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Luke Akehurst for General Secretary?

We hear that some comrades are suggesting that Luke Akehurst, recently elected to Labour’s national executive on the right-wing Labour First and Progress slates, might be a suitable replacement for Ray Collins as General Secretary. Now, we don’t disagree with everything Luke says: his blog is worth following; he is pretty firm on retaining the party-union link and wants to campaign against the cuts (see here for example) and he did back Ed Miliband for the leadership unlike most of his supporters, but there is a massive problem. He thinks the job of party staff is to give the Left a good kicking!

We’ve commented before on the need to clean up the party. We need a party members are “proud to call their own,” one which is reinvigorated at its roots, not silenced and squashed, that recruits new members, that campaigns on the issues that concern local people. To acheive that, we need party officials who respect members rights and observe civil service principles of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. We can do without the ones who rig and manipulate parliamentary and council shortlists, panels and selections, tell conference delegates to break their mandates, misinterpret or ignore party rules, and offer meetings and photo opportunities with Ministers in exchange for voting “the right way” in elections and other key votes.

As we’ve said before, “bottom-up renewal starts with a top-down clean up.” We need a new General Secretary with a brief to clean up the party. Not one who says, as Luke does:

Labour staff … should not be neutral referees. They should be able to promote the candidates and policies of the elected leadership of the party against their internal critics. Back in Morgan Phillips’ day as General Secretary or Herbert Morrison’s as London Regional Secretary there was none of this nonsense about neutrality, the party staff explicitly had a role in giving the left a kicking.”

Luke Akehurst is many things. He no doubt has many qualities. But his views are not compatible with being general secretary. Just in case he really is thinking of applying. Or anyone else who shares his view!


  1. Gary Elsby says:

    Luke Akehurst view that it is the responsibility of ‘staff’ to give the left a good kicking, is probably the same reasons why 100,000 members walked away, New Labour is all but gone, Labour is out of power and Ed Miliband died on Radio 2 today.

    My guess is that Luke Akehurst, and people similar, hold out the hope that a coalition of Government is so bent on cuts and radicalsim, that people will vote Labour accordingly, regardless of Luke Akehurst. To be honest, there may be a point in this.

    I find Luke Akehurst’s disates on forming a coalition ‘with the Tories’ quite contemptible, considering HE allows coalitions of Labour and Conservatives on his watch.
    Typical two-faced politics that I was happy to walk away from.

    I won’t wish Luke Akehurst good luck in his new found venture, and I wish him no luck at all in kicking anyone in the Labour broad church of opinion.
    My advice to Luke Akehurst is to grow up.

  2. Hi Jon,

    this is very flattering speculation. However, I am sure you will be pleased to hear I am not applying. I’ve been a member of Party staff before and whilst I’d never say “never again” I found the requirement to not express my own political views very frustrating as I’m primarily in politics to advocate, campaign and fight for my beliefs.

    For the record I have a strong track record of defending members’ and candidates’ rights in selections at a local level – but also robustly defending the integrity of the Party’s democratic structures against people who don’t have Labour’s best interests at heart. I am particularly conscious of the NEC’s quazi-judicial role in such matters and the requirement for principles of natural justice to be applied to prospective candidates (not least because I’ve been through selection processes myself, with varying degrees of success, so I know how important it is to have confidence that a process is a level playing field for all candidates).

    I would ask to be judged on the decisions I take on the NEC and Organisation Committee over the coming 2 years, rather than on somewhat paranoid folklore that I am the Witchfinder General.

    You have selectively quoted from my 2009 blogpost to make it sound like I was advocating a return to 1950s standards of Party democracy when the full post ( is clearly a humerous riposte to complaints the left was making against staff, with the paragraph you quote, a rather obscure analogy with a period of political history I take a train-spotterish interest in, ending with a tongue-in-cheek “Ah, the good old days!”.

    Any battles I fight against you guys where we disagree are and will be within the rules and democratic structures of the Party, and whilst I am robust in my critique of people I disagree with I try to get the balance right and keep it comradely.

    I would refer you to my own 2009 comment under the blog post:

    “Of course the people actually administering and counting internal elections inside the Labour Party need to be totally neutral between candidates – but that only really covers the Director of Compliance and the Constitutional Unit. In any case the actual ballot processes and counts are outsourced to ERS, Popularis, Unity etc who are neutral 3rd parties.

