As Westminster digested Wednesday’s budget, shadow chancellor John McDonnell was asked nine times how much Labour’s own plans for extra borrowing would cost.
Nine times, he refused to answer, calling the BBC’s questions “a trite form of journalism”. Other excuses included the lines “we are talking about it paying for itself” and, when pushed on why he didn’t have the answers, “that’s why we have iPads and that’s why we have advisers”.
Such contempt for basic competence may be what we have come to expect from Labour’s leaders. McDonnell is, after all, the man who brandished and quoted from a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book after his first response to an Autumn Statement two years ago, and had the audacity to criticise then-chancellor George Osborne for “economic illiteracy”.
Read more: Tories must fight back against Labour lunacy
We have grown used to Jeremy Corbyn making bold, uncosted promises, from wiping out all student debt, to renationalising rail and energy firms. We have also become accustomed to his top team responding to tough questions with outrage.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry accused an interviewer of sexism for asking her who the French foreign minister was. Shadow home secretary
Diane Abbott messed up the numbers on proposals for more police offciers in a car crash interview in May, only for Labour to rush to her defence and blame the media for exaggerating her errors.
And when Corbyn himself couldn’t list the figures for his own childcare plan during a segment on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, the presenter received hate mail and death threats for pointing out that he was reaching for his iPad, having not bothered to familiarise himself with the facts.
This is the state our opposition has been in since Corbyn became leader. It is easy to laugh in bemusement at his team’s disinterest in the hard work of making the numbers add up, but we should resist. The Conservative party is in a perilous state, with its weakest leader in a generation and a cabinet wounded by infighting and personality clashes. With little vision and the ongoing battle of Brexit, the next election may come sooner than expected, and there is a very real risk that Corbyn may be handed the keys to Number 10.
But right now, as McDonnell’s latest antics show, the Labour party isn’t fit for opposition, let alone government.