Luke Akehurst, national secretary of ‘Labour First’, the hard-right entryists desperate to drag the party back to Blairism, today published an article on the LabourList website titled “As centrists we must find the people and policies to inspire – and reject the politics of electoral suicide“. I won’t link to it, as Akehurst would love the clicks, but if you really want to read it for yourself you can soon find it.
The article is remarkable for 3 things: it shows Akehurst’s tenuous (at best) relationship with facts, puts beyond doubt the delusional quality permeating the thinking of the quasi-Tory wing of the Labour party – and maps out clearly the steps that those who support Jeremy Corbyn and the new vision and politics he exemplifies need to take in order to ensure both that the right-wingers do not succeed in pulling the party back into the ‘more of the same’ mediocrity that has caused it to lose the last two elections and that the public has the chance to see and be inspired by the vision that is inspiring Labour as a genuine socialist party.
He wouldn’t know a fact if it..
Mr Akehurst launches his diatribe against Corbyn and his supporters by citing a recent ICM poll and claiming that Labour’s current polling has little or nothing to do with the summer’s leadership challenge – which he calls an ‘inconvenient fact’. Yet he conveniently neglects to mention (or is genuinely unaware, but I very much doubt it) that the leadership challenge is a tiny part of the damage that the ‘chicken coup’ continues to try to do to the public perception of Corbyn’s leadership.
As recently as last month’s annual Conference, Labour right-wingers such as Watson, McNicol, Khan and others were making barbed speeches and just this week malcontent MPs were leaking skewed reports of Monday’s PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) meeting.
These attempts at sabotage are starting to become ineffective as the public sees Corbyn continue to wipe the floor with Theresa May at PMQs, this time with the majority of his MPs either on board or at least behaving themselves, and can see his outstanding new Shadow Cabinet hammer the Tories on their many, many lies and acts of vandalism. But the poll he’s crowing about was too early to reflect any of this.
Akehurst also attempts to rubbish Corbyn’s commitment to unity – in spite of the fact that no fewer than 10 MPs who resigned front bench positions after the referendum have been given new places. To do this, he has to omit the obvious fact that his right-wing pals have already demonstrated beyond any doubt that they have no genuine interest in unity, via the above-mentioned speeches and by mounting a ‘silent coup‘ during Labour’s conference by crowbarring 2 additional anti-Corbyn members onto Labour’s ruling NEC (National Executive Committee). (The same clearly applies to Akehurst himself, as his continuous venom against Cotbyn and his supporters shows.)
The attempt was shameless and successful – temporarily. Corbyn showed exceptional skill, deftness and leadership this week to nullify its effects and restore the democratically-achieved balance of power on the NEC.
Akehurst also had to eat humble pie for an outright falsehood. He sneeringly described Nia Griffith, the new Shadow Defence Secretary, as
a unilateralist with no interest in defence
Then had to issue a hurried apology hours later, after Ms Griffith’s statement that she would be following current Labour policy on nuclear defence (so much for Corbyn’s lack of interest in unity):
Akehurst’s delusion – which he shares with the rest of his quasi-Tory faction – is flagged in the title of his article and repeated in the piece itself:
We need to develop a new policy agenda and new candidates which will inspire both existing party members and potential new recruits
He aspires to something that can never happen. The idea that what he would term ‘centrist’ and the rest of us would call mediocre and ‘Tory-lite’ policies can ‘inspire’ anyone after years of ‘they’re all the same’ politics is self-evident foolishness.
The idea that candidates who are clones of the drab, empty suits that are interchangeable among parties as long as you remember to change the rosette colour can inspire – candidates whose most aspirational role model would be David Miliband (or, God help us, Tony Blair) – is patent nonsense.
The idea that things like ‘message discipline’ or mere organisational competence (if they can still even lay claim to that after the multiple failures this summer) with no substance will inspire a mass of new joiners is simply ludicrous.
But that’s all they’ve got.
They’re desperately hoping for what they can never have – and what Corbyn’s supporters already have in abundance – not just Corbyn himself but outstanding, authentic role models like Angela Rayner, Kate Osamor, Richard Burgon, Emily Thornberry and many others.
If the throwbacks-to-Blair have anything, it’s competence in the exploitation of the rules and procedures of the party. But its devoid of substance – and fraying, as their defeat to Corbyn’s NEC masterstroke this week and the fact they could only mount their ‘silent coup’, after months of work, by publicly ignoring party rules and procedures.
But even though their self-declared organisational expertise is fraying even as they fall back on it, it’s there that the right-wingers provide a crucial pointer to those who support Corbyn’s vision.
Turning his attention to the steps right-wingers can take to try to obstruct Corbyn and his supporters, Mr Akehurst writes:
the battle for Labour’s future is far from over in other parts of the party structure… moderates can win in other levels of selection and election within the party.
