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The thoughts of Chairman Luke reprised (or be careful who you vote for)

Labour party members should find ballot papers for Labour’s national executive dropping onto their doormats tomorrow morning. You’ll find details of Centre Left candidates here. This is the year the executive gets to vote on Labour’s manifesto – there isn’t a more important meeting your representatives get to attend. Every vote counts and, unfortunately, Dennis Skinner has already been excluded from it.

If you want independently-minded representatives who’ll back members’ aspirations for investment and growth in place of austerity, for publicly owned and operated hospitals, railways and utilities, for strong trade unions and fair pay, pensions and taxes for all, you should vote for the Centre Left candidates. Other sitting members of the NEC who describe themselves as “independent” or “moderate” are likely to back the party establishment on most of these key issues. Although the Lord Sainsbury-funded Blairite party-within-a-party (Progress) has prevented formal agreement on a right-wing slate, the even more shadowy right-wing organisation Labour First led by Luke Akehurst and Peter Wheeler are backing a slate comprising themselves, Ellie Reeves, ‘independent’ Johanna Baxter and the two Progress candidates.

The real contest is likely to be for the last place, between Peter Wheeler and Luke Akehurst on the right and one of the centre left slate, Pete Willsman, Kate Osamor or Darren Williams. Based on nominations, there is an excellent opportunity to recapture  for the centre-left the seat stolen from Dennis Skinner.

Our view is that Peter Wheeler is likely to have alienated his supporters especially in the north-west in his (failed) attempt to get himself selected as a parliamentary candidate in Salford and Eccles by preventing it being an all-women shortlist as is normal practice where there is a retiring woman MP. Having lost round one, he is now concentrating on plan B – winning the selection for his partner, Sue Pugh.

That leaves blogger and pro-Israel lobbyist, Luke Akehurst, who was knocked off last time. Recently given a weekly column on LabourList, Luke has abandoned his previous carefree but principled approach to blogging in which his rather immoderate views were spelt out. However, since New Labour lost the party 5 million votes after 1997 and, as Luke Akehurst put it himself, “the price of electability is eternal vigilence“, we thought we’d better provide once again a more rounded collection of the thoughts of Comrade Luke than that provided on LabourList: links are provided so you can reach your own conclusion on his own words:

On the impartiality of Labour party staff, as required by their code of conduct:

At last year’s party conference, Luke Akehurst was of the first people to hear an account of how party staff were interfering in the election of constituency party representatives to the conference arrangements committee. He declined to comment. This is something he had previously said on the subject.

The draft code of conduct stops Labour staff doing their job. They 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. Ah, the good old days!

On Council housing

‘I want loads more council houses’ may make sense but is only one step away from ‘I want everyone to work down the pits’ in terms of the message it sends.

On Iraq

Luke is well known as a supporter of the Iraq War. He once said that what he was most proud of in Labour’s second term was the invasion of Iraq. This is more surprising:

I actually feel rather sorry for Donald Rumsfeld and find the gloating at his resignation distasteful. Why?

  • Well for a start off his strategy in Iraq was our Labour government’s too so if he’s such a bad/wrong person so are we – or at least everyone of us that supported the government line. (Ed: you might agree with that one!)
  • If you are going to have Republicans in power …. I would rather they were idealistic ones that believed in spreading democracy to the Middle East than Kissinger/Nixon style cynics practicising real-politik and focussed just on national self-interest rather than some higher ideological ends…
  • He actually did the traditional job of Defense Secretary very well – overseeing two stunning military victories in Afganistan and Iraq in a matter of weeks – what he is being blamed for is the subsequent failiure to rebuild Iraq and of the US armed forces to peacekeep – neither of which traditionally were or should be core US military functions.

My hunch is history will say Rumsfeld made all of us a lot safer by destroying the Taliban/al-Qaeda base in Afghanistan and removing Saddam from power so he wasn’t around to refresh his WMD arsenal and marry it with N Korean missile technology. There are a lot of Afghans and Iraqis (particularly Kurds and Shiites) who have a lot to thank him for.

And yet:

The West correctly backed Saddam’s Iraq against Iran.

