Seumas Milne

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Seumas Milne
Opposition Executive Director of Strategy and Communications
Assumed office
26 October 2015
Leader Jeremy Corbyn
Preceded by Bob Roberts (May 2015)
Personal details
Born 1958 (age 56–57)
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Parents Alasdair Milne (father)
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Birkbeck, University of London
Occupation Political aide, journalist and writer

Seumas Milne (born 1958) is a British journalist and political aide. In October 2015, Milne was appointed as the Labour Party's Executive Director of Strategy and Communications.[1][2]

Before taking up this post, Milne was a columnist and associate editor at The Guardian newspaper, known for his left-wing views.[3][4][5] He is the author of a book about the 1984–5 British miners' strike, The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners, which focuses on the role of MI5 and Special Branch in the dispute.[6][7]

Milne's journalism and Labour Party appointment were the subject of much negative media comment in October 2015. Peter Preston, Milne's former editor at The Guardian, commented on the ethical challenges faced by journalists-turned-political advisers and concluded about Milne's change of career path: "Houston, we have a challenge: let’s see if we have a problem."[8]

Early life[edit]

The younger son of the former BBC Director General Alasdair Milne, Milne attended Winchester College and read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Balliol College, Oxford, and Economics at Birkbeck College, London University. His sister, Kirsty, who died in July 2013, was an academic and former journalist.[9]

After graduating from Oxford University, Milne was the business manager of Straight Left, a monthly publication of the faction within the Communist Party of Great Britain which wanted the CP, according to Michael Mosbacher, to remain "on a solidly Stalinist path".[10]



Milne worked as a staff journalist on The Economist magazine from 1981 before joining The Guardian newspaper in 1984, on the recommendation of Andrew Knight, the magazine's editor at the time.[11][8] Milne's responsibilities on The Guardian have included posts as news reporter, Labour Correspondent (Europe), Labour Editor, and Comment Editor (for six years, 2001–7).[10]

Milne has reported for The Guardian from the Middle East, Latin America, Russia, Eastern Europe and South Asia,[12] and also written for Le Monde Diplomatique[13] and the London Review of Books.[14]

Milne has been described as a "staunch socialist" in the Evening Standard.[5] Following an article he published in September 1995 in The Guardian, Milne "became characterised as a 'far-left activist' and member of the Socialist Workers Party".[3] Peter Popham argued that connecting Milne to the SWP was a "smear", but "there is no mistaking that Seumas is on the far left of the Labour Party, of which he has been a member for 20 years".[3] He was joint winner of the 1999 What the Papers Say Scoop of the Year award.[15]

Milne period as his newspaper's Comment editor was described by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine as having turned the Guardian‍ '​s comment section into a "truly global debating forum".[16] Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan claimed that Milne's greatest achievement "was to take full advantage of the expansion of The Guardian’s comment pages ... making them the most thought-provoking opinion section in Britain".[4] Hannan also praised Milne as "a sincere, eloquent and uncomplicated Marxist".[4]

Milne served on the executive committee of the National Union of Journalists for ten years.[3][12]

Labour's Director of Communications[edit]

On 20 October 2015, it was announced that Milne will become part of the team behind Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as the Labour Party's Executive Director of Strategy and Communications. He will be "on leave" from his post at The Guardian and will assume his new role on 26 October.[2][17]

According to Tom Harris, a former Scottish Labour MP writing for The Daily Telegraph, Corbyn could have chosen for the Comms post "someone whose skills in media management were better known than his personal political views. Instead he chose Seumas Milne, a hate figure for the right of the Labour Party and pretty much everyone else to the right of that."[18] Lord Mandelson told the BBC that Corbyn had shown a lack of professionalism in appointing Milne, "whom I happen to know and like as it happens. But he’s completely unsuited to such a job, he has little connection with mainstream politics or mainstream media in this country."[19][20]

