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.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

On selecting Hard Left candidates

As I expected, my post on Christine Shawcroft has got people excited.

Good. Choosing a Labour candidate is an important process. It's vital that selection processes are scrutinised and candidates' records examined - if they become MPs they don't just write our laws, they are the talent pool from which we choose a Labour Government.

The process needs to be political not just a glorified job interview because the composition of the PLP plays a large part in determining Labour's direction and it's electability.

The election of new Hard Left MPs - be they Christine Shawcroft or anyone else - is a bad thing for a number of reasons:

1) It sends voters a message that Labour is forgetting the lessons they (the electorate) taught us about their low level of tolerance of extremist politics in the 1980s.
2) It's the thin end of the wedge - one extra Hard Left MP might not matter now but it could matter a lot if that person is still there in 20 years screwing up a more evenly balanced PLP.
3) In a parliament with a narrow Labour majority, having "Labour" MPs who break the whip and vote against their own government is about as useful to sustaining that government as a chocolate teapot.
4) Not many of them show any aptitude to be ministers - but they deny seats to other potential Labour candidates who would obey the whip and would make good ministers.
5) An MP's politics often shape those of their CLP. I care about the grassroots politics of the Labour Party, so I want MPs who will lead their CLPs in a sensible direction.
6) My personal experience is that Hard Left MPs don't prioritise campaigning or embrace modern campaigning techniques in the way other Labour MPs do - i.e. they have a negative organisational impact.

This isn't a game. When Labour didn't take selections seriously in the past and allowed multiple Christine Shawcrofts into the PLP and even more of them into positions of influence in the wider party, we were unelectable for a generation. The people who paid a price in lost jobs and life chances and public services were not on the Editorial Board of Labour Briefing, they were ordinary Labour voters.

A side issue in the post below concerns Trotskyists and their suitability as Labour MPs. Here my view is one of zero tolerance. If you embrace an ideology - Leninism - that believes in violent revolution leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat, then by definition you are not Labour because we are a democratic socialist party, and if you've really considered the implications of your ideology and the violence and absence of democracy and human rights it involves, you must be quite sick to carry on supporting it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

6) My personal experience is that Hard Left MPs don't prioritise campaigning or embrace modern campaigning techniques in the way other Labour MPs do - i.e. they have a negative organisational impact.

You are absolutely right, Alan Simpson has been a terrible campaigner in Nottingham South. It is the only constituency in Nottingham where the majority of councillors are Tories and LibDems and campaigning is only really done by local Labour councillors.

I guess Alan's been to busy drinking Chianti in the sun.

10:59 pm, March 06, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

" It is the only constituency in Nottingham where the majority of councillors are Tories and LibDems "

how bad is John Heppell's campaign ability to have got a 13% drop in 2005 in Nottingham East?

11:07 pm, March 06, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That comment shows your total ignorance about the local situation.

Heppell did not campaign that hard in his own constituency at the last election, but sent all his activists to marginal wards such as Gedling and Broxtowe.

Nottingham East's Tiger Squad run by John is know across the entire Midlands arriving to help in elections and by-elections by the coach load.

There is one Lib Dem councillor in Nottingham East - the rest are Labour.

I know people agree with Alan's views, but why can they not accept that he has been a pretty useless for the local Labour Party.

11:19 pm, March 06, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't even be bothered to argue. It makes me want to weep that our party is run by the likes of you. I don't know how you can sleep at night knowing you've betrayed tens of generations of trade unionists and activists with this sad, pitiful, idiotic view of politics.
It's truly sickening.

11:29 pm, March 06, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Heppell did not campaign that hard in his own constituency at the last election"

so he's not working hard for Nottingham East. He's the MP for NE, not for Broxtowe. Tell him next time

11:33 pm, March 06, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Hasn't 'modern campaigning' and spin caused half of the problems and led to the current level of disillusion?

Either the Labour party is a party which covers democratic left-of-centre opinion or it isn't. If it is to be closed to those not in sympathy with Blair/Brown politics, then inevitably some will move away seeing no reason to vote for it.

And with a rejuvenated Tory party, its obvious enough that will lead to a Labour defeat.

Labour won by default in 97. The Tories haven't been electable in the two elections since - and to try and present any of those victories as great enthusiasm for the New Labour brand of politics is a mistake.

