“Lets quote from Mao, rarely done in this chamber,” said British Labour Party shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, to a caucus of laughter and jeering on Wednesday afternoon in the House of Commons.
Speaking from the Commons Despatch Box, McDonnell proceeded to indeed quote directly from a personal copy of Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book” that he pulled from his suit pocket.
“We must learn to do economic work from all who know how, no matter who they are,” he read. “We must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. We must not pretend to know when we do not know.”
Rather than simply paying homage to the words of The Great Helmsman, McDonnell was in fact speaking in response to the Government’s Autumn Statement. He was primarily mocking Conservative Chancellor George Osborne’s close relationship with Beijing and chastising him for selling off stakes in major UK public assets and infrastructure projects such as new nuclear power stations and high speed rail networks to investors from the People’s Republic of China.
“The Chancellor is selling off whatever public assets he can – this is no longer the family silver up for sale – this is the furniture, the fixtures and the fittings, and we know who is the first in line to buy,” McDonnell said.
Joking that its political instruction could prove useful to Osborne, he said, “To assist Comrade Osborne in his dealings with his new found comrades, I’ve brought him along Mao’s Little Red Book.”
When he was finished speaking, McDonnell promptly tossed the famous book across the table in front towards a seated Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron.
— LBC (@LBC) November 25, 2015
The Chancellor reacted with light-hearted incredulity. “So the shadow chancellor literally stood at the dispatch box and read out from Mao’s Little Red Book,” he laughed.
Leafing through the book he quipped: “Oh look! It’s his personal signed copy!” amid raucous laughter.
— VentYerSpleen (@BleuWinkle) November 25, 2015
Osborne also suggested that half of McDonnell’s Labour colleagues would be sent down for “re-education.”
Left-wing McDonnell, has often been a controversial figure in British politics, and his opponents, including those within his own party, have been quick to deride him over the incident. Meanwhile, the internet has been there to mock him:
— General Boles (@GeneralBoles) November 25, 2015
Watch the bizarre incident here:
And here’s McDonnell explaining exactly why he owned a copy of Mao’s most famous work in the first place:
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) November 25, 2015
By Daniel Paul