John Jewell, an academic at Cardiff University's School of Journalism, criticised the articles by Harris and others which mention Milne's response to the murder of Lee Rigby. Jewell observes that "the article in which Milne wrote of Rigby not being a victim of terrorism 'in the normal sense' began with these words: 'The videoed butchery of Fusilier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich barracks last May was a horrific act and his killers’ murder conviction a foregone conclusion.'"[21]

Patrick Wintour, the political Editor of The Guardian, wrote that Corbyn "has been struggling to ensure he receives an effective press since he became party leader, and Milne will be charged with ensuring there is an improvement ahead of the large round of local government elections in Scotland, Wales, London and England due in May next year".[1] Peter Preston, Milne's first Guardian editor, asserted shortly after Milne's appointment: "The 'on leave' tag appears to make Seumas a once and continuing Guardian man, which won’t help relations with journalists from elsewhere and could hogtie former colleagues who aren’t on leave if they want to criticise Labour’s communications policies."[8]


On British politics[edit]

Milne was a strong critic of New Labour, in particular over its support for foreign wars, privatisation and low taxes on the wealthy.[22] He has argued that David Cameron's "makeover" of the Conservative Party is "skin deep"[23] and attacked the party for its links with "rightwing fringe" parties in eastern Europe[24] and support for "small state" public spending cuts.[25]

On capitalism, communism and democracy[edit]

Capitalism and democracy[edit]

Writing for The Guardian in September 2015, Milne put forward his view that that it's the establishment that has a problem with democracy:

Milne has argued that the financial and economic crisis of 2007–9 has discredited the neoliberal model of capitalism.[27] He has argued for full public ownership of banks in Britain to support economic recovery and overcome the credit crisis.[28] The rejection of a search for an alternative to capitalism, wrote Milne in 2006 "reflects a determination to prove there is no alternative to the new global capitalist order - and that any attempt to find one is bound to lead to suffering and bloodshed". Meanwhile, "international demands for social justice and ever greater doubts about whether the environmental crisis can be solved within the existing economic system, the pressure for political and social alternatives will increase."[29]

"Liberal democracy, Mr Milne, is not a swindle", wrote Philip Collins of The Times in October 2015. "It’s the good life. Not the perfect life and not yet the good life for everyone, by any means, but a better life than any you find in the history books you so wish you could rewrite."[30]


Milne has attacked what he calls "the creeping historical revisionism that tries to equate Nazism and communism",[31] which he argues has tended to "relativise the unique crimes of Nazism, bury those of colonialism and feed the idea that any attempt at radical social change will always lead to suffering, killing and failure".[32] He has written that communism's "crimes are now so well rehearsed that they are in danger of obliterating any understanding of its achievements, both of which have lessons for the future of progressive politics and the search for a social alternative to globalised capitalism".[33] Stephen Pollard in The Times mocked Milne's sympathies: "The point is, you see, Uncle Joe was engaged in an honourable project, offering 'socialist political alternatives'. So it was just a pity, one supposes, that millions had to die. Never mind; all in a good cause."[34]

Milne argued in 2006:

In the same article, Milne criticised the Council of Europe and others in 2006 for adopting "as fact the wildest estimates of those 'killed by communist regimes'".[29] He has argued that, while the "number of victims of Stalin's terror" "remain[s] a focus of huge academic controversy",[32] "the real records of repression now available from the Soviet archives are horrific enough (799,455 people were recorded as executed between 1921 and 1953 and the labour camp population reached 2.5 million at its peak) without engaging in an ideologically-fuelled inflation game".[29] Oliver Bullough in the New Statesman wrote that Milne in "focussing only on the USSR’s executions ignores the millions it starved to death in Ukraine, or in the mass deportations from the Caucasus and Crimea, [in addition to] the way it used rape as a weapon."[35]

Al-Qaeda attacks and the response[edit]

