LABOUR officials hit back yesterday at claims they doctored a speech by veteran campaigner Harry Smith in a “Stalin-era” purge of his attack on austerity.
A party spokesman strongly rejected claims made on the Left Futures website claiming that parts of Mr Smith’s speech to Labour conference were cut for political reasons when the text was e-mailed to supporters.
Left Futures editor Jon Lansman wrote on Tuesday that he believed references to “welfare cuts and austerity measures” had been deliberately removed.
Mr Lansman insisted the “the deletion of these references cannot be justified in terms of style or readability.”
“The motive can only be political — to remove a reference which is seen as embarrassing because Ed Balls does not intend to end either welfare cuts or austerity,” he wrote.
“Political censorship of this kind is inevitably reminiscent of the worst of the Stalin-era Soviet Union such as the removal from photos of images of former leading Communists Trotsky, Kamenev and Yezhov.”
A Labour party spokesman said Mr Lansman had jumped to the wrong conclusion.
He told the Star: “Harry’s brilliant speech appears in full as both a video and in text on the Labour Party’s website, so any accusation that we have censored it is complete rubbish and wrong.”
The disagreement comes a week after 91-year-old Mr Smith lit up Labour conference last Wednesday with a speech that brought members and MPs to tears.
He remembered Britain’s “bleak and uncivilised” past before the creation of the NHS and said his “heart is still with all those people from my generation who didn’t make it past childhood.”
Mr Smith then added: “But my heart is also with the people of the present, who, because of welfare cuts and austerity measures, are struggling once more to make ends meet, and whose futures I fear for.”
The text of the speech, along with a video, was sent to Labour supporters on behalf of shadow health secretary Andy Burnham on Monday as part of a general election fundraising drive.
A spokesman for Mr Burnham also suggested some words were cut down for space purposes.