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John McDonnell's speech: big on vision, short on detail

The shadow chancellor's commitment to tackling the deficit was not matched by a foolproof plan. 

John McDonnell, for so long the Robespierre of the left, is on a mission to reinvent himself. Labour's new shadow chancellor began his first conference address by promising that it would not be a "rant". And it wasn't. The man who has previously called for the IRA to be honoured, joked about assassinating Margaret Thatcher and declared of Tory minister Esther McVey, "Why aren't we lynching the bastard?", eschewed such violent rhetoric.

Instead, he offered an often wonkish account of how he aspired to change "the economic discourse in this country". There were unlikely whoops and cheers from delegates as he announced the membership of his Economic Advisory Committee ("including Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas Piketty, Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Simon Wren Lewis, Ann Pettifor and former member of the Bank of England Monetary Committee, David Blanchflower") and promised that Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, would lead a review into "the operation of the Treasury itself." Setting out his defining dividing line with the Conservatives and his predecessor, he vowed to "oppose the cuts to our public services". But seeking to redefine the terms of debate, he pledged that Labour would make its own "cuts" - but to the corporate welfare system, not "the number of police officers on our streets or nurses in our hospitals or teachers in our classrooms." 

When Ed Miliband delivered his conference speech last year, he was castigated for failing to mention the deficit. It was a charge that McDonnell quickly insulated himself from. Labour, he vowed, would "tackle the deficit" through "aggressive" action to "force people like Starbucks, Vodafone, Amazon and Google and all the others to pay their fair share of taxes." But there was no explanation of how. Combined with the promise of "people's quantitative easing" in times of anaemic growth, the impression that Labour relies on a magic money tree risks only being reinforced. McDonnell assured delegates that Labour would not fall into the "trap" set by George Osborne in the form of his fiscal charter (which commits the government to achieving an overall surplus by 2020). But there was no clarity today on how the party would vote on the document. McDonnell moved delegates with the old cry that "another world is possible" and his vow to provide 100,000 homeless children with "a decent and secure home in which to live." But again, just how the new world would be born was unclear. 

It was the political, rather than the economic, content of the speech that was perhaps most notable. The loudest applause from delegates came when McDonnell appealed to those MPs who refused to serve under Jeremy Corbyn to "come back and help us succeed". The appeal was offered "in the spirit of solidarity" but to many on the outside, as one MP told me, "it sounded like a threat". Corbyn, by contrast, told me that "All Labour MPs have got a role to play, all Labour MPs have got a contribution to make" when I interviewed him. Those moderates who chose to take shadow cabinet posts did so in part because they fear being blamed if the new leadership fails. McDonnell's call for all MPs to "help us succeed" heightens the chance that those on the outside will be. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Casting the Brexit movie that is definitely real and will totally happen

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our screens, or just Farage's vivid imagination.

Hollywood is planning to take on the farcical antics of Nigel Farage et al during the UK referendum, according to rumours (some suspect planted by a starstruck Brexiteer). 

Details are yet unclear as to whether The Bad Boys of Brexit will be gracing our big or small screens, a DVD, or just Farage's vivid imagination, but either way here are our picks for casting the Hollywood adaptation.

Nigel Farage: Jim Carrey

The 2018 return of Alan Partridge as "the voice of hard Brexit" makes Steve Coogan the obvious choice. Yet Carrey's portrayal of the laughable yet pure evil Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events makes him a serious contender for this role. 

Boris Johnson: Gerard Depardieu

Stick a blonde wig on him and the French acting royalty is almost the spitting image of our own European aristocrat. He has also evidently already mastered the look of pure shock necessary for the final scene of the movie - in which the Leave campaign is victorious.

Arron Banks: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais not only resembles Ukip donor Arron Banks, but has a signature shifty face perfect for the scene where the other Brexiteers ask him what is the actual plan. 

Gerry Gunster: Anthony Lapaglia

The Bad Boys of Brexit will reportedly be told from the perspective of the US strategist turned Brexit referendum expert Gerry Gunster. Thanks to recurring roles in both the comedy stalwart Frasier, and the US crime drama Without a Trace, Anthony Lapaglia is versatile enough to do funny as well as serious, a perfect mix for a story that lurches from tragedy to farce. Also, they have the same cunning eyes.

Douglas Carswell: Mark Gatiss

The resemblance is uncanny.

David Cameron: Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott is widely known for his portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock, where he indulges in elaborate, but nationally destructive strategy games. The actor also excels in a look of misplaced confidence that David Cameron wore all the way up to the referendum. Not to mention, his forehead is just as shiny. He'll have to drink a lot of Bollinger to gain that Cameron-esque puppy fat though. 

Kate Hoey: Judi Dench

Although this casting would ruin the image of the much beloved national treasure that is Judi Dench, if anyone can pull off being the face of Labour Leave, the incredible actress can.