You really must stop fighting yesterday's battles. Your task is to ensure that people like me who voted Labour very reluctantly last time, and currently wouldn't do so, come back to the fold. There are plenty like me, but you don't seem to understand that its about substance, not presentation. Labour need to do some serious re-thinking.

12:15 am, March 07, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Bring back Brandon Bravo, he was brilliant....Alan Simpson.....blahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Probably the best MP for the Nottingham Area is Mr Clarke, brilliant, honest, hard working and not a chance Labour will ever take that seat.

When it comes to local politics it is personalities that count. If an MP relates to his electorate and works hard for them then that counts more than politics......how on earth did Brown get his job.

12:15 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I was thinking about canvassing rather than spin. The Hard Left MP I know most about is pretty good at the latter and not a great enthusiast for the former.

12:18 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Again, though, I think you are fooling yourself by the fluke of 1997.

All sorts of people voted labour who wouldn't do so normally, and Tories abstained in record numbers.

The myth of the success of Millbank appears to be accepted almost uncritically.

The local Labour party round here is very weak on the ground - I think that the effect of local campaigning at a general election can be overrated. As for local elections, I vote for the best local candidate as the councillors have no political role any longer.

12:44 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Luke, you talk in generalities about how awful it would be for hard lefties to get selected, mired as you are in yesterday's battles, but you don't really explain why.

Your list of six reasons why lefties are a nightmare doesn't actually say which POLICIES you think are a nightmare. It merely talks about the heinous crime of dissent and some totally subjective stuff about ability to become ministers (I actually think it's a healthy thing that not all PPCs want to be ministers; some are happier being backbench constituency-focused MPs. Good for them).

There's no actual politics in your list of objections. But then there never appears to be any from anything that comes from the leadership or its loyalists at the moment, and it's making the party look weak, not strong. Brown's recent "age of ambition" stuff just comes across as patronising and meaningless, and not really hitting the spot with the electorate at all.

So name some actual policies that a lefty candidate would support that you think are bad, in principle.

12:56 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Yes. Brown used the excuse of transmitting his vision as reason for delaying an election - but thats the one thing we simply haven't seen. Its just been 'more of the same' and its clear enough that isn't going to be enough. Latest announcements have largely been risible (the Flint and council house mis-spin)

I'm not convinced by all the views of the left either - but they are certainly right on interventionist foreign policy and closeness to the US, also on our bias in the Middle east towards the mistaken creastion of Israel.

9:41 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"In a parliament with a narrow Labour majority, having "Labour" MPs who break the whip and vote against their own government is about as useful to sustaining that government as a chocolate teapot."

Yes, but often good for putting Labour values into law, which is what that government is actually for.

Consider agency workers.

"My personal experience is that Hard Left MPs don't prioritise campaigning or embrace modern campaigning techniques in the way other Labour MPs do - i.e. they have a negative organisational impact."

Indeed. The propensity of people who can't even understand the basics of why .contact worked the way it did is astounding, and particularly pronounced in those quarters.

9:51 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Regarding point 3, the three parliaments since 1997 have been more marked by rebellions than almost any other parliaments in British history (see Philip Cowley's book) but it doesn't seem to have harmed Labour electorally.

The received wisdom about "divided parties lose elections" is massively overstated.

Diversity of opinion in the PLP which reflects the diversity of opinion in the party can only be a good thing.

Oh and point 1 is a load of nonsense as well, but that's been debunked enough times already.

10:03 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

On your latter point (which I think is fair) if you don't embrace the dictum of Democratic Socialism then you have no place in the party. That said didn’t we have an alliance with the CPGB after the war? I digress.

However tarring all hard leftists as commies is just puerile. I share many opinions with the hard left but I certainly don't consider myself a communist.
As for defying the government whip, if only labour MPs had the backbone to oppose the government before the Iraq war we might have MPs worthy of the name.

11:10 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


no we didn't. Elements of the left of the Labour Party sometimes advocated a broad front with the CPGB or allowing it to affiliate to the Labour Party, but this was always heavily defeated at Conference, not least because of the sectarian behaviour of the CP during the phase when they denounced Labour and other democratic socialist parties as "social fascists".

A number of Labour MPs were expelled from the Party in 1947 for writing to the Italian Socialist Party supporting its electoral alliance with the Communists.

