Labour splits laid bare after Corbyn spokesman compares US and Russia’s actions in war

Britain's Labour Party's Executive Director of Strategy and Communications Seumas Milne © Justin Tallis
Labour spokesman Seamus Milne’s comments that protests outside the US Embassy would be as appropriate as outside the Russian Embassy drew a stinging response from the party’s former defence minister.

Kevan Jones accused Milne of insulting the UK’s ‘brave’ troops who usually fight alongside their US allies, and called him “an apologist for the Russian regime.

Jones, who is regarded as being from the right of the Labour party said “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.

Jones’ fierce response, however, appeared to belie the tone of Milne’s original commentary which was critical of both western and Russian foreign policy.

He had told a press briefing on the matter held on Wednesday that the UK and US consistently avoided acknowledging independent figures of casualties caused by their own bombing in Syria and Iraq.

Milne had suggested that the current hyper-focus on Russia risked blotting out western atrocities in places like Yemen.

Just this weekend a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 140 people at a funeral in Yemen. Britain continues to supply arms to Saudi Arabia which is regularly accused of war crimes in Yemen. The UK is thought to have made over £3 billion ($3.6 million) from arms sales since the military campaign began there.

Britain also has advisers in control rooms advising the Saudi-led coalition bombing raids across Yemen, and provides essential diplomatic protection through the UN Security Council.

In the last few days, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has elevated his calls for military intervention in the Syrian city of Aleppo, despite warnings by experts including former MI6 head John Sawers that such a move would virtually guarantee military clashes with Russia and, potentially, spark a broader conflict.