The annual conference was a great success for moderates, winning all the major votes [not true, that’s another lie, for example the vote for line-by-line approval of policy was carried, which means delegates can reject bad parts of policy, rather than have to accept or reject wholesale]…
Even if [Corbyn] did manage to advance some rule changes, they would have to be passed at a special conference, which would have the same delegates as just delivered moderate victories at annual conference [right-wingers couldn’t help themselves and boasted to the national press that they had spent months stacking the delegate mix]…
As I write, results are trickling in from CLPs showing that [right-wingers] are doing well in elections for upcoming regional conferences…
Momentum activists’ online shouting about deselections is almost everywhere turning out to be more mouth than trousers…
We need to organise, organise, organise, to ensure the strongest voice for our politics at every level of Labour’s structures from branch to CLP to regional to national.
There’s a hubris in Luke Akehurst and his like that means they just can’t help boasting about how clever they think they are – thereby giving their game away and providing those who want better than they can offer with helpful hints about what needs to be done.
Akehurt’s right-wing fightback-blueprint above shows those with genuine Labour values what they need to watch out for – and what they need to do to negate it.
What to do about it
So, what do we need to do to ensure that attempts to hobble what I’ll call ‘real Labour’ and drag the party rightwards are unsuccessful? They’re touched on above, but I’ll list them here for clarity:
If you’re not already a full member of the party, join. Being able to take the steps below requires full membership – in most cases, for at least 12 months. So don’t lose time – join now.
- Jump in
As the saying goes, ‘history is made by those who turn up’. Akehurst’s article criticises his opponents’ ‘online shouting’. He’s an idiot to think that online campaigning is not as valid and important as ‘boots on the ground’. But it would be equally foolish to think that it’s enough in and of itself.
Reaching those who don’t use social media requires old-fashioned, door-to-door campaigning.
Just as importantly, participating in CLP (constituency Labour party) meetings and campaignings is also vital for winning over less-entrenched party members who might not support Corbyn now but may change if they see his supporters grafting hard in ways that they’re used to valuing.
CLPs also do not have any allowance for ‘proxy’ voting. If you want to influence the motions, appointments and selection of delegates – which Akehurst wants to swamp with right-wingers – you have to turn up. And if you want to know what’s going on and to be taken seriously, you need to turn up routinely, not just for specific votes.
It’s time-consuming, it can be dry, heavy going – and it’s essential.
Don’t just turn up to meetings and vote. Put yourself forward. Connect with like-minded people in your CLP and stand for ‘officer’ positions. You’ll be making a concrete contribution, setting an example of service that other members will note – and able to influence the direction of your CLP to help ensure that it supports and fosters Labour’s healthy, inspiring direction rather than hindering it.
- Go to Conference
The right-wingers, as we’ve seen, boasted that they spent months stacking as many of their supporters as possible into the Conference delegate count, to gain a voting power at the Conference that their numbers in the party don’t merit. Fair play to them for organising – but ‘fool us twice, shame on us’. Over the coming months – and beyond – we need to make sure they can’t pull the same trick again.
Almost every CLP – as the huge majority of CLP nominations Corbyn won and the fact that Smith could only win any by excluding members from the vote show – now has a substantial majority of support for Corbyn’s policies and vision.
That means we can win any vote and make sure right-minded members are our delegates to regional and national conferences. Those conferences are where rules and policies are decided – and where the success or failure of Labour’s transformation into a party that genuinely offers hope of change will be decided.
- Understand the structures
Dull as ditchwater, but crucial. Things like the ‘Local Policy Forum’ and the ‘Conference Arrangements Committee’ sound unspeakably dreary – but the people on them control much of what the party gets to discuss, let alone decide, at local and national level.
As the recent ‘silent coup’ attempt at this year’s annual Conference painfully demonstrated.
So get to grips with how it all works – much of it needs to change, but changing it means mastering it as it is, first.
And the delusion. Again.
Akehurst ends his article with a restatement of the biggest delusion of all – the idea that only ‘centrism’ can win, because that’s where people are (he thinks):
We know that our politics will eventually prevail within the party for the simple, democratic reason that it is closer to the beliefs of the British people.
Here we get to the kernel of the quasi-Tories’ core self-deception: the delusion that people will only respond to something that is like what they’ve already got.
Akehurst and those like him think that ‘electability’ means reflecting back at people the way they already think and feel.
But even if he’s correct (and I don’t think he is), when things are as dire as they are – when racism, xenophobia, despair, insecurity, small-mindedness and self-centredness are all a lot of people know, because that’s what is rammed down their throats by a corrupt Establishment and the media that propagate their message – you don’t want ‘more of the same’ reflected back at you.
You want – you’re desperate for, you crave – change. ‘More of the same’, or a ‘lite’ version of it – does not, cannot inspire. People need change – and hope of change. That things can be different, better – for them and especially for their children.
An empty vessel might sound loud, but it will never satisfy that thirst.
That’s why we don’t need to worry about the right-wingers finding their missing ingredient – their ‘inspiring policies and candidates’. They don’t exist and cannot.
But they need to worry, because while authenticity can’t be suddenly summoned up, rules-smarts and turning up are easily within reach for those who already have authenticity and inspiration.
And if we do that, we present a real Labour party of real hope, vision and inspiration to the people – all bets are off and we can see a landslide that will make 1997 look like a dust-mote.