In Brief

Boris Johnson is ‘proto-fascist’, says John McDonnell

Former shadow chancellor sparks anger with comments to Italian newspaper

Labour MP John McDonnell has landed in hot water on the eve of his party’s conference by referring to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s style of governance as “proto-facism”.

In an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the former shadow chancellor drew parallels between Johnson and US President Donald Trump and claimed that parts of the world are “in quite a dangerous moment when it comes to the development of the forms of the Right”.

“The depiction of right-wing populism can be described in some instances as ‘proto-fascism’, with regard to Trump and also with regard to our own country, the rise of Johnson, Johnson’s politics,” McDonnell told the paper.

“It’s proto-fascism, no respect for democratic values, no respect for democratic institutions, no respect for the law, no respect for some of those rights and entitlements that particularly Labour and trade unions in our own country secured after struggles over the years.” 

McDonnell may have been alluding to Johnson’s controversial Internal Market Bill, which rows back on elements of the Brexit withdrawal agreement as part of a strategy that Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis has admitted breaks international law in a “specific but limited way”.

In the wide-ranging interview, the ex-shadow chancellor also dismissed claims made in a new book that he and Jeremy Corbyn had fallen out during the latter’s tenure as Labour leader as “rubbish”.

Some political commentators are delivering the same verdict about McDonnell’s claims about Johnson. Writing in The Telegraph, former Labour MP Tom Harris describes the attack on the PM as “dishonest and lazy”. 

“Raising the bogeyman of fascism serves no positive purpose,” Harris adds. “At the very last, John McDonnell has betrayed his own reputation and contribution to his legacy to the Labour Party by blaming an imaginary enemy.”

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