Labour First expecting to lose Conference votes – badly. But…

In a typically bizarre article for LabourList, Labour First’s Luke Akehurst somehow tries to claim Labour First’s recent losses were a slap in the face for Momentum – and to claim the ‘unity’ high ground while promising a relentless fight against measures designed to re-democratise the Labour Party:

LL LA fight.png

Labour First appears eager to grab any crumb of comfort, making much of the selection of a right-wing candidate for the Lewisham mayoral contest, in spite of concerns of local members about how the result was achieved. Akehurst also claims that the selection of right-wing council candidates in various parts of the country shows that Corbyn supporters are voting for right-wingers – which ignores the fact that Local Campaign Forums have engineered shortlists in many parts of the country to prevent left-wing members having a candidate to vote for at all.

But the most interesting parts of Akehurst’s article are his claim that the landmark National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting earlier this week was a disaster for ‘Momentum‘ – and his admission that his organisation expects the Labour right to be hammered in key votes at the party’s annual conference, which starts on Sunday.

Leadership nominations

Akehurst describes the NEC’s decision to ask Conference to vote for a reduction in the threshold for leadership nominations from 15% to 10% of members of Parliament and of the European Parliament as ‘a slap in the face’ for pro-Corbyn campaign organisation Momentum, while claiming it’s ‘welcome’ from a right-wing perspective:


Yet he goes on to admit not only that his faction would like the threshold to be higher than 15%, but that right-wingers want to go back to the old ‘electoral college‘ system that would give MPs/MEPs as much voting power as all the nearly 600,000 party members combined:

We think it is essential that any Labour leader should be able to demonstrate the support of at least 15 per cent of their closest colleagues in the PLP prior to election, and the confidence of the PLP once elected, to avoid the conflict between Leader and PLP seen in 2016…

In fact we would like to see a return to the electoral college system where the three main stakeholders in the party – members, unions and MPs – each had an equal say… If this was returned to then there would be no need for a threshold as the PLP would have another way of having their input.

According to Akehurst, the ‘conflict‘ in 2016 wasn’t the result of a bunch of short-sighted, self-important MPs refusing to accept Corbyn’s massive democratic mandate from members and union affiliates, but rather the fault of the system for not letting MPs and MEPs have their own way in the first place.

Are they toddlers?

The right in the party doesn’t want ‘input’ – any threshold at all gives right-wing MPs ‘input’. They want – still – an effective veto over who can stand, in spite of the clear evidence of the General Election that there is enormous appetite for Labour as a real alternative to the Conservatives.

Yet the decision to reduce the threshold to 10% – and to look to extend it to union affiliates and party members – is a slap in the face for ‘Momentum’.


It’s Conference, Jim – but not as they know it

Of the greatest interest to most members will be the right-wing’s expectation of its voting power at Conference, although the admission is arrived at circuitously.

Akehurst wanders off into musings about a pined-for ‘alternative universe’ in which former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale had not resigned until after this week’s NEC meeting, in order to vote against the rule-changes that have been welcomed by a huge majority of party members. He goes on to lament that the real universe did not match this right-wing vision:

In reality, Kezia sadly did resign a few weeks too early so there would have been a one vote majority in favour of the leadership’s positions. To its credit, the leadership held back from pushing through rule changes that would have deepened divisions in the party, such as mandatory re-selection, and instead put up a relatively restrained package that the whole NEC felt able to vote for in the interests of unity. As major trade unions usually vote with the NEC recommendations, and hold half the votes at conference, these positions are likely to pass by hefty majorities.

Mr Akehurst is incorrect. The whole NEC did not vote for the ‘restrained package’ – at least three members couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the rule changes but didn’t have the courage of conviction of vote against and so abstained.

But the last sentence is the most telling. At the beginning of this year, the Labour right confidently expected that it would be able to organise and dominate the ‘Conference floor’ of voting delegates, as it did to anti-democratic effect last year.

By late spring, this had changed to an expectation of being ‘competitive’.

But the left learned its lessons from Conference 2016: that it had to match and beat the right on organisation in order to let its superior passion and vision take effect and prevent anti-democratic attempts to stitch up party structures.

The left’s drastic improvement in that area was demonstrated in the huge win for Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes in the recent elections to the Conference Arrangements Committeee (CAC) – and has now led to a situation in which policies that will empower members and improve democracy within the party are expected, even by the right-wing determined to ‘fight and fight again’ against them, to pass ‘heftily’.

