Ben Lowry: John McDonnell sounded confident in Belfast and he had good reason to be so

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell speaks to staff at Harland and Wolff on Monday August 5 2019, a few hours before he appeared at the West Belfast festival.''Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell speaks to staff at Harland and Wolff on Monday August 5 2019, a few hours before he appeared at the West Belfast festival.''Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
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Most commentators have given up making predictions, given recent turbulence in many countries.

But here is an easy prediction:

We are not going to see a smooth, quiet resolution to Brexit.

It seemed that such a smooth departure was possible in the year after the 2016 referendum, and even in the year from mid 2017 when Theresa May lost the Conservative House of Commons majority.

Brexit opponents were resigned to it. The Tory and Labour parties both backed its implementation.

Then things began to fall apart.

Watching John McDonnell, Labour shadow chancellor, at the West Belfast Festival on Monday I was struck by his confidence and uncompromising socialist words.

Some political pundits, including the impressive Michael Portillo, think Labour is too radical to win. I don’t think so.

In fact, while a Tory Commons majority is plausible if they can strike even an informal pact with the Brexit Party, a Labour majority is just as feasible in a reverse scenario in which the Tories and Brexit Party stand against each other, and thus split the limited pro Brexit vote (which is still not much more than 50% of the overall vote).

Left wing politics is popular again, even in the US where socialism was once stigmatised but now embraced by Bernie Sanders.

There are many reasons for this, but I immediately think of two: the financial crisis and house prices.

The banking crisis made people like me, who argue for welfare reform, seem ridiculous. However bad it is for someone to game the UK’s slackly controlled, and ruinously expensive, benefits system, I certainly accept that thousands of bankers got away with far worse.

And talking up the property bubble, including Northern Ireland pre 2007, and sustaining it via low interest rates, has shut a generation out of home ownership. One day we will pay for that idiocy, including those of us who defend capitalism.

The payment might include the likes of McDonnell winning power, a man who is happy to see the UK splinter and who praised the IRA.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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