11 September attacks[edit]

Milne argued that the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington were the product of "longstanding grievances" over US intervention in the Middle East: "not only western indulgence of Israeli military occupation, but decades of oil-lubricated support for despots from Iran to Oman, Egypt to Saudi Arabia and routine military interventions to maintain US control".[36] On 13 September 2001, Milne wrote[37] that "most Americans simply don't get.. why the United States is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world". Milne argued that in the aftermath of "such atrocities", only a minority were likely to "make the connection between what has been visited upon them and what their government has visited upon large parts of the world. But make that connection they must, if such tragedies are not to be repeated."[37] He wrote that the US was "reaping a dragon's teeth harvest" it had itself sowed in Afghanistan in the 1980s.[37]

Afghanistan and Iraq wars[edit]

Seumas Milne has been a vocal critic of the "war on terror"[38] and the wars in Afghanistan[39] and Iraq.[40] Milne argued in 2001 that war in Afghanistan would fail to "stamp out anti-western terrorism" and if the US invaded Iraq, "it risks a catastrophe".[41] Milne was singled out by Tony Blair in a December 2001 dossier as one of ten media critics of the war in Afghanistan and the US-British response to the 9/11 attacks whose views he claimed had "proved to be wrong".[42]

In relation to Iraq, Milne argued in March 2008:

According to Milne in July 2004, "the anti-occupation guerrillas" were "a classic resistance movement with widespread support waging an increasingly successful guerrilla war against the occupying armies".[43][44] According to Michael Weiss, for Milne's approved "resistance", "read: mosque bombers and head-loppers"[45] Milne has argued for a "negotiated withdrawal" from Afghanistan based on a "political settlement, including the Taliban and regional powers".[39]

7/7 London bombings[edit]

A week after the 7 July 2005 London bombings Milne linked the attacks with the British involvement in the war in Iraq.[46] Milne argued:

Motivations of al-Qaeda[edit]

Milne argued after the London bombings that it was "an insult to the dead" and a "piece of disinformation long peddled by champions of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan" to claim that al-Qaeda and its followers were motivated by "a hatred of western freedoms and way of life" and "that their Islamist ideology aims at global domination", rather than "the withdrawal of US and other western forces from the Arab and Muslim world" and an end to support for Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and despotic regimes in the region.[46] Victor J. Seidler, a Professor of Social Theory from the University of London, argued in relation to Milne's article that we have to be careful "not to dismiss an Islamist rejection of the freedoms of Western urban cultures, in relation to consumerism and sexualities".[47] Seidler argued that contrary to Milne's claims, that they were at least partly motivated by "Islamist religious doctrine".[48] Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the London bombers, stated that they launched the attack because "Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible."[49]

Andrew Anthony, writing about the columnist's articles about Muslim extremism, asserted that "whereas Milne can instantly detect the relationship between far right rhetoric and the recent murder of Ahmed Hassan, a Muslim teenager in Dewsbury, he dismisses the idea that such hatred as was captured in" the Dispatches programme "Undercover Mosque" (2007) "might contribute to the kind of mentality that resulted in the carnage of the July 2005 bombs and the many terror plots that the authorities have successfully prevented."[50]

On Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran[edit]

Milne has stated that since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, "Iran and its allies offer the only effective challenge to US domination of the Middle East and its resources".[51] After the 2009 presidential election in Iran, Milne argued that the evidence suggested Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had in fact won the elections, despite allegations of fraud.[52] Milne wrote that "it's hard to believe that rigging alone could account for the 11 million-vote gap between the main contenders".[52] Milne has described Ahmadinejad's "toying with Holocaust denial" as "morally repugnant and factually absurd".[53] But he argued that, while for the western media Ahmadinejad is "nothing but a Holocaust-denying fanatic... the other Ahmadinejad, who is seen to stand up for the country's independence, expose elite corruption on TV and use Iran's oil wealth to boost the incomes of the poor majority is largely invisible".[52]

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict[edit]