So much so that Akehurst even describes the expected outcome as ‘pre-ordained‘.

Akehurst rounds off by complaining that local councillors – who in many places are currently fighting tooth and nail to prevent their replacement by candidates more representative of Labour members – were not given more places on the NEC.

Presumably that’s another slap in the face for Momentum.

So things are looking far, far better for the vast majority of Labour members and supporters as far as Conference is concerned than they did at last year’s in Liverpool – but there is absolutely no room for any chicken-counting.

Delegates of good will toward the leadership and the party’s direction under Jeremy Corbyn need to be alert, informed and diligent. Every vote will count and there can be no ball-dropping – the job has to be seen through and nobody will be surprised if the right attempts ‘sleight of hand’ manoeuvres in Brighton to achieve measures that most members will consider damaging.

By all means enjoy the thought of a Conference likely to reflect the wishes of Labour’s membership – but make sure we get the job done in Brighton over the coming few days.

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  1. Akehurst shills for the extreme right wing Israeli Government in Labour List, the house rag of Labour First and Progress – what’s new?

  2. Luke Akehurst has lost all grip on reality. It is debatable whether he ever had a firm purchase of it in the first place. He is sounding increasingly unhinged.

    Let us examine the facts. Mr Akehurst represents the interests of the hard right Progress organisation. We shall set aside for a moment the argument of whether there is a place in the socialist democrat Labour Party for a hard right faction like Progress.

    Progress has 2,000 members and so represents the views of less than 0.25% of the Labour Party.

    Labour councillors constitute 1% of the party.

    Labour MPS represent 0.025% of the party.

    Rank and file members represent the remainder and constitute over 98% of the party.

    The members contributed more campaign funds than the unions in the last election, we saved the party from bankruptcy and we provided the canvassing and campaign resources on the ground which helped the leadership deliver 13 million votes for the party.

    He who pays the piper calls the tune. Progress makes no contributions to the Labour Party, the membership pays the bills.

    Luke Akehurst and Progress are irrelevant to the Labour Party. There only objective appears to continue be a divisive faction of saboteurs intent on damaging the reputation and electability of the party.

    It really is time for Progress to be listed as a proscribed organisation by the party.

    The fellow travellers of these saboteurs, the Cooperative Party, would be well advised to stop being led by the nose by the ill-disciplined Progress saboteurs if they wish to retain the benefits of the electoral agreement Labour so generously provides them with.

  3. Akehurst gives consistent voice to all that is sordid and unworthy on the (im)moderate fringe of the Labour party.

    On the other hand, it’s gratifying to see Blairism reduced to a kernel of repellant grotesques, whose utterances and conduct become ever more irrational and inexcusable by the day.

    Akehurst’s right, in a sense, though. From a membership standpoint, tinkering with nomination thresholds is not enough, and Akehurst regards anything that sells the membership franchise short as laudable.

    A threshold for MPs to challenge an incumbent leader or deputy make sense but the current threshold system for getting onto the slate when their is a leader/deputy election does not.

    When there is such an election, there should be a slot for one candidate nominated by CLPs *and* a slot for one candidate nominated by an all-members ballot in advance of the election process itself (all members ballots can no longer be argued against on the grounds of costs).

    I would also argue in favour of a mechanism whereby both CLPs and grass roots petitions can force a leader/deputy to face reelection.

    Watson is grim proof of the need for this sort of mechanism, and a cautionary tale of allowing the PLP be the sole arbiter of challenges to incumbent leaders and deputies.

  4. Luke Akehurst and his ilk have still not realised that once they’ve been outed as disingenuous,undemocratic neoliberals they can’t go back to the way things were before.Hoping to see the back of people like him,especially McNicholl.

  5. However, I do not agree that justified criticism of state of Israel apartheid politics can potentially be construed as antisemitism. We have to stand up against oppression of others without exception.

  6. Mr Luke Akehurst, talking to himself in his own manufactured echo chamber. He still thinks he can tell everyone what to do and how to do it. Deluded just doesn’t describe his actions. Day after election when Mr Corbyn did so well – against all the odds, media and RW poison – Mr Akehurst issued his “orders” to Mr Corbyn and Labour Party as a whole. I liken him to some sort of demigod, in his own mind of course. He rants & raves from the sidelines believing he has some sort of power. He has little or none. My hope is that people such as Mr Akehurst and Mr Angell & Progress will be sidelined forever. Their hatred of members & support of Israeli oppression is not welcome in MY Labour Party.

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