John McDonnell offers an olive branch to Peter Mandelson… and Owen Jones

Written by David Singleton on 2 March 2017 in Diary

'I know I've got a pugnacious approach, I need to learn a few lessons.'

John McDonnell has suggested he wants a truce with his New Labour critics – days after claiming there was a “soft coup” underway to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

The shadow chancellor revealed he would reach out to critics of the Labour leader and he issued an invitation to Peter Mandelson to join him for a cup of tea.

His remarks came in a Q&A after a speech setting out his pre-budget demands.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Corbyn’s close ally spoke of “holding out hands” and said he would invite Lord Mandelson to “have a cup of tea and discuss issues of common concern”.

He 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,” he said.

McDonnell also rejected a suggestion from the Guardian columnist Owen Jones that Corbyn should stand aside for an alternative leader “from the new generation… who is committed to the policies that inspired Corbyn’s supporters”.

Jones did not name any potential successors to Corbyn in his column but allies of the Labour leader are concerned that the well-read Guardian columnist was implicitly endorsing Clive Lewis for the top job. Jones has previously described Lewis, who recently resigned from the shadow cabinet, as "one of the great hopes for Labour's future".

McDonnell thanked Jones for his advice and said he would be happy to establish a regular dialogue with him.

“I’ve invited Owen in on a regular basis to come along and advise us but obviously he wants to maintain his independence as a journalist and I respect that,” he said.


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