John McDonnell has defended describing a Conservative MP as a “stain of inhumanity” by arguing that it is better if politicians are honest about the way they feel.
The shadow chancellor conceded “I was angry” when he made the comments in the Commons about Esther McVey in March last year, before she lost her Wirral West seat to Labour.
McDonnell was facing questions in parliament from MPs annoyed about his refusal to apologise for quoting a constituent who had shouted out that they wanted to “lynch” McVey.
He responded by saying that there was nothing to say sorry for about the substance of the complaint, accused McVey of trying to be a victim, and referring to the Tory employment minister as “the stain of inhumanity”.
Asked about the controversy at Labour conference on Sunday morning, he told ITV’s Robert Peston: “I simply reported what was shouted out at a public meeting.”
Pushed on his “stain of inhumanity” comment, he added: “Well, I was angry. Sometimes you need to express honest anger and that was about what the last government was doing to people with disabilities. It was appalling, to be frank, and sometimes it is better to be honest with people about how you feel.
“At times in parliament it means using strong language, but if it reflects your honest views it is better to be honest than to be in any way deceptive.”
McDonnell said people were fed up with “spin and triangulation” and wanted politicians to express the “truth”. He conceded: “There has to be an element of expressing yourself in language that doesn’t go too far – I accept that and occasionally I’ve gone too far and I’ve admitted that, but we have to be straight with one another.”
He argued that the honesty of Jeremy Corbyn was what attracted voters: “What you see is what you get.”
McDonnell’s refusal to back down on the comments could anger female colleagues, who have warned that they have faced a great deal of misogynistic abuse in recent months as tensions in the Labour party have risen.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010