Julian Assange speaks from the Ecuadorian embassy on December 20, 2012 in London, England. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
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A short history of Julian Assange's most pointless media moments

The Wikileaks founder does a great line in non-news announcements. Let's look back on them with boredom following today's press conference, where he said he may leave the Ecuadorian embassy "soon". 

Today, Julian Assange summoned a press conference, only to deliver the non-news that he is planning to leave the Ecuadorian embassy “soon”. While denying that this was because of medical reasons, he neglected to give details on why, and when, and how, he would leave. In light of this rather pointless announcement, this mole has dug around for a round-up of some of the least newsworthy Assange moments.

For instance, the time he celebrated his two-year anniversary of entering the Ecuadorian embassy by rather ambitiously calling for the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, to resign. Eric Holder did not resign. 

Or when he taunted the UK government in a speech given from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy. The event attracted fans and journalists alike, but mainly consisted of Assange smugly thanking those who had helped him – more reminiscent of an emotional Oscars speech than anything else. 

Then there was this publicity stunt with ex-footballer Eric Cantona – which led to the announcement of... well, nothing. 

Or this sombre exchange of two rather snazzy discs, apparently containing the details of over 2,000 bank accounts which Assange pledged to reveal in 2011. We’re still waiting for the "full revelation" he promised... 

Of course, we haven’t forgotten this cringeworthy video of Assange lip-synching along to this Australian cheesy hit, as part of a publicity stunt for his election campaign to the Australian Senate. 

I'm a mole, innit.

Getty Images,
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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.