Labor’s fictitious chancellor dismissed MPs who left the party to form The Independent Group as “completely irrelevant”.
John McDonnell insisted he had never considered leaving the Labor Party under Tony Blair, even though he and current leader Jeremy Corbyn have “occasionally” voted against the party line.
He said it was “absolutely futile” for politicians, including Chuka Umuna and Luciana Berger, to resign, underlining Labor’s subsequent support for a second Brexit referendum.
He spoke as a poll by BMG for The Independent found that 30% of voters might consider supporting the independent group if they run in their constituencies.
But Mr McDonnell said: “What will happen in the future, I think a number of them will find it absolutely futile, and I think it will not just be a waste of time to them personally, but also for all those who support them as well. “
He said: “This is a group of people who for some reason, I don’t know exactly why, were upset, chose an issue to leave the party on. Within a week, this problem was no longer relevant, I don’t think so. I just think it’s a futile gesture.
The shadow chancellor went on to say at an event on the sidelines of the Scottish Labor conference in Dundee: “The independent group increasingly seems completely irrelevant. I didn’t even find in the meetings that I had that people talk about it anymore.
“I get on the bus, I get on the metro and I get on the train to go to work, and in the constituency and even on the metro and the train, I get a little bit of jokes from the voters, the people tackle their different problems. None of them raised this issue.
He said he was “to some extent puzzled” by MPs’ decision to leave Labor, saying the “biggest reasons” they cited were Labor’s lack of support for a popular vote on Brexit.
“And the week after they left us, we then moved to the position, exactly as agreed by the Labor Party conference, where we were calling for a popular vote.
“So it seemed completely futile that they left for that reason.”
He insisted that the party was a ‘large church’, and added: ‘For a number of years, as you probably know, Jeremy Corbyn and I did not really hegemonize the ideas of the Labor Party. .
“But we sat in the backseats, I was doing alternative budgets, we voted – sometimes we voted against Blair’s leadership – and sometimes we were in a minority of one or two. At no time did I think of leaving the Labor Party.
He continued: “Those who have left our party must now think about the responsibility they have, because if they take votes away from Labor it won’t mean that they will be elected, it won’t mean that there is will have a TIG government, it will mean that the Conservatives will return to power.
“I think that’s the responsibility that some people who might think of supporting them need to think seriously about.”