Jeremy Corbyn has chosen his Head of Communications. It will be left-wing veteran Guardian journalist Seumas Milne; news which should please the new Labour leader’s supporters and terrify his enemies.
Milne presents something of a double threat to Corbyn’s opponents. The first, he comes from a markedly similar background. Milne’s father is a former director-general of the BBC who ensured his son enjoyed the privilege of a public school education at Winchester College. Milne later went on to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford, the same degree and university as the Prime Minister – only Milne opted for the rather less stuffy (and academically superior) Balliol College, while Cameron opted for Brasenose.
But the purposes to which both men put their privilege stand in stark contrast.
Milne went on to write for the Economist and the Guardian. He authored ‘The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners’ in which he excoriated the treatment of working British miners by the Thatcher government and railed against the harms caused by neoliberal economic policy. Tony Benn (another man who came from privilege but put it to use helping make Britain more equal) wrote at the time:
“Until Seumas Milne published this book, no one could have known the full extent of the treachery, deception and crude skulduggery that was practised by the establishment in its determination to secure the victory that it won…Seumas Milne has written a major work…He has told us how Britain is really governed.”
Milne has continued to engage with The People’s Assembly and myriad other movements which sprang from and pre-date Occupy London ever since. As much as his educational and socio-economic backgrounds are equal to David Cameron, his political and activist backgrounds are equal to any of the most committed anti-austerity, pro-equality campaigners in the country.
He is capable, committed and Corbyn has in his new Comms chief, a man who shares his vision for a more fair, progressive, compassionate and cooperative society.
For those of us who have engaged with these movements for years, Jeremy Corbyn being elected leader of the Labour party felt like a real coup – like ‘one of us’ had gained the position to enact real change. So it is with Seumas Milne.
Many will no doubt see this appointment as a statement of intent by the new Labour leader, who appears committed to building not just a Labour party, but a modern labour movement – and I have explained in a previous article why this presents such an extreme threat to the status quo and all who benefit from it:
The permanent political class is freaking out because the only thing that can beat out Project Fear, is Project Hope. A Tory-lite Labour opposition was never going to win in 2020, but an energetic and awakened Labour movement can. Even worse, if they do win, there is a very real chance that the domestic and foreign policy of Britain could change in a truly radical way. We could be a few years away from the most progressive government since Clement Attlee’s post-WWII government delivered the NHS, a national education system, nationalised transport and energy, and rolled out the biggest social housing programme in our history. This is the kind of genuine electoral choice that UK voters haven’t had for decades.
The permanent political class knows it is under very real threat. They are going to use every weapon in their armory to neutralise that threat. But none of those weapons is more powerful than a tight-knit, grass roots movement with its eye on shared vision of an inspiring future.