Grenfell Tower dead murdered by political decisions, says John McDonnell

Grenfell Tower dead murdered by political decisions, says John McDonnell
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell (left) takes part in a debate on democracy with economist Faiza Shaheen and Guardian journalist John Harris, in the Left Field tent during the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset. PA.

UK shadow chancellor John McDonnell has claimed the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire were murdered by political decisions.

Mr McDonnell spoke at Glastonbury Festival's Left Field a day after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn drew a crowd of thousands to the tent.

The MP for Hayes and Harlington was taking part in a debate with Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley and economist Faiza Shaheen.

Guardian journalist John Harris chaired the hour-long debate, which asked whether democracy is broken.

"Is democracy working? It didn't work if you were a family living on the 20th floor of Grenfell Tower," Mr McDonnell said.

"Those families, those individuals - 79 so far and there will be more - were murdered by political decisions that were taken over recent decades.

"The decision not to build homes and to view housing as only for financial speculation rather than for meeting a basic human need made by politicians over decades murdered those families.

"The decision to close fire stations and to cut 10,000 firefighters and then to freeze their pay for over a decade contributed to those deaths inevitably and they were political decisions."

Mr McDonnell said he and Mr Corbyn had been trying to achieve honest politics for the past two years despite media attacks.

He said certain newspapers "came after us and tried to destroy us because we stood up to the establishment and the elite".

The Left Field tent was filled for the debate, with crowds also standing outside to listen in.

Mr McDonnell repeatedly drew cheers from the crowds when he spoke of the need for electoral reform and changes to the House of Lords.

He called for a "progressive intellectual alliance" between parties to rebuild what is needed for a democracy.

"The House of Lords - 92 of them are there on the basis of who Charles II shagged at some point in the past," he said.

"It can't be right that we have a House of Lords that's based upon those people appointed rather than elected."

But he defended Mr Corbyn for nominating human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti for a peerage.

If Labour win the next election, they will place 1,000 members in the House of Lords to vote on its future, he vowed.

A Labour Party government would also rip up the Trade Union Act of 2016 in just 10 days, he pledged.

Mr McDonnell told the audience that it had inspired him, Mr Corbyn and the Labour Party.

"We have been beating our heads against a brick wall for 30 years," he said. "We are on the edge of a huge victory."

Following a question from the audience, Mr McDonnell said the party would try to prevent women from Northern Ireland having to pay for abortions in England.

"I venture into Northern Irish politics with some trepidation because of the accusations that have been made against me and Jeremy because of the role we tried to play in the peace process," he said.

Mr McDonnell said Labour would not "turn away" votes from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to defeat the Conservatives on austerity measures.

In the future, Labour could stand its own candidates in Northern Ireland, he added.

He told activists to prepare for another election "any day" and spoke of the "solidarity that burns within us all".

"Never underestimate the ability of the Tories to keep their grip on power by whatever means," he said.

"But I tell you be ready for it any day because we are going to try not just defeat them in parliament but we have got to mobilise in every community to demoralise, divide them and force them to the electorate, force them into democracy.

"And once we get that democratic vote, we'll mobilise and this time we'll have a majority."

Mr McDonnell joins Labour faces Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper and deputy leader Tom Watson at the Somerset event.

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