Of course, the charter is a stunt, but it is a stunt which makes an important (and valid) point so the clever thing for Labour to have done would have been to vote for it.
A braver view, but one which might possibly have won some support would have been to think through a serious critique of the charter, and stuck to it.
Instead the shadow chancellor initially said he would back it, then suddenly and without consultation with his colleagues changed his mind at the last minute, creating the most enormous row within the Parliamentary Labour party and making Labour divisions and chaos the story.
This is the start of an article by Dan Hodges on the subject ...
"John McDonnell is a fan of straight talking, honest politics. So he’ll appreciate the following observation. John McDonnell is a useless, incompetent, joke of a politician who should not be given responsibility for making the tea in his local constituency office, let alone hold the office of shadow chancellor of the United Kingdom.
Four months ago, George Osborne set a trap for the Labour Party. We know this because he stood up in the House of Commons and said “I’m going to set a trap for the Labour Party”. Then he walked around the Dispatch Box, took out a shovel, and began to dig a big hole just in front of the Labour front bench. As he was doing so, he said: “Labour front bench. This is the trap I’m digging for you. It’s this big hole right in front of you.” Then he took out a big sign. The sign read: “Giant Labour Party Trap.” And he placed it right next to the hole. Then he went and sat back on the Government bench.
“Don’t you think you’re being a bit obvious with this trap of yours, George?” David Cameron whispered to his Chancellor, upon his return. “No David, don’t worry. This is the Labour Party. They will fall for it. Trust me,” Osborne responded. “But you’ve just told them what you’re doing,” Cameron pressed. “And they’ve just seen you digging the hole. And you’ve put a big sign by the hole saying 'Giant Labour Party Trap'. At which point George Osborne patted his colleague reassuringly on the shoulder, and soothed: “Seriously. Don’t worry, David. This is the Labour Party. They will fall for it. Just you wait and see."
"To be fair to John McDonnell, he did spot the trap. Which is why two weeks ago, he stood up at Labour Party conference and said this:
“You know the narrative George Osborne wanted to present of us this week. Deficit deniers risking the security of the nation etc. It was so obvious you could write it yourself blindfolded. He has brought forward his grandiose fiscal charter not as serious policy making but as a political stunt. A trap for us to fall into. We are not playing those games any more."
"Perhaps there was an instant when George Osborne thought: “Fair play. He’s not falling for it. This guy's smarter than I gave him credit for."
"And now let’s consider what George Osborne thought yesterday. When he saw Ronald McDonnell strap on that fake nose, slip on his giant red shoes, finish the final touches to his make-up, then scream “Geronimo!!!!”, and leap headlong into the trap, dragging the rest of the Labour Party with him."
You can read the full article here.