11:20 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger susan press said...

What utter, contemptible bilge. The "revolutionary programme" of the LRC includes (shock horror) calls for an end to PFI, a fair taxation system , re-nationalisation of the railways, basic rights for trade unionists. In short, mainstream policies supported by thousands in the Labour Party. No call to arms or barricades. I've heard Christine speak on many occasions. She wants democratic socialism , not bloody insurrection. On the issue of campaigning, one of my local Mps, Linda Riordan,supports the LRC and is out campaigning locally most weekends. You also don't find constitueny MPs who work much harder than John McDonnell. So why don't you stop your nasty and inaccurate rants .By allmeans disagree with us, but stop telling downright lies.
PS: I've met John Heppell and he's a nasty right-wing sectarian

11:51 am, March 07, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

That would be the LRC whose affiliates include the FBU (which chose to quit the Labour Party) and RMT (which was disaffiliated for funding Scottish Socialist Party candidates against Labour). Other LRC affiliates include the Trotskyist party the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, which was proscribed by the Labour Party for entryism in the late ‘80s; the New Communist Party, a Stalinist group which quit the official CP in order to support the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and Socialist Appeal which is the wing of the 1980s Trotskyist group Militant which continues to practice entryism.

As for John Heppell his basic politics are loyalty to John Prescott. Presumably your own politics are so off the scale that you think Prescottites are "hard right". He sounds like a good bloke to me.

12:04 pm, March 07, 2008

Blogger susan press said...

John Prescott's lack of support for the FBU led to their disaffiliation from the Party. Not something I would wish to be "loyal" to. You do not mention of course that the affiliates list also includes ASLEF, the CWU and NUM plus dozens of UNISON and UNITE trade union branches at local level. The LRC does NOT have a revolutionary Leninist programme. Socialist Appeal, a small group which as you correctly point out is largely comprised of ex Militant members, who unlike Tommy Sherdian and co stayed in the Labour Party because they saw Labour as the party of the working-class and the only place from whence to achieve socialism. Which is absolutely correct......their programme for change ( not the same as the LRC's) is nevertheless a Parliamentary one. The LRC now has 1500 members - who are committed to democratic socialism . You are obviously upset we continue to grow.....

12:20 pm, March 07, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

I think that the vast majority of voters think that:
1. The government have failed miserably in terms of their transport policies, particularly the railways
2. That marginal tax rates are a major disincentive to work - the government are always carping on about this problem, quite rightly, then introduce policies such as the abolition of the 10p rate which makes it far worse.
3. Ask anyone in the hospital system at the sharp end what they think of PFI and the response won't be repeatable. As for dentistry - the new contract is a disaster and many dentists are just so fed up with the treadmill that they are, again, voting with their feet.

Wake up, Luke. 1997 was a long time ago and many Blairite policies have failed. For many people, things really haven't got better at all and as much as you trump your list of achievements they don't believe you. Don't you realise how sceptical people have become about the government?

I think you believe your own propaganda every bit as much as many on the left did in 1983.

12:32 pm, March 07, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Just taking a few of your ridiculous points to start with:

3) In a parliament with a narrow Labour majority, having "Labour" MPs who break the whip and vote against their own government is about as useful to sustaining that government as a chocolate teapot.

I think most people in the country would disagree with you. If you ask people what they dislike about parliament it is that a parliamentary majority means that a government programme meets very little real scrutiny or accountability: whichever party is in power. Most people express a good deal of admiration and gratitude to so-called 'rebel MPs' - whatever your views on the matter.

4) Not many of them show any aptitude to be ministers - but they deny seats to other potential Labour candidates who would obey the whip and would make good ministers.

As with the above point - lots of people who probably aren't remotely 'left-wing' would like to hear about a 'balanced', pluralistic cabinet, and worry about the idea of a cabinet of 'yes'-men and 'yes'-women. Promoting very able people from other traditions in the party is a win-win option from every angle (and it has to be said the centre-right dominance of Brown's 'government of all the talents' is a bit of an embarrassment). Furthermore, I agree with other commenters that a career as a parliamentarian and representative should not be dismissed as secondary or being 'in the way'.

