John McDonnell’s response to George Osborne’s autumn spending review has quoted from a surprising source: Mao’s Little Red Book.
— DailySunday Politics (@daily_politics) November 25, 2015
The Little Red Book is the name commonly given to Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, a book that collected together the – you guessed it – quotations of the former Chairman of the Communist Party of China. It was widely distributed after the cultural revolution during the personality cult of Mao, alongside Lenin’s The Three Sources and Three Components of Marxism and Engel’s Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.
In response, George Osborne opened the copy of the book and said “it’s his [McDonnell’s] personal signed copy”.
Aside from chapters on labour, women and the army, the book also collects quotations on topics like “Imperialism and All Reactionaries Are Paper Tigers”. Mao’s legacy as a political theorist is somewhat contested given the approximately 18 to 45 million people who died during China’s “Great Leap Forward”, a process of rapid industrialisation instigated by the Communist Party in the late 1950s. The death toll from Mao’s cultural cleansing program is hotly debated, but sources generally agree over half a million people died as a direct result.
There has been some suggestion that in terms of “not offering obvious spin opportunities to your opponents”, the decision to quote Mao may not have been McDonnell’s finest.
Brilliant. All future Tory broadcasts will contain genuine footage of John McDonnell holding the Little Red Book saying “Let’s quote Mao”
— Michael Deacon (@MichaelPDeacon) November 25, 2015
Could quoting Mao at the autumn statement conceivably backfire no I think it’s fine lads no downside here let’s do it
— Archie Bland (@archiebland) November 25, 2015
Fans of political spin: brace yourself for “McDonnell is so left-wing he quoted Mao in his response to the Budget”. Sigh.
— Helen Lewis (@helenlewis) November 25, 2015
Credit to Osborne. If my opponent had just quoted Mao I would have done this in front of the Opposition. pic.twitter.com/3jVn9HKPfO
— Stephen Bush (@stephenkb) November 25, 2015
I wish you could have all seen the faces of the Labour backbenchers when John McDonnell pulled out Mao’s Little Red Book. I wish.
— Conor Pope (@Conorpope) November 25, 2015