Andrew Murray: Who is the ex-communist joining the Labour campaign?

Jeremy Corbyn brings in former Morning Star journalist - and 'long-term friend' - to spearhead election strategy

Andrew Murray
Andrew Murray at a Stop The War protest
(Image credit: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Jeremy Corbyn's appointment of a controversial former communist as his campaign strategist has raised eyebrows.

Trade unionist Andrew Murray, who switched his allegiance from the Communist Party to Labour six months ago, has been drafted in to give the election campaign a boost in the final weeks.

He has apparently joined Corbyn's inner circle with a mission to "improve co-ordination between the leaders’ team and the rest of the party’s HQ", The Sun reports.

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However, several commentators have questioned the wisdom of putting a radical with a track record of polarising rhetoric into the heart of an already-difficult campaign.

Who is Andrew Murray?

Described as "one of Corbyn's oldest friends" by The Spectator, the 59-year-old former journalist once worked for socialist daily newspaper Morning Star and was chairman of the Stop the War coalition, an activist group that lobbied against military interventions in the Middle East, from 2001 to 2011 and then again from 2015-2016.

He is being lent out to Corbyn from his day job as chief of staff to Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite union, one of Labour's biggest financial backers.

Why is his appointment so controversial?

Some of Murray's former political views could be considered a liability for his new employer. He "once called for 'solidarity' with North Korea", says the Daily Mail, and his appearance in the top ranks of the campaign "has caused fury among Labour moderates".

One party insider appeared to confirm, telling The Spectator's Steerpike column: "It’s like being in the middle of a Trump election. Andrew Murray is to Corbyn what Steve Bannon is to Trump."

Murray's track record on Israel and the Middle East is especially controversial. The Jewish Chronicle summed up their objection to the appointment in a single headline: "Corbyn appoints anti-Israel activist as campaign chief."

It adds that Stop the War has repeatedly been accused of promoting extreme anti-Israel viewpoints and that Murray in 2012 urged solidarity with the "heroic" Palestinian people, adding: "We have a message for the Israeli embassy, the Israeli government… every time you kill a Palestinian child, you are digging your own graves."

What does Labour say?

Praising Murray's "enormous abilities and professionalism" today, Corbyn brushed off questions about his new appointment's political stance. "I don't believe that Andrew is anything other than a democratic socialist and member of the Labour party, like me," he said.

A Labour source also downplayed Murray's role, telling the Huffington Post he was not "heading up" the party's campaign but simply offering support.

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