In the Middle East, Milne has argued that "commitment to Palestinian rights should first of all be a question of justice. But, given the toxicity this conflict brings to the entire relationship with the Muslim world, it is also a matter of obvious western self-interest".[54] He has written that "far from supporting the Palestinian national unity necessary to make any peace agreement stick", the US and its allies "are doing everything possible to deepen the split between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah movement".[55]

1948 Arab–Israeli War[edit]

Milne has argued that "it is to Britain's historic shame that having played such a central role in the creation of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the dispossession of a people it had promised to protect, it has done so little to try to right those wrongs."[54] Milne claimed that ethnic cleansing of Palestinians had been orchestrated by "the forces of the embryonic Israeli state" before the end of the British Mandate for Palestine.[54]

Battle of Jenin[edit]

Milne described the Battle of Jenin (1–11 April 2002) during Operation Defensive Shield as an "unleashing of state terror" by the Israeli government whilst describing the fierce fighting of Palestinian militants as "desperate Palestinian resistance".[56] Milne claimed during the fighting in Jenin that as "in other West Bank towns and camps, reports of beatings and executions of prisoners abound, and Israel appears to be preparing the ground for evidence of atrocities". Milne also stated that "Hundreds [of Palestinians] are reported killed, including many civilians.[56]

Gaza Wars[edit]

In the aftermath of the Gaza War (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009), also known as Operation Cast Lead, Milne cited allegations of Israeli war crimes to argue: "With such powerful evidence of violations of the rules of war now emerging from the rubble of Gaza, the test must be this: is the developing system of international accountability for war crimes only going to apply to the west's enemies – or can the western powers and their closest allies also be brought to book?"[57]

Columnist Melanie Phillips termed Milne as a "Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas mouthpiece" in 2009.[58] At the end of her article, rejecting The Guardian and Milne's claims of Israeli war crimes during Operation Cast Lead, Phillips criticised Milne's commentary as a:

In a 2014 speech at an anti-Israel rally he said that "Israel has no right to defend itself from territory it illegally occupies" and, referring to the actions of Hamas against Israel, "It isn't terrorism to fight back. The terrorism is the killing of citizens by Israel on an industrial scale".[17][59][60]

On Libya[edit]

Milne alleged NATO to be indirectly responsible for the killing of many civilians in the Libyan civil war of 2011 and wrote that global justice would demand a trial against NATO because of its support of the Libyan rebels.[61] In an earlier article by Milne in late October 2011, according to Daniel Knowles in his Daily Telegraph blog, an assertion from Milne about the number of deaths in Libya was "ridiculous. Nato has only multiplied deaths if you assume, as Milne clearly does, that these rebels have no legitimate fight with Colonel Gaddafi – they are just pawns of Nato", and in making such claims "slips into apology for Gaddafi".[62]

On Latin America[edit]

Milne has written in support of what he calls "the wave of progressive change in Latin America",[63] which he has described as "the most hopeful development in global politics in the past two decades".[64]

Milne described the restoration of the sight of Mario Terán, the former Bolivian sergeant who killed Che Guevara, by Cuban doctors "paid for by revolutionary Venezuela in the radicalised Bolivia of Evo Morales", one of "1.4 million free eye operations carried out by Cuban doctors in 33 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa", as "an emblem both of the humanity of Fidel Castro and Guevara's legacy" and the transformation of Latin America.[63]

Milne has also argued that Hugo Chávez's presidency was the target of "unfounded accusations of dictatorship" in the western media.[63] He asserted that Chávez's proposed referendum to eliminate term limits (which passed on 15 February 2009 after previously rejected on August 2007)[citation needed] would "bring the country into line with the rules in France and Britain".[63]

Private life[edit]

Milne married Cristina Montanari, an Italian-born director of an advertising firm, in 1992. The couple have two, now adult children, a son and daughter, who were educated at selective grammar schools.[65]



