Staff at Labour’s head office in London were told today in an email sent by party general secretary Iain McNicol that the two senior posts will be advertised this week. It is understood their occupants will report to Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s all-powerful communications chief, who is Executive Director of Communications and Strategy. The positions are certain to be filled by Corbyn loyalists.
Labour’s press operation has been overhauled in recent months as long-serving staff have departed. One recent appointment – Joe Ryle – worked for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, the Labour leader’s closest political ally and one of his oldest friends. Frances Legge, who is on the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition, which Corbyn used to chair, has also joined as a press officer, according to the email sent by McNicol today. James Schneider, the former Momentum spokesman who was made head of strategic communications last year, is effectively Milne’s deputy.
The party’s Southside HQ in Victoria, a mile up the road from Parliament, has long been viewed by the leader’s inner circle as a hotbed of resistance to the Corbyn project. They regard many members of Labour staff as sceptical about the Labour leader, at best, and hostile at worst.
Staff members point out that they serve every Labour leader with dedication and professionalism. After working tirelessly on two General Elections, a referendum campaign and – in many cases – two leadership elections since 2015, they feel deeply aggrieved at being labelled disloyal. The two new appointments will also hand more power and resources to Milne, Corbyn’s right-hand man and his ideological soulmate. Milne is credited with fashioning Corbyn’s anti-elite message and shares Corbyn’s radical views on foreign policy. Both men are deeply suspicious of American power and have expressed hostility towards NATO – which they view as an instrument of US colonial might. They also regard Putin’s Russia as a counterweight to America’s global standing. Milne, a former Guardian columnist, has written that those who oppose the UK and the US in Iraq and Syria cannot be described as terrorists.