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Labour ‘must respect’ policy dissent, says John McDonnell

Labour must respect dissent at its conference, John McDonnell has said as he pledged support for a fiscal charter proposed by George Osborne.

The shadow chancellor said he expects disagreements at the conference, but policy-making should be “inclusive”.

He also told the Guardian Labour will vote in favour of a charter requiring the UK government to deliver an overall surplus by 2019-20.

A “dividing line” with the Tories will be how to tackle the deficit, he added.

‘Inclusive process’

Ahead of the party’s first conference since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, Mr McDonnell said members will have a greater say in the formation of policy.

He told the BBC’s Sunday Politics: “There’ll be proper debate, much more time given to delegates from the constituency Labour parties or from the trade unions, to actually have a voice, less time of shadow cabinet members and others in the past who’ve talked down to members.”

He added: “What we’re trying to do is get the policy-making process as inclusive as possible…. some people will dissent from individual policies. We’ve got to respect people’s views. We’ve got to respect dissent in the party.”

Democratic decision-making should not be confused with division, he added.

Jeremy Corbyn
Image copyrightAFP
Image captionLabour’s first conference since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader starts this weekend

Mr McDonnell said Mr Corbyn would go on a tour of the country in a “significant engagement exercise with the general public” after the conference, which begins on Sunday.

And he denied that members of the new Labour leadership were “deficit deniers” – pledging his party’s support for Mr Osborne’s charter plans.

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The proposal commits the government to keep debt falling as a share of GDP each year and achieve a budget surplus by 2019-20.

Governments will then be required to ensure there is a surplus in “normal times”.

‘Live within means’

Mr McDonnell told the Guardian: “We accept we are going to have to live within our means and we always will do – full stop.”

He continued: “We will support the charter. We will support the charter on the basis we are going to want to balance the book, we do want to live within our means and we will tackle the deficit.”

Explaining how the party would achieve a surplus, Mr McDonnell said: “We will tackle the deficit but the dividing line between us and the Tories is how we tackle it.

“Our basic line is we are not allowing either middle or low-earners or those on benefit to have to pay for the crisis. It is as simple as that.”


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