John McDonnell reads Mao in Autumn Statement response

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell offers a copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book to George Osborne. Picture: PA
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell offers a copy of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book to George Osborne. Picture: PA
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John McDonnell has come under fire after reading out a quote from the founder of communist China during his response to George Osborne’s Spending Review.

The shadow chancellor brandished a copy of Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s Little Red Book as he criticised the statement in the House of Commons.

The book lies in the middle of the table after apparently being pushed towards George Osborne. Picture: PA

The book lies in the middle of the table after apparently being pushed towards George Osborne. Picture: PA

The stunt by the veteran left-winger, who admitted that the tome was “rarely” deployed in the chamber, was greeted with dismay by Labour figures.

Backbencher John Woodcock referenced the lyrics to the Beatles song Revolution, tweeting: “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao ... “

The next line is: “You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow.”

Former home office minister Tony McNulty appeared similarly unimpressed: “Whoever said ‘I know, let’s see if we can get a quote from Mao’s little Red Book to accentuate point’ probably shouldn’t have done. Really?”

Taking to the despatch box in the wake of Mr Osborne’s joint Spending Review and Autumn Statement, Mr McDonnell joked about the sale of public assets to the Chinese government.

“To assist Comrade Osborne about dealing with his new found comrades, I have brought him along Mao’s Little Red Book,” he went on.

“Let me quote from Mao, rarely done in this chamber, ‘We must learn to do economic work from all who know how’.

“’No matter who they are, we must esteem them as teachers, learning from them respectfully and conscientiously. But we must not pretend to know what we do not know’.”

“I thought it would come in handy for you in your new relationship.”

Amid roars from Tory MPs, Mr Osborne said: “So the shadow chancellor literally stood at the Despatch Box and read out from Mao’s Little Red Book.”

Opening the book, he went on: “Oh look! It’s his personal signed copy.

“The problem is half the shadow cabinet have been sent off to re-education.”