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- Labour in open revolt as leadership abandons pledge to balance the books
- Two weeks ago John McDonnell backed Tory plans to run a surplus
- But last night the hard-Left chancellor ordered MPs to vote against it
- Furious Labour MPs warn there is now 'no credible leadership' in party
The Labour party is in open revolt today after embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn ditched a promise to balance the nation's books.
The shock u-turn, just a fortnight after shadow chancellor John McDonnell vowed to back Tory plans to run a surplus, was branded a 'total f***ing shambles' by a former Cabinet minister as MPs lined up to publicly criticise the leadership.
Frontbencher Diane Abbott took to the airwaves to try to defend the fiasco which led to claims that Mr Corbyn no longer as control of his shadow cabinet frontbench or his party.
The Labour party is in open revolt today after embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn ditched a promise to balance the nation's books
MPs are due to vote tomorrow on the Government's 'charter for fiscal responsibility', which commits governments to running a budget surplus in 'normal times'.
Two weeks ago Mr McDonnell had surprised critics by saying he wanted Labour to show it would 'live within our means' by supporting the plans.
But last night the shadow chancellor sparked anger and disbelief among moderates at a meeting of Labour MPs by ordering them to vote against Tory plans forcing future governments to run a budget surplus.
The U-turn sparked furious scenes at the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party in the Commons which one long-serving MP said afterwards was 'the worst PLP meeting I have ever attended', including the dark days of Iraq when the party was deeply split.
Angry shouting could be heard as Mr McDonnell outlined his thinking to MPs behind closed doors.
Former Labour Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw said the party's economic policy was now 'a total f****** shambles'.
Another former minister told Mr McDonnell: 'You are right to say we need a serious message on the economy but this is an embarrassing shambles'.
Labour MP Mike Gapes said on Twitter: 'There is now no collective Shadow cabinet responsibility in our Party, no clarity on economic policy and no credible leadership.
'The Labour Party will only be an effective campaigning organisation when its Leaders respect and listen to its MPs.'
Challenged by another user of the social media site to show loyalty to Mr Corbyn, the Ilford South MP responded: 'I will show loyalty in the same way as he was loyal to Kinnock, Smith, Blair, Brown, Beckett, Miliband and Harman. Ok?'
Former Cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw (right) condemned the 'total f***ing shambles' in the Labour party after shadow chancellor John McDonnell (left) ditched plans to balance Britain's books
Former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie condemned the flip-flopping, and said Labour should abstain in tomorrow's vote.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'I think if you're not ideologically wedded to or against the concept of a surplus, as I was saying throughout the summer, it is in my view better to abstain from George Osborne's tactical game here.'Labour members of the Treasury select committee boasted that they had forced the u-turn after threatening to vote against the charter this week.
Labour MP John Mann called it a 'huge joke' and told Mr McDonnell Labour would be 'torn apart by the Tories and SNP' on Wednesday for the U-turn, which he said undermined Jeremy Corbyn's promise of a new and honest politics.
Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell refused to do interviews this morning, leaving it to Ms Abbott - the party's spokesman on foreign aid - to defend the u-turn.
She sought to dismiss the row as a 'process story' and claimed the growing number of critics within the Labour party should 'calm down.
She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'John McDonnell takes the deficit very seriously and the party as a whole takes the deficit very seriously.
At any given time there were will be a group of MPs in Parliament, of whatever party, who are unhappy.
'I suspect my colleagues, on reflection, will calm down and devote their energies to attacking Osborne and his mismanagement of the economy.'
Labour MP Mike Gapes took to Twitter to hit out at Mr Corbyn's leadership, telling him he had to 'respect and listen' to his MPs
On the eve of the party's conference Mr McDonnell said: 'We will support the charter. We will support the charter on the basis we are going to want to balance the books, we do want to live within our means and we will tackle the deficit.'
But yesterday he said global economic developments in the last fortnight meant it was no longer wise to support spending controls.
He said there had been 'a series of reports highlighting the economic challenges facing the global economy as a result of the slowdown in emerging markets'. As a result, Labour needed to 'underline our position as an anti-austerity party' by voting against the charter.
And he suggested Labour would be able to 'rebuff any allegation of being deficit deniers' by publishing its own alternative economic plans later in the week.
Chancellor George Osborne said: 'Labour's economic policy has lurched from chaos to incredibility'
The change of stance is a serious blow to Labour's remaining credibility.
The party is already facing criticism over plans that include swingeing taxes on the middle classes and ordering the Bank of England to print billions of pounds of new money to fund a spending spree.
Chancellor George Osborne said: 'Labour's economic policy has lurched from chaos to incredibility. Two weeks ago they said they were going to vote for a surplus – now we know they want to keep on borrowing forever.
'That would be a grave threat to the economic security of working people.