John McDonnell has told a crowd gathered at Glastonbury this afternoon Jeremy Corbyn is “in the final consultations” on holding a second Brexit referendum.
He said the failure to agree on a Brexit deal in six weeks of negotiations with the Conservatives demonstrated no deal can be negotiated which Parliament would approve. He described the situation as a “logjam” and said, “the reality is we now have to go back to the people”.
McDonnell also pledged that “when, not if” elected Labour will end the outsourcing of workers within Government departments, repeal “anti-trade union” laws introduced by the Conservatives and restore collective bargaining in setting wages.
On appearing at Glastonbury and Boris
The Labour Shadow Chancellor started his speech in the Leftfield tent by saying: “Last time I was on this platform the next day I was all over the Daily Mail. It was after Grenfell and all the rest of it. I’d accused them [the Conservatives] of social murder of what went on at Grenfell and I don’t resile from that at all. When I met the Grenfell residents they just said ‘right on, you’ve got that right on.'”
McDonnell was speaking as part of a debate titled ‘The Future of Work’. He wasn’t listed on the line-up, with the announcement that he would appear made in the Leftfield tent as a climate change debate with Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis finished on Saturday afternoon.
He said: “I wasn’t advertised to speak because I wasn’t sure if and when I could get down here because there is the potential of a general election so we’re preparing for that general election, and we’re preparing for government.
“If Boris is listening… I hope Boris was listening to Stormzy but if he’s listening to anything I’m just saying to him: ‘Bring it on! Bring that election on as soon as you possibly can!'”
On Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn
During a question & answer session, one audience member quizzed John on the Labour party’s Brexit stance, adding: “Until you pick a side, none of these programmes for change that you have can be delivered.”
The Shadow Chancellor replied: “We’re a democratic party. Our conference took a decision last year about how we should proceed on this. We said we’d oppose a no deal and that’s what we have done. We said we’d try to negotiate a deal to protect jobs and the economy and I was in six weeks of negotiations with the Tories, and I tell you, greater sacrifices have not been asked of human beings in the past than spending six weeks opposite Michael Gove, I tell you.
“We demonstrated then actually a deal couldn’t be negotiated and well, a deal can’t get through parliament, so there is a logjam there, so the issue now, exactly as our members have decided, yes we should keep pressing for a general election and that’s what we want, but the reality is we now have to go back to the people. At the moment Jeremy is in the final consultations on that, I’ve made my position clear, I believe that we should now have a referendum, we should go back to the people, and in that referendum, my personal position will be I will vote remain and I will campaign for remain.”
The crowd then broke into cheers and applause, before McDonnell appealed for respect towards Corbyn’s approach to Brexit: “Let’s just respect what Jeremy is doing. Jeremy is a different type of leader, he’s not one of these captors who hangs things down from above. He’s a consensus builder. He’s talking to people. He’s listening to people. He’s bringing them together and building consensus. That’s the sort of leader that I want, someone who brings us together rather than divides our country and divides our party.”
Applause again filled the Leftfield tent, before McDonnell continued: “I think we’ll arrive shortly with the position we need to be in – and then what we need to do is mobilise all we can to prevent Johnson or Hunt taking us out with a no deal Brexit that would destroy our economy and our living standards.
“Then if we can force a general election, so much the better, because in those areas that voted leave, and my constituency which voted to leave, what we’ve got to demonstrate to those people that did vote for Brexit is that we’ve got the transformative economic policies that will change their lives and meet all those concerns and resentments that they had and that may have led Brexiters to vote for Brexit. In that way, I think we can give hope and confidence back to people that we can bring them back together again in unity and solidarity.”
On workers rights, anti-union laws and collective bargaining
McDonnell began his contribution to ‘The Future of Work’ debate by saying: “The way in which we need to talk about what’s happening in the workplace at the moment is to really look at the brutality with which many members are treated.”
He then claimed outsourced workers in the Government department responsible for employment were being paid such low wages they relied on food banks and pledged to end outsourcing “when” elected.
“I’ve written to Gregg Clark, the sec of state responsible for employment, to say in your own department you are paying poverty wages to the extent that workers have to rely on food banks.
“We’ve made it absolutely clear when we go into Government, not if, when, we will end outsourcing, we will bring those workers back in house, they’ll be properly paid, they’ll have proper wages and provisions – we’re hoping for this election soon because we need to have a programme of action ready to go as rapidly as possible.
“The programme that we’re putting forward in terms of trade union rights, is a programme that has emerged from the picket line basically. We’ve taken the discussions from the picket line and taken them out into the debates within the labour party and trade union movement, that’s emerged now as the programme that Jeremy Corbyn personally is steering through our party and then will take through to government and let me run you through it.”
“We’re gonna fulfil the promise of our late leader John Smith that every worker will have trade union rights from day one, whatever their conditions of employment.”
“We’re going to restore collective bargaining, sectoral collective bargaining. About 25 years ago 80% of us would have had our wages determined through sectoral collective bargaining. That means the trade union comes along, negotiates with a group of employers within that sector the basic level of pay and the working conditions and terms of employment, then individual companies can negotiate above that level.
“At the moment, sectoral collective bargaining covers only 20% of us, and if you look at a graph, as you’ve seen sectoral collective bargaining decline, you’ve seen wages decline at the same time, it’s a key factor in ensuring that we have poverty pay and low pay in our society, so we’re gonna make sure we restore sectoral collective bargaining and if anyone says ‘why is that important?’ we have 4.5 million children in our country living in poverty.
“The prediction, if the tories remain in office, within a short time it will be 5 million. Two-thirds of those kids are living in families where someone’s at work. What does that say? That says that pay is so low that it cannot actually lift people out of poverty.
“These Tories have broken the link between work and actually being able to lift [yourself] out of poverty. If you don’t believe me read the UN rapporteur report, we were talking about it earlier – we wanna try and get Alston [the author] over to make a number of events over the next year.
“This is the first time this has ever happened in our history, that the UN has sent a rapporteur into this country to report on the levels of poverty and wealth and the grotesque levels of inequality. And what he reports upon is not poverty, he says it’s destitution that we now have within our society, and that’s a result of the undermining of trade union rights, the undermining of collective bargaining.
“We will restore sectoral collective bargaining, we will restore access for unions to workplaces so they can organise. We’re going to scrap the anti-trade union laws the Tories have brought in over decades. Why? Because they actually undermine democracy in our trade union movement.”
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