On Trident

Luke is well known for his suport for Trident and its replacement. He describes himself as CND’s debating partner of choice – you might speculate as to why he should be! (Clue: it isn’t that he is is not articulate) This is more surprising.

Being an old fashioned type I can’t agree with Jack Straw’s suggestion that MPs will get a vote on replacing Trident. When did all this nonsense start? Attlee and Bevin didn’t even tell MPs they were building an A-Bomb let alone consult them….

We seem to be drifting into an era of phoney “national debates” and “consultation” on key issues where what we ought to have is clear decisions that the electorate then judges at a general election.

On Israel

You’d expect Luke to be a defender of Israel since his day-job is helping to run Israel’s PR operation in Britain, working for the ‘independent’ (i.e. financed by supporters rather than the Israeli government) Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). However, it turns out he’s much more hawkish than his hero, Tony Blair:

According to Oona (King – Ed), Blair backed a “a disproportionate and bloody Israeli response to Hizbollah aggression” – strange that because whereas I did back the Israelis and wanted them to be able to carry on until Hizbollah had been destroyed, Blair has consistently said he wanted an early and sustainable ceasefire.

and more recently

Remembering that the settlements issue is not just about the legal rights and wrongs or negotiators drawing lines on a map, but about ordinary people’s homes and lives and whether a peace deal will mean them having to uproot themselves is really important.

Of Harriet Harman as Deputy Leader

Luke describes himself as a “loyalist”. Maybe he is, but he does get caught out:

In the unlikely event that she gets elected will the last person to leave the Labour Party please turn out the lights?


Harman just about qualifies as second most impressive politician in her immediate family, behind Jack, let alone for the number 2 slot in the Labour Party.

On Compass

stupid little clique of middle class theoreticians and hobby factionalists

On Progress:

I actually think Progress should be engaged in a branch-by-branch, CLP-by-CLP battle

On Ken Livingstone

I’d rather slit my own wrists than take any job in that man’s gift.

And on NOLS

You can follow a conversation in which Luke describes students who vote in student elections for candidates other than NOLS candidates as “Scabs”:


  1. swatantra says:

    I won’t be voting for pro-Israeli Luke, nor for pro-Palestinian Ken.

  2. Ric Euteneuer says:

    I see Luke’s ‘impartiality’ only cuts one way – one would imagine he wouldn’t be saying “They 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” if the leadership was left of centre

  3. John says:

    Seeing as New labour lost the party nearly 5 million votes,.. and of course they increased labours vote by 5.2 million between 1983-1997 and old Labour ,lost the party 5.6 million votes between 1951-1983

    Anyone who can click on Ellie reeves or Kevin Peels page know that they’re not backing the other people you mention, as Christian is running, and labour first aren’t an even more right wing shadowy organisation, you criticise Akehurst for supporting Israel, are you saying that labour NEC members shouldn’t accept Israel and the Jews right to exist?, and your criticism of Johanna Baxter is sickening, if you have to lie to get your preferred candidates across, then you’ve list the argument

    And your usual bollocks about progress party within a party, how can him criticising labour members voting in student elections for non labour members be un loyal, as for disloyalty, are you going to put an article on Livingstone twice not backing the labour candidate for Tower hamlets mayor, for him,not backing labour at the 2001 election, or backing thr greens for the assembly in 2000′ ? thought not

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I didn’t say Labour First were an “even more right wing shadowy organisation” – I said they were an “even more shadowy right wing organisation”. More shadowy, a bit less right wing. But in Luke’s case, that still means well to the right of most Labour members.

      Ellie and Kevin may downplay their membership of the Labour First and Progress slates, but they agreed to be on them. Sure they want a wider spectrum of votes, who wouldn’t?

  4. John says:

    What’s the problem with Peter wheeler originally wanting to stand for parliament, Livingstone was trying again to stand for Brent again next year,and had of course twice stood for mayor while being on the NEC, and Kate Osamor, tried to get the Hornsey selection,and had suggested had Lammy been labours choice for mayor next year,she may h ave wanted to replace him there,

  5. Chris says:

    Sorry for posting comments not related to this article, but since you don’t allow comments on your recommended articles on other sites you leave me no choice:

    I AM entitled to comment on women’s hotness. All men are and however much you complain, you can’t stop us.