5) An MP's politics often shape those of their CLP. I care about the grassroots politics of the Labour Party, so I want MPs who will lead their CLPs in a sensible direction.

You care about grassroots politics so much that you don't want CLPs to select candidates who represent their views!

Why pretend that this is all about the types of MPs left-wingers make, or about the amount of campaigning they do (or even about how 'revolutionary' they may or may not be)? The point is that you disagree with Christine Shawcroft about several key policy areas and you'd like someone selected who you agree with. Wouldn't we all? I support Christine over the other candidates for the same reason. Every other aspect of this post (and the previous one) is just tosh.

3:05 pm, March 07, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke, I agree that revolutionaries have no place in the LP because we're democratic socialists. By the same token, those responsible for the increase in inequality over the last 10 years have no place in the Party, because they have shown a blatant disregard for the pursuit of a more equal society - the central feature of dem. socialism. So that would mean you and all the rest of the New Labour lot expelled immediately, wouldn't it? What a loss that'd be.

4:15 pm, March 07, 2008

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

I wish Luke would actually answer the questions he's asked rather than hurl cheap potshots at the LRC.

So, again, what POLICIES that left candidates stand for, do you, on PRINCIPLE, disagree with?

In your own time...

4:50 pm, March 07, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are all part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly. In America, the richest 1% now hold 1/2 OF ALL UNITED STATES WEALTH. Unlike ‘lesser’ estimates, this includes all stocks, bonds, cash, and material assets held by America’s richest 1%. Even that filthy pig Oprah acknowledged that it was at about 50% in 2006. Naturally, she put her own ‘humanitarian’ spin on it. Calling attention to her own ‘good will’. WHAT A DISGUSTING HYPOCRITE SLOB. THE RICHEST 1% HAVE LITERALLY MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t fall for any of their ‘humanitarian’ CRAP. ITS A SHAM. THESE PEOPLE ARE CAUSING THE SAME PROBLEMS THEY PRETEND TO CARE ABOUT. Ask any professor of economics. Money does not grow on trees. The government can’t just print up more on a whim. At any given time, there is a relative limit to the wealth within ANY economy of ANY size. So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars. Transfered FROM US TO THEM. Over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They will never settle for a reasonable share of ANYTHING. They will do whatever it takes to get even richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductable crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. Cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place can not possibly succeed. Any 'humanitarian' progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. So don’t fall for all of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductable contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. WAKE UP PEOPLE. ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Reaganomics. Their idea. Loans from China. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. Brainwash plots on TV. Their idea. Prozac, Zanex, Vioxx, and Celebrex. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed, credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, couch potatoe, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of the above shrink the middle class, concentrate the world’s wealth and resources, and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, attorneys, and politicians. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for any of their ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTABLE PR CRAP. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE HUMANITARIAN. EXTREME WEALTH HAS MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.

6:15 pm, March 07, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice one Luke - To be fair tho the lunatic fringe do work hard at elections,- for themselves.

I've yet to see then lift a digit anywhere else.

We had the FBU threatening to diafilliate from this CLP unless we totally adopted thier policies.

Funny thing was they were not affiliated in the first place !

8:22 pm, March 07, 2008

Anonymous HenryG said...

I can't help but think that Luke's comments on Christine will only help her bid for selection in Nottingham South.

9:53 pm, March 07, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

You mean he's a deep entryist trying to discredit the right?

10:15 pm, March 07, 2008

Anonymous Michael said...

"If you embrace an ideology - Leninism - that believes in violent revolution leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat, then by definition you are not Labour because we are a democratic socialist party, and if you've really considered the implications of your ideology and the violence and absence of democracy and human rights it involves, you must be quite sick to carry on supporting it."

The only reason a revolution would be violent is if the capitalist state and/or counter revolutionary elements of the ruling class and the states bodies of armed men made it violent. Unless of course Luke you think that the ruling orders and army will just happily hand over power and property to workers, unions and the revolutioanry party? The revolutioanry rule of the working class is simply the reverse of the current rule - the dictatorship of the bourgeoise, who rule regardless of who is elected in the parliamentry front. This represents the victory of democracy - the rule of the many not the few - exercised by the expoited majority class, how this can be characterised as an abscence of democracy is beyond me!

