A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Through the starting gate

After last night's Hackney North CLP GC I'm through the starting gate in my bid to get on Labour's National Policy Forum as a London CLPs' rep.

The actual election of 4 new reps takes place at Annual Conference but you have to get nominated by 3 CLPs in the region - critically this is including your own - so if you live in a CLP that has different politics to you or is hotly contested, this requirement can be a deal-breaker.

Anyway, I got Hackney North's nomination and as I was already nominated by more than 2 other CLPs I'm eligible to stand.

Thus far I've also been nominated by the following CLPs:

Bromley & Chislehurst
Camberwell & Peckham
Carshalton & Wallington
Croydon C
Dulwich & W Norwood
Ealing North
Hackney South & Shoreditch
Hornchurch & Upminster
Hornsey & Wood Green
Lewisham Deptford
Sutton & Cheam

who I'm very grateful to. The deadline is at the end of the month and 46 CLPs haven't nominated yet so I should hopefully pick up a few more.

As usual we had a tightly fought GC last night, which a left comrade over on Dave Osler's blog (http://www.davidosler.com/) is describing as a "Slightly depressing GC last night for the left in Hackney North".

Actually I thought it was a score draw and my guys could have done better (2 or 3 usual attenders were away).

For the NPF we ended up with a spilt ticket of me, Nicky Gavron, Laura Bruni and Francis Prideaux.

For the National Constitutional Committee Labour First's Maggie Cosin beat Save the Labour Party's Peter Kenyon 15-13 - causing consternation in the hard left camp as this was the seat Peter lived in for nearly 30 years.

For the Conference Arrangements Committee another tight vote saw Stephen Twigg and the left's Lynne Jones MP elected with 15 and 14 votes and moderate candidate Marge Carey and left candidate George McManus defeated with 12 and 11 votes.

A motion from the left attacking Hackney's estate regeneration policies and basically taking an anti-housing association/Defend Council Housing line was defeated heavily.

Diane Abbott was on top form and extremely funny, and won my son's vote in the reselection trigger ballot by giving him a kitkat bar to keep him quiet.

Mr Osler's blog shows there is a degree of jitters in Diane's camp about the trigger process. I gather this is because the forces to the left of her (we have them in Hackney) might vote not to reselect her (because of her son's private schooling and her support for Livingstone's position on the East London Line Extension - i.e. private sector involvement).

I'm not convinced she has anything to worry about. Yes there are a lot of people who will vote against her in some of the ward parties, but I'm not sure they will carry a majority even of the wards, and almost all the affiliates will vote in Diane's favour. Getting her triggered would require a lot of organisation - and as the person who would, if minded to, do that organising, I can report that I'm not doing it because a) the political disbenefits for Labour in the seat outweigh any advantages it would bring and b) I have other selection fish to fry in the coming months in Walthamstow. If however, Walthamstow goes All Women Shortlist, and the good members of Hackney North were to ask me to put myself forward ... but this isn't going to happen because the decision on AWS for Walthamstow happens after the Hackney North trigger ballot.


Blogger Unknown said...

What an exciting meeting. Almost makes it worth moving to Hackey.


1:04 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I posted over at Dave Osler's place: if Diane fails the trigger, it will be because of votes from the right and left. Anyone 'pure' left enough to want to get rid of Diane and potentially end up with a much farther right candidate is in a very small minority.

2:22 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I dont think you have got any chance in either 'ackney or Walthamstow - I think people put up with you as you are keen and useful to their needs, they wont however trust you to lead them. You also have little appeal outside the headbanging political circles you move in

2:31 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The actual election of 4 new reps"

how many candidates are you up against?

2:40 pm, March 23, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Thank you for the feedback Sophie. There must be a lot of us headbangers out there e.g. the 2 CLPs that selected me as their PPC in the last 2 elections, the people that elect me in a contested election as a CLP officer, the CLPs that are listed above as nominating me for the NPF, going back a few years the people who elected me as National Secretary of Labour Students. All my experience is that once you go out and speak to ordinary members a very large number of them share my politics, and quite a lot of the ones who don't agree with me will still vote for me because they would prefer a hard-working and politically honest moderate to some of the sliperier careerists who present themselves as whatever political hue is popular that week.

2:47 pm, March 23, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


the other NPF candidates who I am aware are running in London are:

Joanne Milligan
Mike Katz
Lisa Homan
Alon Or-Bach
Nikki Gavron
Francis Prideaux
Chris Roberts
Laura Bruni
Aktar Beg
Lorraine Monk
Hywel Lloyd

2:50 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Luke on re-reading my earlier post I realise it seems a bit rude and dismissive.

What I was trying to get across was the problem I perceive that you (and many others found in the political class) dont have real appeal outside core political circles.

