"Do not mistake democracy for division": John McDonnell reminds us Labour is more than a poorly covered reshuffle

Several months ago I saw Jeremy Corbyn address Nottingham's packed Albert Hall in the run up to the Labour leadership election. In the minutes he was addressing the room, there was a powerful, almost suffocating, optimism about what could be achieved under his leadership, this belief that a new kind of politics really was possible.

Among all the fuss of the reshuffle and the slanted coverage of it - and I'm not even getting into what the BBC have done - there's been a heavy media implication that Labour are scrapping among themselves, taking away the focus from their policies and how they want act against the Tory cuts. On that basis, it was brilliant to get away from the reporting-every-move attitude of the lobby journalists on Tuesday night and back to what "a new kind of politics" really means.*

The positive glow that I felt after Corbyn's Nottingham rally was replenished with a mix of talk and discussion in Derby yesterday, headed by the phrase "An Economy for All the People", and finishing up with John McDonnell answering a handful of questions formed from three groups of the public. I was in the stream for austerity listening to Richard Machin, a lecturer at my university, discuss findings from research he created into the impact of the bedroom tax on residents in Stoke North.

Of course, the reshuffle was mentioned, and it would be wrong to not share the other side of the story when it's come straight from the horse's mouth.

The main criticism came from the length of time the reshuffle took, and the "shambles" that the affair turned into. McDonnell pointed out how the media had begun to build up the speculation long before the reshuffle had begun, discussing if people would resign from jobs they hadn't even been offered, as well as reinforcing the point that Hilary Benn was always planned to stay.

Once the reshuffle began, Corbyn didn't rush things, McDonnell pointed out. He spoke with people, let them go away and think about what had been discussed, and spoke with them again. Perhaps I'm being too relaxed or simply too "left" here, but I'd much rather that than any potential member of the shadow cabinet be asked to make a choice in the spur of the moment.

It's not escaped the media's eye that not everyone in the Labour party is quite "the same shade of red", and after beginning his talk with the tale of Corbyn's nomination - requiring 35 nominations and gaining the last two in the final ten seconds, in the name of democracy more than actual support, whilst Corbyn grabbed a cuppa - he finished with this: "Do not mistake democracy for division. What we've got now is an open party, everyone can have their say. It's a broad church, left right and centre, no one kicked out, everyone included, but let's do it in a civilised way."

It's this freedom and ability to choose that shines through in McDonnell's glowing anecdotes of Corbyn, including one many people will be familiar with: "It happened over the bombing of Syria. We introduced a free vote. Cameron condemned Jeremy then for using a free vote for lack of leadership. This week he's given them a free vote on the European Union. This new politics is catching."

A few closing lines boost morale yet again, warning that the media might "blow it up", where "it" is anything Corbyn does slightly off-ordinary, but that "this is the story that you have to tell, that this is a movement on the march again.

"We're now becoming what we've been in the past, what we were when we were founded. We're a social movement that's going to transform our society for the better."

I, for one, came away with the same buzz Corbyn's rally filled me with - real change, and a new kind of politics, is just around the corner.




*When I say "reporting-every-move", I mean no exaggeration. I saw a tweet about Corbyn getting in a lift.

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