He's desperate, Dan
McDonnell had made a half-decent fist of responding to Osborne, especially given his lack of front bench experience and that this was his first Autumn Statement or Budget response. But referring to Mao Zedong is best avoided, and brandishing his Little Red Book is a no-no, even though McDonnell was using it to make the point that Osborne is happy about nationalisation, so long as the Government is in countries like China.
This cut no ice with the Telegraph’s not at all celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, who had made his mind up beforehand that Labour were rubbish, and whatever recourse to Phil Space journalism would fill his next column. “Why doesn't John McDonnell just sit down … This has to be the most embarrassing response to a government statement in the history of parliament” he carped plaintively.
And, for the Colonel Nicholson of the Labour Party, the mood was about to darken. “Stop. Please. Just stop … Labour has ceased to exist as a party of opposition”. Then came McDonnell’s “Mao moment”, and he was off. Somewhere. “John McDonnell pulled out Chairman Mao's red book and quoted it from the despatch box. That happened. I saw it. I sat here. And I saw it”. Yes Dan, there is a live TV feed. You were not uniquely privileged.
Tax credit cuts at least re-thought, if not totally backed out. Police cuts - trailed for some days now - abandoned. And while Hodges was having his mardy strop, he seems not to have noticed that the Junior Doctors’ dispute has been taken off Jeremy Hunt and sent to ACAS. But that doesn’t count: “Seema Malhotra sent out instead of John McDonnell. He's not just an idiot he's a coward as well”.
I’m sure Osborne never did that (don’t mention Chloe Smith or Newsnight, folks). But now he had the inside track: “Labour MP texts me. ‘I'm in tears in my office’”. Laughing at Dan’s Twitter whinge, perhaps. And then a last, desperate appeal to Look Over There: “Don't forget, the John McDonnell red book fiasco is all the fault of the Tory press and disloyal Labour MPs”. But Hodges will never get a Labour leader he can back.