    But for the rest of the staff I think it is perfectly reasonable for them to have a role in the political management of the party on behalf of the Leader and NEC. Outsiders would think it was crazy if the Leader of the Labour Party was to call the Gen Sec and ask “is my policy going to get approved by conference and what are your staff going to do to get it passed” and be told “sorry … I’m not allowed to help you with that”. ”


  3. Jon Lansman says:

    I am, it is true, relieved that you’re not in the race, Luke, and pleased that you now defend members’ rights in selections, though I’m not sure that this was displayed, for example, in relation to the recent selection for a Mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets recently.

    I do not, however, accept even your now milder defence of “the political management of the party on behalf of the Leader and NEC.” The covert manipulation of party elections, selections and policy making has gone on for years without the knowledge or approval of most members of the NEC. Open and transparent intervention in policy discussions to advocate the leader’s line is one thing (though too often the reality has been bribes and threats and dodgy dossiers, and why can’t conference be allowed an unfettered debate?) but how can you justify interference by party staff in elections to bodies responsible for aspects of the party’s administration. We don’t need “party managers”, we need honest and impartial administrators.

    I look forward to debating these things further with you in future, in an entirely comradely fashion, of course.

  4. Mick Williams says:

    The Tower Hamlets scandal was a case of deja-vu for us here in Stoke.
    In February last year my local BLP were frustrated at not being able to select a candidate for the May council elections and organised their own shortlisting/selection.
    After a procedure which observed all the rules of the Party I was selected as the candidate.
    However, due to my involvement with ‘democracy4stoke’ (the local anti-mayoral campaign that had won the 2008 referendum) I was not flavour of the month with Regional Office.
    They therefore ‘null and voided’ the selection and imposed their own shortlist – consisting of the two members who had been rejected by the BLP. This was unacceptable to members and the Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and all the activists resigned in protest (the Chair saying it was less a resignation and more a ‘constructive dismissal’).
    After two abortive meetings over the intervening 10 months new officers of the BLP are still awaited.
    By contrast those who resigned are meeting regularly and discussing the options open to us.
    There continue several examples of ‘dirty tricks’ played on ex-members by regional staff (involving the Co-op Party and trade unions) and next month a ‘hearing’ of one member who is in ‘administrative suspension’ will be held.
    However, if the new General Secretary is anything like the last few the Party is doomed to lose even more support.
    Our current situation irresistably reminds me of Milovan Djilas’s book “The New Class” which describes what can happen when the apparatchiki take control of the Party. Of course that was many years ago and this is not Yugoslavia but there are enough parallels for it to be highly relevant to our experiences.

  5. james says:

    Now, I’ve heard of Progress, but what is “Labour First”? Do they have a website?

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Labour First is a clandestine organisation as far as I can make out. Certainly there’s no website. You could ask Luke about them. He admits he was on both the Labour First and Progress slate at

  6. Gary Elsby says:

    Once again I find the wording of Luke Akehurst to be contemptible.
    “All battles fought will be within the rules”.
    The Labour Party, or should I call it by its rightful name, The Organisational Sub Committee, broke every rule going to get its perverse way.
    Our attempt to get them into Court was dashed at the last moment because the Labour Party is not an employer to the membership.

    When the Telegraph, Guardian, Times, BBC, ITV, CH4, CH5 and all radio informed Stoke-on-Trent (and you) that Tristram Hunt was to be our new MP, and it turned out to be true and all attempts at promoting Labour Party democracy was thwarted by the Organisational Sub Committee via suspending the CLP, I knew it was time to stand up for members rights.

    I found that we had none.

    I didn’t take leave of my senses and joined the 100,000 because of Iraq, tuition fees or because I rejected Blair, Brown or a Miliband.

    I walked out because the Labour Party is corrupted by paid helpers who want to kick my opinions. If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to lose a vote to prove how right you are and to prove how wrong I am, just like the ‘good old days’.

  7. The Hackneyed Reader says:

    That website you like to “” is a fake, a “cod blog”, pretending to be by Cllr Luke Akehurst, PR man to the arms dealers (so they say).

    Cllr Akehurst’s real blog (“”) was certainly worth following, but the fraudster responsible for the link given above managed to take over the domain and swap it for the fakery. Don’t fall for it.

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