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      Eh ?

  6. Andrew says:

    Collins changes biggest threat to party I can’t vote for people who voted for it, unity has to have limits.

  7. Patrick says:

    Luke is the only place we get the local election results, when we gained a seat in Maidstone ( ieafy south east england) beating UKIP, Greens, Tories and Lib Dems in that order, no one reported it.
    We are having another election next week, why no reports on local elections.
    CLP,s need to be taken more seriously by the Party they are the means to success at the General Election.

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      Actually, Luke gets them from a variety of sources, even the Lib Dem gwydir website, so I wouldn’t go giving him credit where credit is due, as the information is freely available elsewhere.

      I *do* agree with you that CLP’s need to be taken more seriously by the Party they are the means to success at the General Election – but Luke and co will argue that this should only be the case when they are aligned to Progress and/or the leadership.

  8. Sandra Crawford says:

    I have received the following emails from PROGRESS.

    Compose Reply Reply all Forward Delete Print Mark More
    Move to…
    An NEC that will work tirelessly for a Labour victory
    From Lucy Powell MPAdd contact
    Sender Lucy Powell MPAdd contact
    To contact
    Date Today 11:33
    Message 18 of 633
    I am voting for two great candidates, Kev Peel and Florence Nosegbe.
    View this email in your browser
    Dear friend

    Today you’ll have received your ballot paper for elections to Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee.

    There are now less than 10 months until the general election. We need to elect a team to the NEC that will work tirelessly to ensure Labour wins that election and Ed Miliband becomes our prime minister.

    That’s why I am voting for two great candidates, Kev Peel and Florence Nosegbe. I know Kev in particular very well indeed and I wanted to tell you why I think he and Florence will be excellent NEC reps.

    Many of you from my part of the world will know Kev well – he’s a Manchester councillor, was a party organiser in Bury North during the 2010 general election, and is a constant presence on the Labour doorstep in the north-west. Don’t tell Kev I said this (I like to keep him on his toes), but I’m incredibly proud of him. He’s come from very humble beginnings to become a very effective, high-profile councillor in my constituency. He’s achieved this through his campaigning zeal, his enthusiasm and commitment, by having strong ideas and values, and by being a great networker.

    I don’t know Florence quite as well, but I’ve heard only good things about her. She is a Lambeth councillor, stood for the NEC in 2012, was a party organiser in the east of England, and has previously been a Labour group assistant in Islington. Florence’s commitment to bringing young people into politics is best expressed by the success of the Lambeth Youth Mayor – a post she helped create and continues to mentor.

    The Progress strategy board is also recommending voting for Luke Akehurst (Labour First); Johanna Baxter (Independent); and Peter Wheeler (Labour First). Any problems email

    This election matters as we prepare for the most exciting and most important general election next May. Make sure you vote.

    With best wishes

    Lucy Powell MP
    Shadow minister for children and childcare
    Copyright © 2014 Progress Ltd, All rights reserved.
    You are receiving this email because you signed up at Progress, signed up to attend a Progress event, or are involved in the Labour party.

    Our mailing address is:
    Progress Ltd
    Waterloo House
    2nd Floor, 207 Waterloo Road
    London, London SE1 8XD
    United Kingdom

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    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      Yup, got that too. Local Progress members here where I live will no doubt be plugging this.

  9. Sandra Crawford says:

    My above submission regarding the email from Progress is disturbing as it does not give a full list of all of the candidates, as a truly democratic and fair election should.

    This alone makes it suspicious and very wrong.

    The Labour Party were upset at the tactics of militant. IS THIS ANY BETTER? At best it is childish, and at worst could be taken a a sinister attempt to dominate the Party from the right.

    As if the Blairites/Progress would do that!!!

    It needs and enquiry, and it needs to stop.

    I am not the only member receiving these emails, and people may be swayed to vote for some one due to not fully paying attention to all of the choices if they are influenced by this hard sell.

  10. Ric Euteneuer says:

    It’s highly ironic that a Bennite/Livingstonite like myself should receive the above emails from Progress, but, personally, I’m glad, as I can see what specious half-truths, lies and exaggerations they spew out on a regular basis. I do seem to have dropped off their daily email, though. Is it something I said ?

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