There has been a furious exchange of tweets over the last couple of days between NEC candidate Luke Akehurst and a number of different people, from Dan Hodges to Eoin Clarke to Seema Chandwani to a left-wing group called ‘Representing the Mambo’.
Ironically, it all started when Mr Akehurst attacked people who were undermining Labour’s mayoral campaign for Ken Livingstone (a man whose beliefs Mr Akehurst must have struggled to tolerate) … but then it moved on to the Respect leader Salma Yaqoob, various confrontations in the past, Zionism, Islamism, expelling Party members etc. etc. ad nauseam…
As with all twitter debates, limited to their 140 characters-a-blow, it generated a great deal more heat than light, and consisted of ill-tempered posturing on both sides. Nobody came out of it looking anything but – Dan Hodges and I agreed on the word – ‘grubby’.
To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed with Mr Akehurst. I wonder whether he fully appreciates his position, and how he is regarded by people on the left of the Party.
They see him as ‘Establishment’, one of the ’in-crowd’ who have dominated the Party (and ignored them) for decades. They see him as a right-wing ally of a lobby group called Progress, which is pulling the Party rightwards into Tory policies and must be … well, choose your word: ‘challenged’, ‘ostracised’, ‘hounded out’ – I fear that all are valid.
Oh that God the grace would give us… I suspect that Mr Akehurst would recognise none of that in himself. He sees himself, and Progress, as exemplars of true Labour principles and loyalty, as tireless workers for Labour victory, and as quite left-wing-enough for any hope of electoral victory.
And to be fair to Mr Akehurst, he IS Labour through and through. He IS a tireless worker for Labour victory. He IS tribally loyal to the Party. He is committed to an increased member voice within the Party (one of the few really influential Party members who is) and for that alone he should have our support.
When he lashes out at the Left (as he does from time to time), he does so because he genuinely believes that the things the Left are saying will damage Labour’s credibility and chances. He sees praising the SWP, the Greens, Respect etc. as fragmentational – a form of treason … and to be fair to him, what would we be saying if he was lauding Nigel Farage and Civitas.
Mr Akehurst would never do that, because he is ruthlessly and exclusively Labour. He has turned up – and still goes – to knock doors and post leaflets and attend meetings and do all those mundane work tasks that so many of our ‘senior’ members consider themselves above.
Mr Akehurst is Labour, and if you cannot bear to be in the room with him, then… well I’ll leave you to supply your own text there.
Mr Akehurst’s twitter outburst has drawn forth a critical article from a collective calling itself ‘Representing the Mambo’.
To be honest, the sheer vitriol of the article, and its indulgent use of ‘f***ing’ put me off this lot. Their twitter feed was even worse, revealing a string of trolling tweets directed @lukeakehurst.
It is worth reading the ‘About’ section of their website; it gives you a taste of the flavour of the beast.
I refuse to judge them, but I fear they are not ‘my sort of people’ – sorry guys.
In my political beliefs, however, I would like to bet that I am much closer to The Mambo than I am to Luke Akehurst. Similarly Salma Yaqoob seems to be a person of great moral integrity, and a person with many of whose views I would concur.
But Ms Yaqoob is not Labour, she is Respect. I would that she would join the Party and bring her obvious talents and insights to bear; but she is not a Labour member.
She actively campaigned against a Labour candidate and defeated him; and the fact that she supports Ken Livingstone does not condone that.
Politically, Ms Yaqoob is someone whom we must oppose, must defeat.
She is a political enemy, even if it suits us from time to time to call a truce.
Thus – although I often agree with every word they say – I must admit that I find it incredibly difficult to side with those left-wing Labour supporters who flirt with these people, whose loyalty is conditional on getting their own way, and whose support is unreliable.
How do you grow to like and respect someone who – as soon as your politics drift slightly rightwards – assaults you with expletives? I thought we were in the same Party?
On How To Behave
Mr Akehurst and the ‘heavies’ on the Right do need to appreciate their changed position. They can no longer despise and ignore the core – and they are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the core are a good deal more to the left than they would wish. They are going to have to woo them into solidarity.
They need to realise that hostile outbursts do not work with the hard left of the Party – who tend just to walk away in a fit of martyrdom.
They need to realise that they are still the senior partners in the Party, yet that they must engage with the resurgent lefties with patience … and they are going to have to give ground if their Party is not going to fall apart.
Meanwhile, The Mambo and the other radicals on the Left need to understand that vitriol and vehemence just makes them look childish and ignorant.
They need to realise that – if Mr Akehurst and Co. ever were harassed into leaving the Party – all that would be left would be a beefed-up-SWP and Labour would never be elected anywhere ever again.
They need to realise that, if it came to a fight to the death, the message of 1994 is that it is Mr Akehurst and his friends who would win, and that most of the ‘lefty’ support would stay in the Party and go quiet, and that they would fade into the political ether where they will have no chance of ever achieving even a whiff of their political hopes. (Ultimately, New Labour was a disappointment, but we got something of what we wanted, and at worst they weren’t as bad as the lot we have now.)
Most of all, the Mambos of the Party need to be nice to other members. I KNOW you don’t agree with Mr Akehurst (neither do I) – you are ALLOWED not to agree with Mr Akehurst. But you and he are in the same Party, and you need to be working together in a sense of comradeship towards mutually agreed goals. And sometimes that is going to mean you swallowing your principles and letting him get his own way; and sometimes you are going to get your way, in which case you must do so gracefully.
Jesus had two hilarious things to say about this, and they contradict each other, though both are true.
‘Those who are not against us are for us,’ he said … and indeed it is very welcome when the likes of Selma Yaqoob support Labour’s mayoral candidate. Similarly comfortingly, I know that when it comes to a general election many of the ‘Independents’ who have given me such a hard time on the Town Council will vote Labour.
But Jesus also said that ‘those who are not for us are against us’. And thus it is that you need to remember who is REALLY on your side, and who is just happening to be agreeing with you at this current moment-in-time.
And the simple truth is that it is Mr Akehurst who is for us, and that when left-wing Labour members attack him, all they are doing is ripping apart the Party (and the same is true, of course, for Mr Akehurst). And all those attractive people outside the Party are just that … outside the Party.
If the genuine Labour Left and Mr Akehurst cannot find an accommodation, then all is lost. For Labour Left needs to realise that Labour will never win an election without the Mr Akehursts of this world. And Mr Akehurst similarly needs to realise that Labour will never win an election without giving the genuine Labour Left reasons to vote Labour, and he needs to listen long enough to discover what that those ‘reasons’ might comprise.
And both sides might start by being a bit more careful in their tweets.