  1. ^ a b Wintour, Patrick (20 October 2015). "Guardian journalist Seumas Milne appointed Labour head of communications". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Seumas Milne appointed Labour’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications". LabourPress: Labour Party press office. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d Peter Popham "Media families 7. The Milnes", The Independent, 31 March 1997
  4. ^ a b c Daniel Hannan "My top five Leftie columnists", The Daily Telegraph, 10 July 2008
  5. ^ a b "In the air", Evening Standard, 16 August 2006
  6. ^ Christopher Andrew The Defence of the Realm, 2009, London: Allen Lane, p.677, and footnote 49, p.968
  7. ^ Guardian Comment is Free page for Seumas Milne.
  8. ^ a b c Preston, Peter (25 October 2015). "A media move like this needn’t burst Seumas Milne’s bubble". The Observer. Retrieved 25 October 2015. 
  9. ^ Iain Martin "Obituary: Kirsty Milne, journalist and academic", The Scotsman, 16 July 2013
  10. ^ a b Michael Mosbacher "Overrated: Seumas Milne", Standpoint, September 2011
  11. ^ "Milne, Seumas". Writer's Directory. 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Guardian profile
  13. ^ Seumas Milne, Le Monde Diplomatique 2009
  14. ^ Seumas Milne "After the May Day flood", London Review of Books, 5 June 1997
  15. ^ Guardian awards "What the Papers Say" The Guardian, 16 March 1999
  16. ^ Naomi Klein The Shock Doctrine, 2007, London: Penguin, p.530
  17. ^ a b McCann, Kate (20 October 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn appoints top advisor who once defended terrorism". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 20 October 2015. 
  18. ^ Harris, Tom (21 October 2015). "By hiring Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn shows his utter contempt for real Labour voters". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  19. ^ Watt, Nicholas (24 October 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn criticised over appointment of Labour's new press chief". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  20. ^ Pickard, Jim (23 October 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn faces Labour MP anger over communications chief". Financial Times. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  21. ^ Jewell, John (23 October 2015). "In a spin: why Seumas Milne is the wrong spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn". The Conversation. Retrieved 23 October 2015.  See also Milne, Seumas (20 December 2013). "Woolwich attack: If the whole world's a battlefield, that holds in Woolwich as well as Waziristan". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  22. ^ Seumas Milne "New Labour is finished. The fight is over what replaces it", The Guardian, 8 May 2008
  23. ^ Seumas Milne "We have been warned: the nasty party is still with us", The Guardian, 7 October 2009
  24. ^ Seumas Milne "The Tories' phoney war is just posturing", The Guardian, 4 November 2009
  25. ^ Seumas Milne "The cuts agenda is a brilliant diversion from the real crisis", The Guardian, 16 September 2009
  26. ^ Milne, Seumas (23 September 2015). "It’s the British establishment that has a problem with democracy". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 October 2015. 
  27. ^ Seumas Milne "Not the death of capitalism, but the birth of a new order", The Guardian, 23 October 2008
  28. ^ Seumas Milne "Our banks are too important to be left in private hands", The Guardian, 22 January 2009
  29. ^ a b c d Seumas Milne "Communism may be dead, but clearly not dead enough", The Guardian, 16 February 2006
  30. ^ Collins, Philip (23 October 2015). "Labour’s new mantra: blame it all on America". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 October 2015.  (subscription required)
  31. ^ Seumas Milne "This rewriting of history is spreading Europe's poison", The Guardian, 9 September 2009
  32. ^ a b Seumas Milne "The battle for history", The Guardian, 12 September 2002
  33. ^ Seumas Milne "Movement of the people", The Guardian, 12 May 2007
  34. ^ Pollard, Stephen (22 October 2015). "A man who excuses terrorism is the ideal Labour spin doctor". The Times (London). Retrieved 24 October 2015.  (subscription required)
