When I suggested in a recent column that the hard left might be taking over Canterbury, I certainly set the cat among the pigeons. The comments on social media began to come thick and fast (more of the former to be frank).
Some very respectable members of the local Labour Party also took umbrage. They argued that not all left-wingers vote Labour and thus the party can’t be blamed for nonsense such as banning sombreros from costume parties.
They also made the case that the Labour Party is a broad church where followers with a wide range of views can find a home.
And this is where the argument begins to fall down. At the council’s budget meeting on Thursday night, Labour councillors quite rightly lambasted the local Tories’ pathetic record on housebuilding and the chronic lack of social housing.
The sentiment was slightly undone when it was pointed out that Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government built an average of over 40,000 council houses each year. When Labour came to power in 1997 that number flatlined to an average of a mere 562.
“But… but that was a different Labour Party back then” comes the stammered retort.
“Yes, but they all wore a red rosette, didn’t they?” came the reply.
And this is the crux of the issue. Labour is Labour is Labour. It’s quite hard to argue that we now have a New-Labour-esque party adept at financial management, pro-European, and generally inclusive, while also being a party of massive wealth redistribution, nationalisation, and borrowing to pay the bills.
To find out where its heart really lies, let’s look at the man at the centre of it. No, not Jeremy Corbyn. I’m talking about Seumas Milne.
You may not have heard of publicly-educated Seumas, but he is Sir Humphrey to Corbyn’s Jim Hacker. Malcolm Tucker to his Hugh Abbot. Alastair Campbell to his Tony Blair.
Seumas Milne is Jeremy Corbyn’s Director of Communications and Strategy. When Corbyn went for his historic meeting with Theresa May to talk EU withdrawal, he didn’t take his Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, he took Seumas.
According to Politico magazine, Seumas Milne is “as close to an unreconstructed Stalinist as you can get in 21st century Britain.”
Milne claims the number of Stalin’s victims has been greatly exaggerated, a statement I find morally abhorrent as it includes members of my family.
He also believes Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea was down to Western imperialism rather than the ignoble wiles of Putin, who along with Bashar Al-Assad and Hugo Chavez he regards as a pretty decent guy.
As part of the old Communist Party, Seumas Milne was deeply anti-European. Shortly before he took an official position within it, the Communist Party had joined forces with Enoch Powell and the National Front to fight against the UK joining the Common Market.
Clearly, not all members of the Labour Party share the same hard left views as Milne. But if you look at the way moderate Labour candidates have faced deselection, and the profligacy of the hard-left campaign group Momentum in pushing its neo-Communist agenda, you must ask what that means for Canterbury.
I’ll go on the record and say I like Rosie Duffield. As our MP she has stood up to the people in her party who seem happy to justify anti-semitism. She has also lived up to her election pledges and proved robustly pro-Europe.
However, Rosie Duffield and Seumas Milne couldn’t be more different. And it’s Milne who’s pulling the strings not Rosie. I find that scary.
When it comes to the May elections, it looks increasingly likely that the Tories will lose control of Canterbury City Council.
It’s up to you to decide who replaces them.
Alex Lister lives in Canterbury with his wife and children. He is a writer, political campaigner, digital communications professional and hospital governor. Alex is standing for the Liberal Democrats in Westgate Ward in the May council elections.