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Labour MPs were too busy on their mobile phones to pay attention to their Shadow Chancellor's response to the Government's Autumn Statement today.
As John McDonnell stood up for his big moment in the Commons to respond to the Government's spending plans, his party's MPs were much more interested in their mobile phones than his rambling speech.
More than 20 MPs around him took out their phones as he took to the Despatch Box, including frontbench colleagues.
And while Mr McDonnell told Chancellor Philip Hammond that his plans 'offer no hope for the future,' the faces of Labour MPs slumped in the green benches behind him suggest they have no hope for their party's future under his and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.
The veteran socialist blasted the Tories for six 'wasted' years, saying the figures outlined in the Autumn Statement 'speak for themselves', with economic growth, wage growth and business investment down. He added the Government's 'long-term economic plan' has failed and claimed his own fanciful plans to borrow £500billion was a better alternative.
The faces of Labour MPs around him matched the miserable growth forecasts unveiled by the Office for Budget Responsibility, which predicts economic growth to be 2.4 per cent lower than expected due to Brexit. And despite government borrowing set to fall every year until 2021, Britain will still run up a deficit of £17.2billion in 2020-21. As soon as Mr McDonnell stoop up to speak, scores of Tory MPs chose to file out of the chamber instead of having to wait and listen to his 15-minute rant.
And the ones that stayed heckled and jeered the Shadow Chancellor, earning them an angry rebuke from Speaker John Bercow. When he was finally heard over the noise of Tory heckling, Mr McDonnell said of the Chancellor's spending plans: 'Today's statement places on record the abject failure of the last six wasted years and offers no hope for the future.'
He said the Government had failed on its deficit target, debt target and welfare cap. The Labour frontbencher added: 'We've heard today there'll be more taxes, more debt and more borrowing. 'The verdict could not be clearer - the so-called long-term economic plan has failed. 'As the Treasury's own leaked paper revealed, the Government knew it had failed before the referendum result was announced. 'We now face Brexit, the greatest economic challenge of a generation, and we face it unprepared and ill-equipped.'
Responding to his opposite number, Mr Hammond tore into Labour's spending plans, questioned how he would afford an extra £500billion of investment and said Mr McDonnell was being hypocritical in criticising the Government for failing to bring down the deficit and borrowing. Mr Hammond said: 'That's a bit of a problem because as I understood it, [Mr McDonnell's) central proposal for our economy is to borrow more and spend more. 'Indeed, under his rule he'd always be borrowing in good times as well as bad. His analysis of the problem of the last Labour government is not that it spent too much money but that it spent too little money.
'Indeed, his rule has remarkable similarities to Gordon Brown's golden rule - and we all know where that got us,' Mr Hammond said, taunting Mr McDonnell by comparing him to his old nemesis.
And in a final parting shot at his opposite number, Mr Hammond said: 'He and the leader of the opposition have spread division and disunity through the Labour party, and that's exactly what they'd spread through the country if they ever, God forbid, got into Government. 'Instead of carping and opposing every measure that we propose from this side, why doesn't he roll up his sleeves and support us in the hard work of building an economy that works for everyone.'
2016.11.23 / 22:23