The Conservative election campaign is not being run by a sympathiser with Nazi Germany. The Liberal Democrats apparently aren’t employing the organisational services of a supporter of Mussolini. The Scottish Nationalists haven’t retained any known ally of Pol Pot.
It will sound fantastical but Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party falls short of a comparably minimal test of political hygiene. Labour’s election campaign has been joined by a man who once wrote an article for a communist newspaper celebrating the 120th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Stalin.
This is Andrew Murray, whose day job is chief of staff to Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite. The union has seconded him to Labour’s campaign team for the general election. Since Corbyn was elected leader in 2015, far-left currents have made their way into Labour and some have been impolitic enough to voice sentiments so extreme and noxious that the party has had little option but to boot them out again.
But this case is exceptional. Murray is an ideologue whose politics are utterly alien to the values and traditions of a constitutional party of the moderate Left. He only joined the Labour Party a few months ago, having previously been a longstanding and senior member of a Stalinist sect called the Communist Party of Britain (CPB). His record of support for tyranny is long, explicit and public. Let me count the ways.
In March 2003, Murray gave a “political report” to the executive committee of the CPB in which he declared: “Our party has already made its basic position of solidarity with People’s Korea clear.” That’s the totalitarian nightmare-state run by the quasi-religious dynastic cult of Kim Il Sung (who remains the country’s “eternal president” despite having been a corpse since 1994). Its people have for the last 69 years been enslaved in body and mind to such an extent that, like the subjects of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, they give every appearance of loving – of literally worshipping – their captors.
Murray is the former chairperson of the Stop the War Coalition, an office he held from 2001 to 2010, and then again from 2015-16. Despite its name, the organisation is not an anti-war grouping at all. It is anti-American, anti-British and – not at all coincidentally – ferociously antisemitic. It’s a coalition only in the sense that its organisational mainstays when it was founded after the 9/11 attacks were the Socialist Workers Party and the Muslim Association of Britain – so, a neat alliance of convenience between worshippers of the One God and worshippers of the One-Party State.
When terrorists from Islamic State murdered 130 people in Paris one evening in November 2015, the Stop the War Coalition tweeted while the attacks were actually taking place that France was “reaping the whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in the Middle East”.
How can anyone associate with, let alone lead, causes like this without an ounce of shame? I’m guessing, but there is a cast of mind so indelibly associated with totalitarianism that it is impossible to get out of it. Murray has a very long record of political disrepute.
On my shelves is a slim volume titled The Communist Party of Great Britain: A Historical Analysis to 1941, written by Murray in 1995 for a splinter group called Communist Liaison. He writes (p. 74): “That things happened in the USSR which were inexcusable and which ultimately prejudiced Socialism’s whole prospect is today undeniable. Whether Communists in the capitalist world could or should have done more than they did is much more contentious.”
Consider the tortuous euphemism and penetrate to its message. The “things” Murray is alluding to are the Great Terror, the Moscow Trials and the Ukraine famine (the Holodomor): Stalin’s handiwork in the 1930s. Murray is seriously maintaining that it’s an open question whether British communists did all they might have done in denouncing these abominations.
To adapt a phrase from my late friend Christopher Hitchens, it’s impossible to eat enough in order to vomit enough when considering this stuff. Murray’s output and activism are a moral outrage. He’s now in charge of Labour’s election campaign. I concede with shame that this is a party I nominally support and normally vote for. The mass graves of Stalin’s victims, on which Murray spits, rebuke me.
Oliver Kamm is a columnist for The Times