not united we have to be honest about that.”
“The way you overcome it is to be honest and have a debate. After next week we can rebuild our poll numbers.”
He believes the only way to do that is through more political engagement. The Labour party currently has 600,000 members, and has its sights set on being a party of a million.
“We want to be a mass movement. At the moment the establishment doesn't understand that, but they are set for a rude awakening.”
“Two young people broke into a political meeting rather than breaking out. Young people want change. Last summer Jeremy Corbyn and I spoke to 100,000 people in 8 weeks.
“Never in my life did I think that the Labour Party would elect a socialist leader, but they did because large numbers of people came forward and joined our party - and the bulk of them were young people and they wanted the political system to reflect their views.”
“We believe in changing the whole nature of the dialogue of politics, so people feel empowered.”
Find out the result of the Labour Leadership election on the 24th September.