EXCL: Ex-shadow minister attacks Seumas Milne for 'bankrupt thinking' on Russia atrocities in Syria

Posted On: 
26th October 2016

A former shadow minister has launched a thinly-veiled attack on Seumas Milne after the top aide to Jeremy Corbyn tried to play down alleged Russian atrocities in the war in Syria.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with his top aide Seamus Milne
PA Images

Writing exclusively for PoliticsHome, Conor McGinn hit out at “bankrupt thinking” on the left which equated Russian action with that of the West, and argued it undermines Labour’s commitment to human rights.

Mr Milne drew criticism last month for saying focus on the civilian deaths caused by Russian bombing in Syria "diverts attention from other atrocities".

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Russia has been accused of "war crimes" in the face of evidence it has bombed civilian targets - including a UN aid convoy - in Aleppo.

But Mr McGinn, who quit as a whip after a recent Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, criticised people “picking and choosing” who to condemn for “arbitrary reasons or because of ideological baggage”.

“Some on the left have equated Russian atrocities against civilians in Aleppo with US and UK action against ISIL and also suggested that focus on Russia ‘diverts’ attention from other atrocities,” he said.

“There is no moral equivalence between the actions of Russia in Syria and the rules-based interventions against the murderous and barbarous group that styles itself Islamic State.

“Such bankrupt thinking on the left, particularly in the Labour party, will only diminish the very commitment to human rights and the rule of law that is our proud historic legacy, and undermine the international institutions that giants of our movement created in aftermath of the Second World War.”

Mr McGinn added: “Sadly the problem for left, and Labour in particular, is that too often we have been seen to be picking and choosing whose actions to condemn and why, often for arbitrary reasons or because of ideological baggage.

“In so doing, our commitment to human rights and international law looks partial, inconsistent and, at times, politically motivated.”


Mr Milne told journalists last month: "The focus on Russian atrocities or Syrian army atrocities sometimes diverts attention from other atrocities that are taking place.

"Independent assessments are that there have been very large-scale civilian casualties as a result of the US-led coalition bombing.

"There are several cases of large numbers of civilian deaths in single attacks and there hasn't been so much attention on those atrocities or those casualties.

"Both the US and British governments have been reluctant to accept any independent assessment of what's taking place as a result of those campaigns."

Labour former defence minister Kevan Jones branded Mr Milne “an apologist for the Russian regime”.

He added: “To compare British military action in Syria, which is legal and rules-based, to what the Russians are doing is not only an insult to our brave servicemen and women but is clearly aimed to excuse the abhorrent behaviour of Russia.”

Mr Corbyn has been urged by many of his left-wing supporters to condemn Russia's targeting of rebel-held areas in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, but has so far failed to do so.