As for this abscence of democracy, you need to read your marx mate and beging to get to grips with the system of private property, the power of its owners and officials, the causes of imperialism, economic crisis, and so on. Modern society is class society - unless you care to deny this? - based upon the rule of one over another, and of capital over labour more generally - is this democratic? The latent structural violence INHERNET (Imperialism, unequal exchange, production for profit, private control of people and resources, use of parliaments as fronts for this rule to legitimse it - ie the distinction between 'bourgeois democracy' and Workers Democracy) in the forms of capitalist private property is immanent and cannot be removed and reformed away without capitalism as a whole going as well.

12:01 am, March 08, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Leaving aside a debate about what Marx really meant by the concept of a 'dictatorship of the proletariat' (a fascinating debate and one I'd love to participate in, but one which isn't actually enormously helpful in trying to demonstrate why Luke was wrong in his assessment here...) - I really resent this fiction - often repeated by Luke, and repeated here by 'anonymous', that the 'lunatic fringe' (have you met Peter Mandelson?) don't 'lift a finger' for anyone but themselves at election time. It is a palpable nonsense. It is straightforwardly untrue. Do you assume that all left-wing activists live in constituencies with left-wing MPs or left-wing candidates? Are you honestly suggesting that those who don't live in such seats put no work in at election time or bus themselves off to lefty constituencies? Any fair person would have to acknowledge that just simply isn't true.

Turn the point around however - and you start to see something a little more accurate. Various people on the right of the party have been completely upfront about not lifting a finger for left-wing candidates/incumbants at election time, to the point of criticising others for lifting a finger or dissuading them from doing so.

Luke himself is here providing Tories and Liberal Democrats with ammunition for the general election campaign should Christine be selected. The fear that local leaflets can quote Labour sources saying that Christine is a 'trotskyist' or 'revolutionary' and that that might contribute to us losing the seat is apparently less important to Luke than settling student-politics scores and pointless sectarianism and factionalism. Sometimes the party would do better without that sort of 'lifting a finger'. It's as mindless, destructive and pointless as the sort of internecine warfare you get between the various Trotskyist fringe groups out there wondering whether the Soviet Union was state capitalist or a deformed workers state (yawn yawn, etc.) Indeed, Luke would have made a very good 'trot'!

One day we'll be able to have a debate about the issues!

10:38 am, March 08, 2008

Blogger Chris Paul said...

The idea that leftish MPs don't show an aptitude to be ministers is just right winger free masonry. However bright and competent they are they don't get promoted. This is unfair. This leaves the left of the party - from Cook or Hattersley leftwards - mostly out of the loop. Ignored, sidelined, taken for granted. This is of course a recipe for indiscipline rather than pragmatic loyalty to a party that can be influenced by you. This spreads outside the HoP to the diminishing grass roots.

1:21 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

By the way, in response to the first 'anonymous' - these further revelations will no doubt be shocking!

3:43 pm, March 08, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure that as a very committed environmentalist Alan doesn't see his house very often.

It is a very long way to cycle.

5:05 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Chris, I wasn't refering to soft left MPs like Cook. He obviously had an aptitude to be a Minister. I said "Hard Left" i.e. Campaign Group.

Duncan - I have been very careful not to say that Christine is a Trot. I would be delighted to say she isn't if she will categorically state that she isn't. Everything I have said about her was already available on google before I repeated it. It isn't exactly a state secret that she is extremely leftwing - the media only have to read her column in back issues of Briefing to get her rantings about the Labour government and use them if she was selected as a PPC.

7:31 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Luke you "set the challenge":

The fact that her position isn't clear worries me. I'd like to hear a public condemnation of Leninism and Trotskyism from her. She can post one here if she wants.

Presuming you don't actually expect such a post to appear on your blog, what was the purpose of posing such a question?

Furthermore you described Christine as an 'ultra-leftist' and 'wholly antagonistic' and 'sectarian' (the latter charge being somewhat ironic considering what came before!) The fact that you actually stopped short of calling her a 'trotskyist' is fairly irrelevant. After all, I'm not entirely sure what you comprehend in the term? Membership of a proscribed organisation? A doctrinaire belief in all the writings of Trotsky? I remember as a naiive young student at my first Labour Students Conference earnestly being told that one speaker was a 'Stalinist'. I was quite taken aback, not expecting to encounter many in the Labour Party... I'm still not entirely sure why the speaker was declared a Stalinist, but it was one of Her Majesty's current ministers, Jim Murphy, and I presume that, even then, he was not a particular fan of either the writings nor the actions of Joseph Stalin! (I'm sure you'll remember the conference in question; there was a quiz night where one round was on 'trotskyist front groups' and hilariously the answer to every question was 'Socialist Organiser' - how everybody laughed; what a great introduction to Labour politics for new members!)