The world of thinktanks, lobbying and the inside track of the political world and the party hacks is not real life - its a small world populated by probably less than 2% of the British population. All your life up to now has been in those circles and so you have no 'story' ie real life experience. I fear you have will just come across as another bland career politician. We already have enough of those in the Labour Party today.

(By the way I have known of you for probably 12+ years starting off in Labour Students and then the whole NUS/ Labour Party/ PR world)

3:32 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog has cheered me up immensely - as I am rather depressed by the political prospects facing the party - but there's nothing like screwing the loons at the GC heheheheheh

As for "Sophie" - get bent.

4:28 pm, March 23, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


Fair criticism. I've chosen to do jobs I enjoy, that pay the mortgage and that have not been politically restricted (so that I could be a councillor) and I appreciate that carries a political downside.

I don't think the UK is like the US though where a "narrative" along the lines of "log cabin to Whitehouse" is essential. If you work hard for the people you represent or are seeking to represent, have policies that resonate with people's own aspirations and concerns, and are personable and genuine, I don't think they care too much about what job you've done or where you are from.

I've never been accused of being bland before!

5:07 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a good post over at DonPaskini's blog where he suggests that Labour should introduce shortlifts discriminating against candidates who have worked for the party, MP, or affiliate anytime in the last 10 years. I think he may have wanted to discriminate against anyone who'd had a job in politics. Plus anyone who has had a position earning them £50k +. It's certainly an interesting idea.

There's nothing wrong with total dedication to your political convictions, but if our party is going to remain representative of "Labour" it's important to ensure that our politicians come from across the spectrum of workers. If people are that talented and dedicated to the labouring masses they won't mind spending some time doing some "ordinary" jobs rather than spending years in a think tank/lobby firm/whatever before especting to land a safe seat

6:28 pm, March 23, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Surely we should be thinking what is the talent base we have and how do we ensure the Labour Party gets the maximum usage out of the talent available?

I would be more concerned with identifying workers in non-political jobs who have the political talent to work full time for the party or a union or to be a full time elected politician, and getting them out of their current jobs and into politics, than politically penalising people who are lucky enough to be doing jobs they enjoy and care about.

And we should be ensuring that the way party activity and being a councillor is structured is accessible to people who have non-political day jobs.

In particular why would you penalise Labour Party or union full-timers who have probably spent years earning less than they could in the private sector to work for a cause they believe in?

6:48 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In particular why would you penalise Labour Party or union full-timers who have probably spent years earning less than they could in the private sector to work for a cause they believe in?"

To make sure that Labour remains representative, for exactly the same reason that AWS are such a good idea.

7:19 pm, March 23, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Well following that rule we would have never had in parliament:

Attlee - public school educated social worker and councillor
Bevin - full time union official
Morrison - full time Party regional secretary
Wilson - civil servant
Callaghan - full time union official
Healey - full time party official
Benn - public school educated, MP from very young age
Foot - journalist
Kinnock - WEA tutor
John Smith - lawyer
Blair - public school educated lawyer
Brown - academic & journalist
Johnson - TU general secretary
Blears - lawyer
H Benn - f/t union official
Cruddas - f/t union & party official & special adviser
Hain - f/t union official
Harman - ran the NCCL

a) we need political leaders who are talented communicators, administrators and decision-takers - i.e. they will have done challenging or rewarding jobs to prove they have those skills
b) the "cut-off" point at which you have chosen to want representativeness is on becoming an MP - but I think to be an MP you need to have demonstrated political skills - the best way to acquire and demonstrate you have those skills is as a councillor, union or party official - it's the representativeness at the point people become those that counts

Labour's candidates aren't supposed to a representative sample of the population. They are supposed on one level to be the 600+ most talented people in the party, on another to represent the balance of political power in their CLPs, on another to be the pool of people capable of running ministries when we are in power.

Your argument would make sense if all councillor, union or party officials had the same social background, but they don't.

You think class derives from someone's current occupation. I think it derives from deeper cultural factors like where and in what circumstances and community you grow up. For instance Hazel Blears, Jon Cruddas and Alan Johnson are clearly working class despite their jobs immediately before parliament being local govt lawyer, SPAD and TU general secretary.

8:40 pm, March 23, 2007

Blogger Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

Thanks for the update. I'm impressed that my vote held up that well in Hackney North.

9:17 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to confess I agree with Luke on this one; especially if - as Maxton's hat suggests - party members are keen to select people with 'real world' stories (if that is the case there's no need to try and weight the system that way too).

Incididently, Jimmy Maxton (I assume the inspiration for 'Maxton's Hat') was a teacher, a councillor, and an ILP official before becoming an MP.

10:14 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don Paskini's original post was limited to elected peers, and specifically said that putting limits on who could be a peer wouldn't stop talented ex-apparachiks from becoming MPs.

