Jeremy Corbyn defends appointment of former communist party member

Andrew Murray is advising the Labour general election campaign

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Jeremy Corbyn has defended the appointment of a former Communist Party member who once expressed "solidarity" with North Korea to his election campaign team.

The Labour leader said he did not believe Andrew Murray was a Stalinist and stressed his "special skills" were being used to "temporarily" help the campaign.

Mr Murray, an aide to Unite leader Len McCluskey, only quit the Communists in December to join Labour and is now "supporting" rather than heading up Mr Corbyn's campaign, a senior Labour source said.

Mr Corbyn defended Mr Murray, who in a 2003 Morning Star article expressed "solidarity with Peoples Korea (North Korea)" amid supposed US desires to oust the secretive and authoritarian regime.

Speaking to reporters after addressing the Royal College of Nursing conference in Liverpool, Mr Corbyn said: "Andrew Murray is a member of the Labour Party and he is an official at Unite, and he is temporarily helping us with the campaign.

"He is a person of enormous abilities and professionalism, and is the head of staff of Unite the union.

"To manage a very large union and a large number of staff takes special skills, and Andrew has them."

The Labour leader was then asked if he was worried about the allegedly "Stalinist" views of Mr Murray, who was his predecessor as chairman of the Stop the War coalition.

Mr Corbyn replied: "I don't believe that Andrew is anything other than a democratic socialist and member of the Labour Party like me."

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: "We don't comment on staffing matters."

Mr Corbyn stood down as chairman of Stop The War shortly after becoming Labour leader in September 2015.