UK Politics

Labour 'must respect' policy dissent, says John McDonnell

John McDonnell Image copyright AP
Image caption Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he expects disagreements at the Labour conference

Labour must respect dissent at its Brighton 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 told the Guardian Labour will back a charter requiring the government to deliver an overall surplus by 2019-20.

Jeremy Corbyn has arrived for his first conference as Labour leader, saying more united the party than divided it.

Speaking outside his hotel, where he was greeted by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson in front of cheering party members, Mr Corbyn said: "Look at the unity out here.

"Look at the hope people have got for a decent society where there is decent housing, decent education, a decent health service and hope for young people. That is what unites this party."

'Inclusive process'

Ahead of the first conference since Mr Corbyn was elected leader on 12 September, Mr McDonnell said members will have a greater say in the formation of policy.

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson were cheered by the waiting crowd in Brighton

But he said a "dividing line" with the Tories will be how to tackle the deficit.

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.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Labour'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.

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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