However, I would go much further. I'd be quite happy to see all-black-working-class-women-shortlists.

I don't believe the current arrangements see us select the best 600 people to lead the country and I don't think that's the point anyway.

There would've been other Attlees, other Morrisons; we would've been forced to find working class candidates some of whom would've been the political giants of the 20th century.

You can't tell me there aren't 600 black female working-class people in this country talented enough to make good MPs. I just don't believe that.

It's not about having a "representative sample" of the population - it's about making sure we've got people elected whose life experience means they understand the day to day lives of the people the Labour party represents, and prioritise issues accordingly (because, as one undoubtedly working-class Labour MP said, "The language of priorities is the religion of socialism").

And anticipating most people's objection - give a shit about procedural fairness. A handful of already privileged people would be being discriminated against in the interests of the vast majority of people.

I'm a white male middle-class private-schooled Oxbridge graduate, so I'd be first out & rightly so.

10:51 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well following that rule we would have never had in parliament"

Er, no. Like an AWS, this measure could be brought in to effect only an agreed number of seats. And back in the days when the majority of Labour MPs emerged from the unions and there was a serious lack of university-educated Labour politicians such a measure would clearly have been detrimental to the party's wellbeing. Nowadays the situation is quite different.

And I don't know why you're bringing public-school backgrounds into it, as my concern is the nature of the candidate's labour prior to becoming a Labour MP - not necessarily to do with social origins.

"Labour's candidates aren't supposed to a representative sample of the population. They are supposed on one level to be the 600+ most talented people in the party, on another to represent the balance of political power in their CLPs, on another to be the pool of people capable of running ministries when we are in power."

Of course, but I don't like your dismissal of the suggestion that Labour's candidates are supposed to be representative of wider social dynamics than simply internal Labour power structures. Are you in favour of All Women Shortlists helping to make the party more representative? Or were you against their introduction?

It's not even an especially serious suggestion. Just something to think about. With falling voter turnout and falling party membership it would appear that politics is not connecting very well with the general populace. Labour could therefore profit by doing some more thinking about how to reconnect. I am hazarding to suggest here that Labour MPs are figureheads of the party and to convince the electorate that politics is not a closed club to a small clique we should ensure that those MPs come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Considering this issue can do not harm - maintaining the status quo is not an attractive option if it's going to mean more apathy, more lost members, etc.

11:01 pm, March 23, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've no objection to more affirmative action shortlists of the sort Tim F refers to. Just not some rule that candidates shouldn't have previously worked in politics (after all we would expect candidates to be activists of one sort or another; if some are fortunate enough to have made a living out of it, I'm not sure it makes a qualitative difference; there may be specific examples when it would (when local members wouldn't approve of the political job in question) but then they don't vote for them. Having said that, ways to avoid the second chamber to be recreated in the Commons' image are worth considering.

12:04 am, March 24, 2007

Blogger twp77 said...

Hi Luke,

I am in the your CLP now yet I can't seem to find out when the meetings are. Is there a mailing list that I can get put on to be notified of such things? Thanks

12:30 pm, March 24, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

In answer to the question "Are you in favour of All Women Shortlists helping to make the party more representative? Or were you against their introduction?"

Yes, I'm in favour of all women shortlists and always have been - and always will be until half our councillors and MPs are women.

I'm also in favour of the current arrangement where BME candidates get reserved nominations and shortlist places in parliamentary selections.

For an elected upper house I would support "zipping" i.e. every second place on Labour's list being a woman, at least every Xth place being a BME candidate.

That's because those measures address under-representation and discrimination.

I don't believe people who choose to work full time in "political" jobs (and where's the boundary - are accountants or consumer PR people OK but not people that work in public affairs, is someone that is an engineer at Ford OK but not someone that is the government relations person for Ford or their factory's full time TGWU or Amicus convenor?) are selected discriminatorily - pretty much anyone that chooses to can get into those jobs if they want to.

The impact of the idea floated would just be that people that really wanted to be MPs would deliberately pick jobs that were defined as "good" by this system - you would get exactly the same people but with different CVs.

Personally I'm not so excited by the idea of being an MP that I'd be prepared to spend years doing a job that I didn't enjoy to get there - I'd rather stick with the current combination of a job I like and being a councillor/activist in my spare time and be happy.

Having said all this the party and the unions need to do more to spot talented people in "normal" jobs and train and promote them politically - I just think that generally this should involve a few years working full-time in politics before becoming an MP.

2:47 pm, March 24, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

TWP - are you a member of the Labour Party?

2:48 pm, March 24, 2007

Blogger twp77 said...

Yes Luke I am. I joined a few months ago. I've looked on the local LP website but am not sure when the next meeting is.

8:48 am, March 26, 2007

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