Rift on the left as McDonnell trips up on tax

John McDonnell has caused a rift on the left after saying he won't reverse tax breaks for the rich in yesterday's Budget.

John McDonnell has caused a rift on the left after promising that Labour would not reverse the income tax cuts announced in yesterday’s budget which disproportionately benefit the rich.

The Resolution Foundation found that close to 90% of the income tax cuts announced in the budget would go to the top half of earners, with nearly half going to the top 10% of households. Despite this, the Shadow Chancellor today confirmed Labour would not reverse the Tories’ tax cuts if they were in government, saying “We’re not going to take money out of people’s pockets: simple as that.”

The decision was jumped on by Labour’s moderate MPs, who suggested McDonnell would not have supported any of his predecessors making the same call. Labour figures on the soft left of the party also came out in opposition to the proposals, including Lisa Nandy MP, David Lammy MP, and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

But the Shadow Chancellor and Jeremy Corbyn’s closest ally also risks opening a rift on the far-left, as many figures and groups normally supportive of the Labour leadership have criticised that proposed tax cuts.


The campaign group borne out of Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership campaign would almost certainly back John McDonnell to succeed Corbyn if a contest were held today. But the organisation has not shied away from making clear their opposition to Phillip Hammond’s tax giveaway to the rich.

Emily Thornberry

The Shadow Foreign Secretary is not regarded as a natural leftie, but she is thought of as another potential Labour leader. Her tweet deriding the budget for “tax cuts for the rich – and they’re coming earlier” can’t hurt her popularity with the membership.

Jon Trickett

Generally loyal to Corbyn throughout his leadership, but privately less enthusiastic than he once was and no longer trusted by the leader’s office, Trickett tweeted: “Tax cuts for the richest” show “this is a budget for the few and not the many.” Awks

Angela Rayner

The Shadow Education Secretary contrasted the Tories’ “tax windfall to the richest households in Britain” with the benefit cuts “the poorest continue to face.” The former care worker seemingly has more difficulty than the Shadow Chancellor in chucking her principles away for power.

Steve Howell

Corbyn ally and former LOTO staffer Steve Howell got the insider view for his book on Labour’s general election campaign in 2017. But he found himself outside the tent on the tax cut, tweeting “think many of us on that or more would rather see more children get free school meals“.

Faiza Shaheen, CLASS Think Tank

Faiza Shaheen, Director of the left-wing think tank CLASS, and Labour PPC for Chingford and Woodford Green tore into the tax cut announcement, calling it “Tories reminding us what they’re all about”. Some awkward moments will follow the next time she sees McDonnell, although perhaps no more awkward than the time he backed her Momentum rival during the Chingford selection.


Alt-left propaganda mouthpiece Skwawkbox tries hard to stay on the leadership’s good side and is often rewarded with snippets of information from those close to Corbyn. So it was a surprise to many when he backed Emily Thornberry, retweeting her criticism of the policy.


EL4C are known for their unashamedly pro-Corbyn video content and were rewarded for their loyalty with a Party Political Broadcast earlier this year. But their retweet of the Resolution Foundation’s analysis suggests they won’t be running videos in support of McDonnell any time soon.

The Greens & SNP

The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas outflanked the Shadow Chancellor from the left, calling the tax cut “shocking”, whilst the SNP, having raised taxes on middle and higher-income earners in Scotland last year, were quick to spot an opportunity to embarrass Scottish Labour.

Sarah Woolaston

Some supporters of Corbyn & McDonnell have long claimed that the main parties were indistinguishable before their victory in 2015. It will make uncomfortable reading on Labour’s front bench to see Tory MP Sarah Wollaston opposing the tax changes in favour of increased spending on public services.

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