“If John McDonnell does make it to No 11, we hope we’ll have enough time to pay out any winnings before he abolishes capitalism,” quipped Matthew Shaddick of Ladbrokes yesterday.
r McDonnell has only just been appointed as shadow chancellor and already the bookies are offering 20/1 that he won’t make it to real chancellor.
Of course the bookies aren’t always right, Jeremy Corbyn’s victory as Labour leader has cost the bookmakers more than £1m after his odds went from 200/1 no-hoper to 1/20 red hot favourite.
Mr McDonnell was his campaign manager so it may be a bit soon to write the 64-year-old Liverpool-born MP off just yet, but he does have a hill to climb after some of his radical left statements, especially here.
Here is a smattering of his wit and wisdom:
• He would like to “go back to the 1980s and assassinate Thatcher,” he said during the 2010 election campaign.
• In 2003 he said: “It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle.
“It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table.
“The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands, we now have a peace process.”
• “I would swim through vomit to vote against this (Welfare Reform) bill. And listening to some of the nauseating speeches in support of it, I might have to,” he said in July.
• “In the first week of a Labour government, democratic control of the major economic decisions would be restored by ending the Bank of England’s control over interest rates and bringing the nationalised and subsidised banks under direct control to force them to lend and invest their resources to modernise our economy and put people back to work,” he said in 2012.
This is a man who means business, and he doesn’t take time off. In his Who’s Who entry he gives his hobby as “the overthrow of capitalism”.
He persuaded Jeremy Corbyn, his long-time ally, to run this time.
“I have done it twice already and had a heart attack a couple of years ago. We turned to Jeremy and said, ‘Come on, it is your turn, you have a go’,” he recalled in a recent interview.
MP for Hayes and Harlington, Mr McDonnell has, like Mr Corbyn, never held cabinet office before and this raises a question mark over experience.
However, he is a graduate in government and politics and did handle the Greater London Council budget for a time.
He has two daughters by his first marriage, which ended in 1985, and a son from his second marriage to Cynthia Pinto.
He was a union official before entering elected politics on the Greater London Council.
There he was deputy to former Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone.
In a dispute reminiscent of the present row over the Stormont budget, Mr Livingstone removed him from office in 1985.
Mr McDonnell wanted to refuse to set a rate in protest against cuts but Mr Livingstone disagreed.
He later suggested, in his autobiography, that Mr McDonnell had presented exaggerated figures in order to justify his position.
He has been a backbencher, a rebellious one, since 1997.
He is a political scrapper. In 1992 he lost his seat and, after a very bitter campaign, had to
pay his conservative opponent Terry Dicks £15,000 damages plus £55,000 costs over
scurrilous claims in his campaign leaflets.
He was a good poacher on the back benches, the question is whether the voters will trust him with the role of gamekeeper in charge of the economy.