I’m no Labour supporter but I was willing to give Jeremy Corbyn a chance to revitalise the British left and shake up the establishment consensus. I’d hoped he’s galvanise a broad-based movement rather than retreat into sectarian zealotry. Unfortunately his appointment of Seamas Milne to the powerful post of communications director does not bode well.
Milne gives every impression he’s an unreconstructed and unrepentant Stalinist who sometimes seemed as though he was only employed as a columnist for The Guardian to make some of their other leftist writers look like voices of reason by comparison. He’s close to a caricature of the worst kind of public-school leftist, the product of an expensive private school and Oxbridge education that’s filled his head with Marxist theory, undiluted with much contact with ordinary working people.
It’s as if David Cameron had appointed the notorious Daily Telegraph columnist James Delingpole to the equivalent post for the Conservatives. Except worse; Delingpole is a noxious button-pushing rightwing troll, while Milne is a staring-eyed True Believer. Milne’s acolytes are meeping about “smears”, except that most of those so-called smears are links to his Guardian op-eds, which let people read, in context, what he said about everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the murder of Lee Rigby. And none of it is pretty.
Searching for “Seamas Milne” on Twitter and the overwhelming message is dismay from across the centre-left. This hard-hitting piece from Labour PPC Kate Godrey sums up that dismay rather well. As for Milne’s cheerleaders, a blog called The Canary thinks Jeremy Corbyn’s choice of Comms Chief should delight his supporters and terrify his enemies which actually speaks volumes about the delusional bubble inhabited by much of the hard left. It’s difficult to imagine that bubble surviving contact with electoral reality on the doorsteps next May.
Of more interest to the Labour party is whether he will be any good at the job. Key question: will he be able to see issues clear-sightedly from his opponents’ point of view? “Never neglect to think like a Tory,” advises John McTernan, Tony Blair’s former Director of Political Operations – a job title which guarantees his words will be dismissed by Corbynistas, whose only true experience of fighting and winning elections is against their own side.
The truth they’re unable to accept is that a hard-left Labour Party has little chance of being elected unless Britain suffers a Greece-style economic meltdown. And if you’re really hoping for a Greek-style meltdown so you can benefit from it politically, then you’ve not the sort of person anyone should trust with political power.
And this is before we start on how the whole controversy is distracting attention away from the really nasty stuff the Tories are doing.