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.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Political Influences

Mike Ion has tagged me wanting to know my top 5 political influences

Here goes:

1) Herbert Morrison - the archetypal Labour organiser as London Labour Party secretary in the '30s, and both Mayor and MP in Hackney, hammer of the Bevanites
2) Neil Kinnock - inspired me to join the Labour Party and the reason why it still exists
3) John Spellar - turned me away from the LCC (Labour Co-ordinating Committee) before I could accidentally become soft left
4) Stephen Twigg - I agree with him about most issues and he was the person at national level who most encouraged me when I joined Labour Students
5) Doug Naysmith - taught me how to campaign when I was a student in Bristol in the '92 election

Some of those names will be a bit shocked to be listed alongside each other!


Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

Stephen Twigg - who allegedly said: "The Party should be massive, but passive." Or perhaps that is one of the things you don't agree with him about?


9:41 am, October 01, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke, on a slight variation on this theme; a small crowd of us recently had a revealing time in the coffee shop discussing who were the NON-politicians who had most influenced our political outlooks.

I think there is someone or other who said or wrote that it is writers and artists who have done more to shape politics in the long run than politicians. If our coffee shop philosophising was anything to go by, there is a lot to that viewpoint. My crdue stab at a list included:

Steven Pinker (wrote ‘The Blank Slate’ – on what genes make us and what we need to do about it; really caused to me to pull up sharp and do much serious re-thinking)

Roddy McMillan (wrote gritty 1960s industrial plays such as the ‘Slab Boys’ and ‘The Bevellers’, that we recently had on a successful run at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre).

Robert Burns (Including ‘A Man’s a Man for Awe That, and Awe That’)

George Orwell (various, including ‘1984’ and ‘Homage to Catalonia’)

Kirk Douglas (For his brave work on behalf of actors and against the big studio powers in 1950s USA; he helped form ‘United Artists’ studio... and he gave me a nice wee reply when I wrote to him about his affiliations with Glasgow!)

I once would have included Robert Noonan. But I have recently discovered (courtesy of www.unionhistory.info) that the published version of his ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ was very bastardised by the editor-publisher, with much of the internationalism and socialism of the original expunged.

11:07 am, October 01, 2007

Blogger Darren said...


thought John Byrne wrote the Slab Boys. Is there a different play called the Slab Boys? (Genuine question - not being cheeky.)

With regards to Noonan/Tressell's book, the bastardised version was superceded by the original manuscript in the mid 50s. The late Fred Ball has to be acknowledged for rescuing the original manuscript.

Funny to think that Tressell and Herbert Morrison were members of the SDF at the same time. I guess Morrison was the original Labour Movement poacher to gamekeeper.

A dodgy tradition what was continued by the links of Kinnock and his ilk in the 80s and beyond.

I guess it beats working for a living.

2:44 pm, October 01, 2007

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4:10 pm, October 01, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Darren, duh, you're right!

I meant to write "John Byrne who wrote the Slab Boys and Roddy McMillan who wrote the Bevellers".
Both contemporaries and it was McMillan's work that we recently revived at The Citizens.

It's probably fair to say that many people would assert that Byrne was the more seminal, but I really identified with McMillan's play because it so accurately described the setting, hierarchy and relationships in a small, dirty and dangerous industrial workshop in the West of Scotland like the one I started working life in.

Glad you brought the mistake to my attention thanks.

Interesting point you make about the Noonan book - now I'm not sure which version it would have been that I read (goes back a long time when a workshop journeyman handed me a well thumbed copy). It might be worth you having a look at what they say on the unionhistory.net site about it; maybe a bit more info needed on there?

(and by the way Luke, is it just me, or what has michael cor's posting got to do with this thread?)

4:25 pm, October 01, 2007

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Luke Akehurst said,
"John Spellar - turned me away from the LCC (Labour Co-ordinating Committee) before I could accidentally become soft left"

You should not be so harsh on yourself there Luke, I've seen you comment on the likes of Digby Jones (something on the grounds he would not be good for workers rights) which implies you are in favour of Warwick, you have encouraged more people to join the union (something I have tried to do in a completely apolitial way and still failed to get any new members!) and you describe yourself as a socialist (most apparatchiks call themselves progressives). All in all you are probably more left wing than you like to think and that is no bad thing.

5:31 pm, October 01, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


one of the distinguishing features of the traditional right of the Labour Party is that we support the union link.

6:08 pm, October 01, 2007

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Interesting choices Luke.

Of course one of the things Morrison is most remembered for now is the model of public ownership preferred by the Attlee government: the so-called 'Morrisonian' approach.

I personally think he was at his best as a municipal politician: the efforts he put into funding and organising cultural socialist movements (like the London Labour Choral Union, for instance) are not to be underestimated. I think his powers were waning sadly by the late 40s and 50s.

I might as well do mine (despite nobody 'tagging' me!)

1) Tony Benn. Yeah, I know, it's a bit of a cliche, but no other single politician has influenced me to the same degree.

2) Nye Bevan. Lots I'd disagree with him about really, but inspirational and fiercely Labour. My Benn/Bevan influences are really what make me combine radical socialism and fierce Labour tribalism to quite the extent I do.

3) John McDonnell. A superb campaigner, organiser and do-er. And future Labour leader.

4) Alan Simpson. Like Tony and John, has kept so many of us going. His passion about socialism, peace and the environment is infectious.

5) Neil Ormerod. My best political mate: if different stars had been in the ascendency in the 90s there's no doubt you'd all have heard of him, and included him in your lists too!

10:18 pm, October 01, 2007

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Luke Akehurst said...
one of the distinguishing features of the traditional right of the Labour Party is that we support the union link."