What do you base the idea of Christine being 'wholly antagonistic' or 'sectarian' on?

I'm sure you'll find 'radical' quotations, but the likes of, "I think we should aspire for everyone to have a decent home, a job that pays enough to live on, a good local school for their kids, and a nearby hospital they can visit when they're sick" is not exactly molatov-cocktail-mixing stuff. Christine has always struck me as being tough, radical and hard-line in her promotion of mainstream Labour values. I look forward to her arrival in the PLP.

8:09 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

My view on where she is coming from is based on buying Labour Briefing at my GC and reading her monthly column in it.

She can't have her cake and eat it by making a career out of attacking her own party leadership in very personalised and vitriolic terms and then expecting that not to be an issue when she applies to be an MP.

You can't be an officer of three different hard left organisations, run for the NEC on a platform attacking the leadership and expect that not to be highlighted by your political opponents

There seems to be this assumption that attacking the leadership is a noble and good act but the leadership or its supporters attacking back is base and bad.

Do you think she will be a constructive, loyal and supportive colleague if she gets into the PLP?

Sometimes I think the problem is that you lot don't realise you are the bad guys.

I suspect this is actually a bid for political martyrdom a la Liz Davies - run for selection without prior panel approval so that she can then become an icon for the left because she fails to get endorsed as a candidate after selection.

8:24 pm, March 08, 2008

Anonymous tim f said...

Luke, you seem to want to see the Party split. What effect do you think having such blatant disregard for the wishes of local members will have in Nottingham? The only other people I've heard arguing for the Party to be split are Trotskyists themselves.

9:07 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:20 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

No I don't want the party to split. I get on fairly well with the left in my own CLP - I wouldn't want them running the party nationally but it's a big enough tent for them to be in it.

I just think it is important to stop this one specific individual becoming an MP. If she was Hard Left but loyal and supportive like Dennis Skinner for instance, I would still prefer someone else nearer my politics, but could live with their selection. In her specific case she would do too much damage to the Party.

We don't know what members in Nottingham S think yet as the ballot hasn't happened. If she had applied to go on the panel like the rest of us who want to be PPCs do then I really doubt she would have been allowed to run.

9:23 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

The problem is not with the political attack, it's with the suggestion that she shouldn't be allowed to be a Labour MP.

I am currently in the middle of a selection contest (a less high profile one!) and - though I have applied to be on the panel I am not (as far as I'm aware! I don't appear on the search results on the the website!) I don't know whether Christine has applied or not. She has been on the panel in the past (under Blair), so don't really think it likely she would be refused under the current leadership.

9:35 pm, March 08, 2008

Blogger susan press said...

And why is that then? Because New Labour stops SOCIALISTS getting onto the Panel.Linda Riordan in Halifax,a cracking MP with real roots in the community, suffered similar awfulness but,thanks to the support of people like Dennis Skinner, had an NEC kangaroo court decision overturned.You support Ken Livingstone and Dennis yet not Christine. Their politics are the same. Your irrational nastiness has,I hope, only boosted Christine's campaign.

12:30 am, March 09, 2008

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Which of the policies that Shawcroft supports do you oppose on principle, Luke?

12:49 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Susan, their politics are not the same. You know as well as I do that Socialist Action and other supporters of Ken disagree fundamentally with Labour Briefing on a number of issues. The particular one recently was the use of PPP to fund the East London Line Extension. This is really important where I live because it will bring Dalston onto the tube network. Ken, Diane Abbott and the SA people pragmatically recognised you need to operate within the existing funding regime, and supported PPP. Labour Briefing took a completely hardline oppositionalist stance, and with the RMT, opposed the PPP. Their position would have meant Hackney never getting the tube.

Labour Briefing sets itself aside from the rest of the Labour Hard Left in that rather than regarding the Government we have as imperfect and wanting it to go further than it has, I have actually heard them say this Labour government is the enemy of working class people.

