IF the UK’s parliamentarians had, individually or collectively, any knowledge of history or any ability to look at themselves, they would not be mocking John McDonnell’s citation of Mao Tse Tung in the House of Commons but appreciating the significance of the gesture.
The same can be said of most of the UK’s political correspondents and the editorial stance of national newspapers.
The shadow chancellor not only quoted Mao on economics but gave chancellor George (Gideon) Osborne his own personal copy of the former Chinese autocrat’s Little Red Book while responding to the UK Conservative government’s spending review this week.
Politicians and journalists mocked Mr McDonnell for citing a mass murderer and dictator – while apparently failing to notice that the purpose of the Little Red Book in ‘re-educating’ Mao’s opponents is a sinister reflection of Chancellor Osborne’s own abuse of the English language and adoption of Orwellian ‘newspeak’.
Prime Minister David Cameron and his neighbour at 11 Downing Street continue to use propaganda techniques reminiscent of Mao – especially as their favourite tactic seems to be that if a statement is repeated often enough, it will be believed.
For example, they repeatedly claim to be representing ‘hard-working families’ – yet their policies simultaneously damage the prospects of such people. The Conservatives seem either unaware that economically active breadwinners have to support those who are economically dependent – such as their children or relatives who are elderly or infirm.
Taking children and dependents – the term has been around a long time but seems to be conveniently ignored by the today’s Conservatives – into account, probably no more than an average of 30 per cent of any family is ‘hard-working’ in the way they mean; being exploited for more than 40 hours a week for wages that are so low they have to be subsidised with ‘in-work’ benefits.
Such stereotypical passive-aggressive reactions from many politicians and commentators also suggest that they are unaware of the inhumanity of the Conservatives under David Cameron. The deathtoll linked – directly or indirectly – to efforts to reduce of people claiming disability benefits may not be as great as the slaughter under Mao but it does make some wonder about either carelessness or callousness ‘in high places’.
Mr McDonnell has since said, during an interview on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, he was trying to make a joke and raise the profile of the issue.
One observer said the gesture would appear in every Conservative party political broadcast or internet advert for the next four years.
However, caution may be advisable – not least because David Cameron’s recent exchange with the leader of Conservative-run Oxfordshire County Council has led to accusations that the Prime Minister is out of touch with the effects of cuts imposed while he has occupied 10 Downing Street.
Mao Tse Tung may be considered abhorrent – but even that shouldn’t be a block to his words or philosophy being cited in the House of Commons either as target for condemnation or as a stunt.