Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell cannot help but show his true colours

Julian Harris
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Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell was a fan of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez (Source: Getty)

Over 172,000 new cars rolled off Venezuelan production lines, back in 2007 – an all-time high, and a proud example of the country’s manufacturing base.

Since then, however, Venezuela’s crippling economic decline has all but wiped out this once-lucrative industry. From 172,000 cars a decade ago, production fell below 24,000 by 2014, and sank to 2,849 last year. In the first two months of this year Venezuela produced just 240 vehicles.

General Motors said yesterday it would take a $100m writedown following the state seizure of its plant in the northern city of Valencia.

Read more: Citibank moves to scrap certain Venezuelan accounts

The appropriation of private assets is an unsurprising chapter in the story of Venezuela’s deepening crisis, triggered during the disastrous and despotic reign of the late Hugo Chavez and continued by his presidential successor Nicolas Maduro. Their socialist revolution has brought nothing but economic ruin, a breakdown in democracy, and widespread, violent protests.

It is an horrific tale, but one on which Labour leaders Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell remain notably quiet. Both have a history of cheerleading communists throughout the world, and show little inclination towards changing their minds.

Read more: Labour’s top economy wonks can’t add up – here's proof

Chavez’s death four years ago was marked in Westminster by an early day motion “acknowledg[ing] the huge contribution he made to conquering poverty”. Its primary sponsor? Corbyn. McDonnell was a fellow sponsor. Both also signed another motion eulogising Chavez, tabled by George Galloway.

At the start of this week McDonnell gave a speech in front of hammer and sickle flags, and a flag appearing to support the Syrian party of Bashar al-Assad. Other banners at the extreme-left rally celebrated Joseph Stalin, while one – seen to the side of the stage as McDonnell spoke – said “Viva Venezuela”.

Read more: Labour wants to force high-earners to publish their tax returns

The extremist position of Labour’s leadership is alarming, especially so close to an election. McDonnell’s cavalier approach to being pictured alongside such ugly political symbols reminds us of the ideology that still underpins his beliefs, and the way in which he and Corbyn would seek to govern. They deserve no less than electoral oblivion on 8 June, after which the British centre-left must find a way of challenging the government through a more moderate and enlightened party or leader.

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