John McDonnell Biography

John Martin McDonnell is a seasoned British politician who has been serving as the Member of Parliament for Hayes and Harlington since May 1997. He is a prominent figure in the Labour Party and has held various positions, including Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2015 to 2020. McDonnell has also been actively involved in trade unions and has chaired several influential groups within the party. Known for his left-wing views, he played a crucial role in developing Labour’s economic programme during his tenure as Shadow Chancellor.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In September
  • Also Known As: John Martin McDonnell
  • Age: 72 Years, 72 Year Old Males
  • Family: Spouse/Ex-: Cynthia Marie Pinto (m. 1995), Marilyn Jean Cooper (m. 1971 – div. 1987)
  • Born Country: England
  • Political Leaders
  • British Men
  • Notable Alumni: Birkbeck, University Of London, Brunel University
  • City: Liverpool, England
  • More Facts
  • Education: Brunel University, Birkbeck, University Of London

Childhood & Early Life

John Martin McDonnell was born on September 8, 1951, in Liverpool, England, in an Irish Catholic family of a docker called Bob and his wife Elsie who worked as a cleaner. McDonnell’s father served as a sergeant in the Sherwood Foresters at the time of Second World War.

As his father was struggling to find work at the docks, his family shifted to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, his mother’s hometown, where his father started working as a bus driver. The latter also served as a branch secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union while McDonnell’s mother took a job at the British Home Stores.

McDonnell studied at the Great Yarmouth Grammar School. He initially started to take training to become a Catholic priest. He received a local authority grant to attend the Roman Catholic boarding fee-paying independent school called St Joseph’s College in Ipswich, Suffolk, however later changed his decision at age 15 or 16.

He did part-time jobs in bars and a bingo hall while attending grammar school where he failed his A-levels. He then left his studies and did several unskilled jobs before resuming his A-level studies at night school at Burnley Technical College following his first marriage. He shifted to Hayes at age 23 and enrolled at the Brunel University from where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in government and politics. While attending the university, he assisted his wife in operating a small Hayes based children’s home as also remained actively involved with his local community and the British trade union called National Union of Public Employees. He then attended Birkbeck, University of London and earned his master’s degree in politics and sociology.


From 1977 to 1978 John McDonnell worked as a researcher and official with the National Union of Mineworkers. Thereafter he remained associated with the Trades Union Congress till 1982.

Meanwhile, on May 7, 1981, John McDonnell assumed office as Member of the Greater London Council for Hayes and Harlington and held the position till March 31, 1986. During such tenure, Leader of the Greater London Council Ken Livingstone appointed McDonnell as key chair of finance. McDonnell became Deputy Leader of the Greater London Council on May 7, 1984, under Livingstone. The latter, however, sacked McDonnell in 1985 over the strategy to oppose rate-capping.

In 1986, the Greater London Council was abolished following which John McDonnell was inducted at Camden London Borough Council as head of the policy unit. Next year, he was inducted as Chief Executive of the Association of London Authorities. He served the position till 1995 following which he served as Chief Executive of the Association of London Government till 1997.

Meanwhile he unsuccessfully contested from Hampstead and Highgate during 1983 general election and from Hayes and Harlington during the 1992 general election. He again contested from Hayes and Harlington during the 1997 general election and this time got elected as Member of Parliament for Hayes and Harlington. He is the incumbent MP from the constituency since May 1, 1997, having won the subsequent elections consistently in 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2017 and 2019. After Livingstone became Mayor of London in 2000, he inducted McDonnell to his cabinet assigning him responsibility for local government in London.

As a parliamentary backbencher, John McDonnell remained involved in many local community campaigns. He voted against the 2003 Iraq War and in October 2006, he was among the twelve Labour MPs who backed the call of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party for a British public inquiry into the role of the country in the Iraq War. He was also against New Labour policies of anti-terror laws, trust schools, student top-up fees and foundation hospitals.

In 2003, he hosted the Parliamentary launch of the Tax Justice Network and has advocated for the cause of tax justice as a parliamentarian.

John McDonnell is a prominent member of many all-party groups in parliament including NAPO, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

He chairs the British socialist pressure group called Labour Representation Committee (LRC) within the Labour Party and wider labour movement that maintains support from several trade unions, some of the most prominent ones being RMT, NUM, FBU and ASLEF. McDonnell also chairs the anti-privatisation campaign called Public Services Not Private Profit launched in 2006. He has steadily opposed the privatisation of public services as also all PFI schemes that were proposed.

John McDonnell opposed expansion of Heathrow Airport and the effect of such expansion on local communities. Deputy Speaker Alan Haselhurst suspended McDonnell for five days after he disrupted Commons proceedings during a debate on the issue on January 15, 2009.

McDonnell and several others backed the People’s Assembly Against Austerity through a letter in February 2013 that was published by The Guardian newspaper. His name appeared in a letter in 2015 that called for disbandment of the armed police and MI5. It was produced by the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory (SCLV). McDonnell later said that he neither signed the letter nor was aware that such demand was made on it; however he was photographed holding a copy of it.

In the mean time, John McDonnell unsuccessfully ran during the 2007 Labour Party leadership election following resignation of Labour Leader Tony Blair. He again stood for leadership of the Labour Party in 2010 after Gordon Brown resigned but eventually withdrew in favour of Diane Abbott as he thought that he would not be able to garner enough nominations.

McDonnell managed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign during the Labour leadership election of 2015. After Corbyn became Labour leader, he inducted McDonnell to his Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. McDonnell assumed office on September 13, that year. While delivering a speech as Shadow Chancellor in November 2015, prior to George Osborne’s Spending Review, McDonnell pledged to increase spending on research and infrastructure through an Innovation Policy Council and elucidated his vision for the economy as “socialism with an iPad”.

He became a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on September 29, 2016, and with this became entitled to use the honorific style The Right Honourable.

John McDonnell met Australian editor, publisher, activist and founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange at HM Prison Belmarsh in February 2020. He stood down as Shadow Chancellor on April 5, 2020, the next day after Keir Starmer assumed office as Leader of the Labour Party.

Personal Life

McDonnell was married to Marilyn Jean Cooper from 1971 to 1987. Together they have two daughters. In 1995, he married Cynthia Marie Pinto with whom he has a son.

Although presently McDonnell is irreligious and identifies as an atheist, he goes to church regularly and describes himself as a “cultural Catholic”.

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