  35. ^ Bullough, Oliver (23 October 2015). "I wanted to believe in Jeremy Corbyn. But I can't believe in Seumas Milne". New Statesman. Retrieved 23 October 2015.  In his 2006 article, Milne refers to the number of deaths in the Stalin period as being "mostly in famines", but provides no figures.
  36. ^ Seumas Milne "US comes up against the real world", The Guardian, 27 September 2001
  37. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "They can't see why they are hated: Americans cannot ignore what their government does abroad", The Guardian, 13 September 2001
  38. ^ Seumas Milne "A war that can't be won", The Guardian, 21 November 2002
  39. ^ a b Seumas Milne "In a war for democracy, why worry about public opinion?", The Guardian, 14 October 2009
  40. ^ a b Seumas Milne "There must be a reckoning for this day of infamy", The Guardian, 20 March 2008
  41. ^ Seumas Milne "Lurching towards catastrophe", The Guardian, 11 October 2001
  42. ^ "Blair Shames War Weasels", The Sun, 21 December 2001
  43. ^ Milne, Seumas (1 July 2004). "The resistance campaign is Iraq's real war of liberation". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  44. ^ Coates, Sam (21 October 2014). "Labour recruit backed Iraqi insurgents". The Times (London). Retrieved 21 October 2015.  (subscription required)
  45. ^ Weiss, Michael (3 March 2011). "Brother Seumas". New Criterion. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  46. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "It is an insult to the dead to deny the link with Iraq", The Guardian, 14 July 2005
  47. ^ Victor J. Seidler, Urban Fears and Global Terrors, 2007. p. 116
  48. ^ Victor J. Seidler, Urban Fears and Global Terrors, 2007. p. 118
  49. ^ London bomber: Text in full, BBC, 1 September 2005. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
  50. ^ Anthony, Andrew (20 December 2007). "Wishful thinking and evasion". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2015. . Anthony was mainly responding to Milne, Seumas (20 December 2007). "Cameron must rein in these toxic neocon attack dogs". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2015.  Milne comments about "Undercover Mosque" in "This onslaught risks turning into a racist witch-hunt". The Guardian. 20 September 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  51. ^ Seumas Milne "The fallout from an attack on Iran would be devastating", The Guardian, 5 October 2007
  52. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "These are the birth pangs of Obama's new regional order", The Guardian, 18 June 2009
  53. ^ Seumas Milne "What credibility is there in Geneva's all-white boycott?", The Guardian, 23 April 2009
  54. ^ a b c Seumas Milne "Expulsion and dispossession can't be cause for celebration", The Guardian, 15 May 2008
  55. ^ Seumas Milne "There can be no Middle East settlement without Hamas", The Guardian, 29 July 2009
  56. ^ a b Seumas Milne "Our friends in Jenin", The Guardian, 11 April 2002
  57. ^ Seumas Milne "Will Israel be brought to book?", The Guardian, 23 March 2009
  58. ^ a b Melanie Phillips "The Guardian goes to Pallywood", The Spectator (blog), 24 March 2009, Saved by the Wayback machine, 27 March 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2015
  59. ^ "Corbyn appoints terror apologist to top advisory post". The Times of Israel. 21 October 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  60. ^ The Fourteen Films video recording of Milne's speech, delivered on 9 August 2014, is on their YouTube feed here.
  61. ^ Seumas Milne If there were global justice, Nato would be in the dock over Libya, The Guardian, 15 May 2012
  62. ^ Knowles, Daniel (27 October 2011). "Seumas Milne's stomach-churning article on Libya is little more than an apology for Gaddafi". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 22 October 2015.  The article which Knowles cites is Milne, Seumas (26 October 2011). "If the Libyan war was about saving lives, it was a catastrophic failure". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2015. 
  63. ^ a b c d Seumas Milne "The seeds of Latin America's rebirth were sown in Cuba", The Guardian, 29 January 2008
  64. ^ Seumas Milne "The Honduras coup is a sign: the radical tide can be turned", The Guardian, 12 August 2009
  65. ^ Rayner, Gordon (23 October 2015). "Jeremy Corbyn's millionaire spin doctor Seumas Milne sent his children to top grammar schools". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]