Seumas Milne: The Five Most Controversial Moments Of Jeremy Corbyn's New Spin Doctor

21/10/2015 14:15 | Updated 21 October 2015

Left-wing journalist Seumas Milne is the latest Labour-linked figure to become mired in controversy after was appointed to Jeremy Corbyn's team.

Milne, a columnist and associate editor at The Guardian, will be the Labour leader's communications chief and, as with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Corbyn himself, the right-wing press chewed over his public comments he made over the years.

Milne has written suggesting the US was to blame for the attack on 9/11, called people fighting British soldiers in Iraq liberators and set out why the murder of Lee Rigby was not terrorism "in the normal sense".

Corbyn's previous statements on terrorism and the Middle East led David Cameron to label him "security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating".


A poll for The Huffington Post UK found that more than a third of British voters agreed.

Here are five controversial things Milne has said that suggest he is not best placed to correct that impression.

  • 1 He gave Bin Laden a byline
    Getty Images via Getty Images
    When Milne was The Guardian's Comment Editor in 2006, the site posted an extract of a recording by the Al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind.
    "This is a religious-economic war. The occupation of Iraq is a link in the Zionist-crusader chain of evil. Then comes the full occupation of the rest of the Gulf states to set the stage for controlling and dominating the whole world," Bin Laden said in his Guardian debut in January 2004. The headline was 'Resist The New Rome'.
    The recording had been broadcast by Al Jazeera and translated by the BBC.
  • 2 He blamed America for 9/11 within 48 hours of it happening
    Spencer Platt via Getty Images
    Two days after the deadliest terrorist attack in history, Milne wrote a column about it titled 'They can't see why they're hated'.
    He claimed the US had presided over a "new world order" in the the 1990s of bullying and mistreating the world, saying this was why the 9/11 attacks had happened.
    'Americans simply don't get it," he wrote. "Perhaps it is too much to hope that, as rescue workers struggle to pull firefighters from the rubble, any but a small minority might make the connection between what has been visited upon them and what their government has visited upon large parts of the world."
  • 3 He called the fight against British and American soldiers in Iraq 'a war of liberation'
    "The resistance war can of course be cruel," Milne conceded in June 2004. "But the innocent deaths it has been responsible for pale next to the toll inflicted by the occupiers."
    In the same piece, he called the resistance to the coalition military in Iraq as "Iraq's real war of liberation" and called hte government brought in by the invasion as "quislings".
    At the time he wrote the piece, 60 British soldiers had died in Iraq and 179 would ultimately die there.
  • 4 He said Lee Rigby's killing wasn't 'terrorism in the normal sense' because he was a soldier
    Peter Byrne/PA Archive
    Unlike when he wrote about 9/11, Milne waited several months before writing about the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.
    Rigby (pictured: His widow Rebecca Rigby at the unveiling of his memorial) was savagely killed near his barracks in Woolwich in May, 2013 in an attack that stunned the nation. David Cameron killed his killers' actions "betrayal of Islam and the Muslim communities that give so much to our country".
    Writing in December of that year, Milne said it was a "horrific act" bur stressed: "Rigby was a British soldier who had taken part in multiple combat operations in Afghanistan. So the attack wasn't terrorism in the normal sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians."
    He said the killing "isn't condoned by any significant political or religious tradition" and condemned "the determined refusal of the political establishment to recognise the link with the wars they have been waging in the Muslim world is toxic and dangerous".
    He said the attack was "the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others in eight direct military interventions in Arab and Muslim countries that have left hundreds of thousands of dead".
  • 5 Israelis 'have no right to defend themselves' but Palestinians do
    Pacific Press via Getty Images
    Israel's treatment of the people of Gaza and West Bank is the most sensitive foreign policy facing Corbyn and he needs all the help he can get. He referred to "friends" in the armed groups Hamas and Hezbollah, which are committed to Israel's destruction.
    His new spin doctor will have to work to convince people Corbyn could, as PM, enjoy the confidence of people on both sides of the divide on the issue. His previous comments suggest he may struggle.
    In August, 2014, Milne spoke at a London rally, saying: Israel was "in illegal occupation" of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and was "crushing and colonising by force of arms".
    He said: "Israel has no right to defend itself from territories it occupies. It only has an obligation to withdraw. The Palestinians are an occupied people. They have a right to defend themselves from the occupier." He added: "It's not terrorism to fight back."
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