Nick Wright is a member of the Communist Party of Britain and frequent contributor to the Morning Star — often writing on Labour Party matters.
Two themes recur in Wright’s articles: that Labour’s changed position on Brexit (no longer promising “to honour” the referendum outcome) was the “fatal surrender” that cost it the 2019 election and that allegations of antisemitism within Labour under Corbyn were “manifestly untrue and malicious” — the work of “not only British and Israeli state actors but an unscrupulous assembly of reactionary forces of all kinds”.
Those particular quotes turn up in a piece by Wright in the Morning Star of 22 October, purporting to be a review of Owen Jones’s book about the Corbyn years, This Land.
I might even agree with some of Wright’s criticisms of Owen Jones (to point out his “vacillations on Brexit” is certainly fair), but Wright’s complaint that the book “substitute[es] office gossip for analysis” and downplays “the serial disloyalty of MPs (and) wildly unbalanced media coverage” is not true and misses the main objective of Jones’ book.
As Jones has put it in numerous interviews, the main aim of his book was to emphasise that Corbyn’s defeat was not inevitable. As he told the New Statesman: “If you just say it’s internal subversion or external attack, what’s the point? Give up on politics, then, it’s doomed. That’s a fatalistic conclusion, so I wanted to be clear on what went wrong.”
And Jones is far from alone in believing that a large part of the blame lay with the people Corbyn appointed to his office, particularly after the 2017 election when “hubris set in, there wasn’t a coherent strategy (and) the mistakes on antisemitism and Salisbury [the 2018 poisonings] cut through” (Jones, interviewed in the New Statesman, 11 September).
Wright seems stung by Jones’ description of a “dysfunctional” leaders’ office and by criticisms of director of communications and strategy Seumas Milne in particular: “Political journalists are too prone to think they can do politics better than front-line participants and, judging by his discussion of Seumas Milne’s role, Jones must imagine he could do a better job than this much-maligned comrade in arms to Corbyn’s anti-war campaigning... Milne is a formidable figure whose relentless political praxis is underpinned... with great charm and a powerful intellect”.
Leaving aside the fact that Milne himself came to his (very well paid) position in Corbyn’s office directly from his job as... a political journalist, Wright misses out another important fact about this “formidable” figure and “powerful intellect”: Milne, together with two other members of Corbyn’s office — Steve Howell (Milne’s deputy from February 2017) and Andrew Murray (seconded from Unite as an “adviser” in 2017) — was a leading member of Straight Left, an ultra-Stalinist faction that existed inside both the British Communist Party and the Labour Party in the 1970s through to the 1990’s As well as supporting (retrospectively) the invasion of Czechoslovakia, rejecting criticism of the USSR and defending the reputation of Joseph Stalin, Straight Left also had a reputation for being less than enthusiastic about feminism, environmentalism and gay rights (it has been suggested that the name Straight Left may have been indicative of a certain attitude towards gay rights).
Oh, and there’s one other thing that Nick Wright fails to inform his readers; as well as Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray and Steve Howell, one other former member of Straight Left remains active in politics and in touch with his old friends and comrades: Nick Wright.