UK

Jeremy Corbyn Courts Controversy By Quoting Albanian Dictator Enver Hoxha At Labour Christmas Party

09/12/2015 08:18 GMT | Updated 09/12/2015 10:59 GMT

Jeremy Corbyn has risked fresh controversy by quoting Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha at a Labour Christmas party.

The party leader described Hoxha, whose rule was characterised by thousands of brutal executions, as a "tough ruler" in his remarks to staff at the private event last night, the New Statesman discovered.

Hoxha ruled Albania with an iron fist for 40 years until his death in 1985, employing brutal Stalinist tactics in his drive to transform the country.

enver hoxha

Hoxha, pictured, ruled for 43 years

His new year's message in 1967 warned citizens: "This year will be harder than last year. On the other hand, it will be easier than next year."

Corbyn reportedly told staff at the party event on Tuesday: "this year will be tougher than last year".

Labour sources were quick to downplay the remark's significance, saying it was intended as a "humorous reference", but many pundits failed to see the joke.

While one pointed out most journalists' quandary on hearing the news.

Corbyn's remarks come just weeks after the shadow chancellor John McDonnell quoted from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book in his response to George Osborne's Autumn Statement.

The sight of McDonnell reading from a copy of the notorious book and then tossing it to the Chancellor during his response to the Spending Review caused widespread dismay on the Labour benches.

Shadow cabinet members Angela Eagle and Owen Smith both conceded the ploy by the veteran left-winger had "backfired" but McDonnell defended the stunt, claiming it had allowed him to get his concerns about Tory courting of Chinese investment on the agenda.

McDonnell later joked: "Someone said to me why did you throw the Little Red Book and I said 'well, Das Kapital is so heavy and it's a number of volumes'."

Who was Enver Hoxha?

Hoxha's bloody dictatorship marked the first of two Communist regimes in Albania. He was born in 1908, the son of a cloth merchant, and became his country's First Secretary aged just 33.

He was a self-professed Maoist, but broke ties with the Chinese revolutionary, prompting several Mao-supporting parties to declare themselves 'Hoxhaist' instead.

The Albanian leader's rule was characterised by the elimination of the opposition, a prolific use of the death penalty and evictions of his political opponents' families from their homes to remote villages controlled strictly by the secret police (Sigurimi).