John McDonnell rules out leadership bid (and attacks 'disloyal' Caroline Flint)
‘What do I have to do? Have a civil partnership with him or something?’
The shadow chancellor has given his clearest indication yet that he does not want to be the next Labour leader.
Some Labour sources believe that McDonnell has his eye on the job. A Labour source told The Daily Telegraph in April that the shadow chancellor “wants to take over from Jeremy before 2020 and he’s just watching the leadership crumble”.
But McDonnell moved to kill of the speculation on Sunday, after he was asked on the BBC's Westminster Hour if he still had ambitions himself for the leadership.
He said: "No of course not. I’m so pleased in the role I am playing at the moment."
He added: "The Telegraph ran some barmy story a couple of weeks ago that I was challenging for the leadership. I said ‘where have you got this from? What have I got to do?’ Jeremy is my closest friend in politics over thirty years. What do I have to do? Have a civil partnership with him or something? It’s ridiculous."
Asked to confirm that he was ruling it out, the shadow chancellor said: "Of course I am. I am so happy. I love the job I am doing. I am really enjoying it. I have waited most of political life for a socialist to be leader of the Labour Party and here he is and I am doing everything I can to support to him."
McDonnell also hit out at former Labour shadow cabinet minister Caroline Flint, after she told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme yesterday that his ambition that the party "hang on" in the recent local elections was not good enough.
In an unusual move, McDonnell initially disputed the claim on Twitter - and was immediately rebuked by fellow Labour MP Ian Austin.
On the Westminster Hour, he renewed hostilities, saying: "Let’s be absolutely clear shall we. When Jeremy was elected he invited everybody who was in the existing shadow cabinet to come and play a role including people like Caroline Flint and others.
"He created that big tent and some of them have just exclude themselves from offering their services to the party and that’s up to them. That’s fair enough. Of course people can express their dissent and we can have that policy debate and then we’ll arrive at a democratic decision and then we expect people to unite in the interests of the party and the country overall what to what we don’t expect is people going to the media two days before polling to say there is going to be a coup against the leadership.
“That is not the loyalty we’d expect from any element of the party. However we will move on from that. We’ll unite the whole party.
“Every one of those dissenters will be invited in to see Jeremy, they will offered roles in the campaign in the future and in our administration. Everyone has got the opportunity to serve and we hope then we can unite the party and move on and campaign now into the referendum campaign."