Luke, just pulled an interesting link from our union have a look,


The preseving the link is in all our interests I agree. I am sure there are many on the right that feel the way you do (i.e. the tradtional right as you put it) but can you explain why Tony Blair said

"We have resisted demands to reinstate union laws repealed in the '80s and are working hard to cut unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on business"

Surely helping out our union comrades is the best sign of showing a respect for the link.

Anyway since Dunc has done so I thought I might add my top political influences.

1)My Dad- sad I know but it was he that introduced me to the labour party (he was a member in Mauritius and is a loyal voter). His view on the world is simular to yours, but I think he is more left, esp Israel and the US.

2)With Dunc on this one, Tony Benn. He has been a towering colossus in the party and is the main reason I believe in the things I do.

3)Clem Atlee- Often forgotten by folk which I think is sad. With Bevan and Morrison help set up one of the most radical overhaul of our society. Genius.

4)Gandhi- one of the most influencial socialists of all time. His dedication to free India and unite a disprate people.

5)George Galloway- Sorry I know he upsets you in many ways but I agree with much of what he says (that implies not everything!)Intellegent and eliquent he was a loss from our end of the benches.

I am sure there are more but these are my top 5!

1:45 pm, October 02, 2007

Anonymous votelabourwithpride said...

Nobody asked my opinion, but thought I would let you know anyway.

1.Neil Kinnock - he saved the Labour Party from the ultra left and started us on the road to being electable again - he was brave

2. Peter Mandelson - proved to me that Labour could do politics professionally and win elections rather than the tattered and tired campaigning of the late 70s and early 80s

3. Jim Murphy - one of the best campaigning politicians I have ever seen in action. Really understands the need to engage with people.

4. Terry Ashton - Labour director in London in the early 90s. Tough, loyal, completely focussed on winning for Labour and willing to share his experience with the young organisers who were populating the party at that time, including me.

5. John Golding - Whilst Kinnock made the speech that signalled the Labour Party could be saved, Golding delivered the organisation and votes. We would never have been in power ever again without Golding and his tribe of trade union leaders who saved us from the hubris of Bennism

10:02 am, October 03, 2007

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Wow, there's some rather interesting interpretations of history going on here.

I'm intrigued to read some more.

10:45 am, October 03, 2007

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Oh and this had all been quite nice and comradely, and 'votelabourwithpride' had to go and ruin it...

Obviously if those are your choices - fair enough. I can understand why you'd choose some of them from your perspective; but to start up the old left-bashing again with this version of the 70s and 80s that seems so popular on the Labour right is just so very frustrating. Why not tell us what's good about these people, rather than selling them on the grounds that they replaced what went before? (To be fair you do do this with Murphy and Ashton)

11:04 am, October 03, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I'm trying to work out which of my generation of organisers "votelabourwithpride" is. Maybe it's Peter Watt ...

11:43 am, October 03, 2007

Anonymous jdc said...

Well, since everyone's doing it I might as well. In rough chronological order rather than any other, and excluding family since they would take up at least three places.

1) Ann Taylor - my local MP in my teens, a prime example of "sensible Labour", and very unlucky to have gone through the peak of her career during the long opposition. Taught me what the job of an MP is, thankfully putting me off ever doing it, and told me to get involved in my new CLP instead of my University Labour Club - advice I wish I'd taken.

2) Alasdair MacIntyre - A philosophical influence rather than a purely political one, but absolutely key for me in the intellectual fight against relativist liberalism. Honourable mention here also to Joseph Raz: "A state's neutrality between two different conceptions of the good should not entail neutrality between the good and the bad".

3) David Blunkett - an inspirational individual and probably the leader, along with Jack Straw and Frank Field, of the political wing of the above intellectual movement. One of the last best hopes for working-class Labourism and a party based around ordinary people who want a better life for themselves, their communities, and their children, rather than newspaper columnists who want to feel warm and fuzzy inside.

4) A Green Councillor whose name will be withheld for legal reasons, who taught me how to run a dishonest and negative campaign while still looking fluffy and communitarian, by doing it against me. Then got upset when I did it back the following year.

5) Mick Young - As Leader of Northamptonshire Council, for giving me the sort of education in partnership and organisational relations and the ability of a good Labour Councillor to deliver change in a community that you can't buy.

11:47 am, October 03, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Of course, as soon as you set out a list, others come along and mention people that you would have also wanted.

I’m so glad to see that under-recognised John Golding got a mention.

Clem Attlee, absolutely – the Tories of the time told a joke that “Clem Attlee’s taxi drew up and nobody got out”. They were jeering at what they saw as a non-personality. In fact he was of a humility you no longer get in politics – a true story about him is that while he was PM, a lady came up to him in a train station and asked “do you know that you look like the Prime Minister Clem Attlee?” Self-effacing and tactful, he replied “oh yes, I know that”.

On David Blunket, I’m sorry, early stuff brilliant, but latterly the guy went all wrong – as much as anything, a victim of the Westminster/metro London nightmare that has come to dominate UK politics to the ill good of all. Hopefully he is now on the mend.

Ghandi, yes again – if only the Irish nationalist movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960s could have continued down the Ghandi road (or had been allowed to), oh what tragedy we may have avoided.

And, votelabourwithpride, great to told of the foot soldiers like Terry Ashton who would otherwise remain unknown to many of us.

4:16 pm, October 03, 2007

Anonymous jdc said...

Yes, I guess Blunkett has gone a bit Danton, so Frank will have to be Robespierre on my little Committee.

4:52 pm, October 03, 2007

Anonymous vladlennon said...

Peter Mandelson? You make me want to cry...what an evil man...

8:00 am, October 05, 2007


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