7:30 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Luke - are you endorsing the semi-mythical Socialist Action over non-trotyskite labourists?

It does all get a trifle baffling. I'm sure people on the right imagine that the (labour) left is made up of all sorts of little, hardline factions! It really isn't! Labour Left Briefing is not a faction! Look at any issue of Briefing and you will see articles by people all of whom take quite different views on several issues.

(As it happens it is possible to oppose PPP and still support a line extension).

7:45 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

E10 asks "Which of the policies that Shawcroft supports do you oppose on principle, Luke?"

As she is an officer of the LRC, I assume she supports its policies. I've checked their website and it says they support the following things which I don't support:

"An economic policy based upon public ownership and the democratic control of key sections of the economy"
"an end to ... PFIs"
"nuclear disarmament"
"the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq"
"instituting two new rates of income tax of 50% at £60,000,
and 60% at £100,000"
"replacing council tax, non-domestic rates and the local
government support grant with a Land Value Tax"
"Extend public ownership into the pharmaceutical and
medical research sectors"
"Remove the distractions of SATS and league tables"
"Reconstitute Ofsted as a support and advisory service"
"Restructure LEAs so that they are co-governed by a local
management board of parents, teachers, pupils and local
"Abolish tuition fees and restore universal maintenance grants to
all higher education students"
"Implement the ‘fourth option’ of direct investment in council
"Restrict to two the number of UK residential properties that each
person can own"
"Divert funds allocated to road-building to fund improvements
and fare subsidies to public transport"
"Discontinue GM testing"
"Oppose the European Single Currency as the embodiment of the neoconservative policies of the unaccountable European Central Bank"
"Negotiate the closure of all foreign military bases on UK soil, and withdraw from joint military projects such as US missile defence"
"end all council tax capping"
"End the ban on council employees participating in political
activities and in standing for office in another authority"
"the right to ... take secondary and sympathetic action"
"Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Acts 2004, 2005 and Part IV of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001"
"Scrap the extradition treaty with the US"
"Scrap proposals for identity cards"

I am assuming these are just "transitional demands"...

7:53 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

If these little groups aren't important to the left, why is Christine an officer/board member of three of them (LRC, Briefing, CLPD)?

"Labour Briefing is not a faction". Nah, they just all vote for the same things all the time by coincidence.

"Militant is not a faction, it's a newspaper with an editorial board".

Actually whilst I thought the SA position on PPP for ELLX was more sensible than the Briefing one, on the vote we had to censure Diane over her choice of a private school for her son I thought Briefing were more principled - they voted with the right to censure her whilst SA voted in Diane's support.

8:00 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Another great personal experience I have had of Briefing was the line they ran in Hackney in 2001when Laboir took back control of a council that was virtually bankrupt. The council leadership wanted to work with the Government, lobby for extra funding and implement the directions set by the Government. Briefing advocated confrontation, non-implementation of the directions, refusal to set legal budgets etc and demonstrations to force the government to bail out Hackney.

The GC meeting at which they got 7 votes for their position and we got 23 votes for accepting reality is listed by Liz Davies in her memoir "through the looking glass" as one of the reasons she quit the Labour Party.

8:09 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Given that she regularly gets elected to the NEC by party members I think the party would be very foolish indeed to try and block her candidacy.

8:19 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

I didn't say the groups weren't important. I think they're very important. They are not hardline factions. I trust you appreciate the difference! The LRC and CLPD are groups with policies, etc. (like Compass, the LCC, the Fabian Society, etc.) Briefing - as far as I am aware - is not. Bear in mind that different writers in Briefing backed both McDonnell and Meacher for the leadership (some contributors may have backed Brown, I don't know) - I think it's fairly clear that that is a magazine by/for the labour left in all its diversity. Perhaps it presents itself differently in Hackney. Would you say that Progress is a faction, or a magazine that caters for a particular current of Labour thinking?

I take the Militant point on board, but Briefing's editorial policy includes:

LLB is a journal open to many different types of socialists. LLB prides itself on its non-sectarian editorial policy. LLB is committed to open democratic debate and respect for political differences. We welcome and encourage the involvement of all labour movement non-sectarian socialists in LLB.

If you don't believe them, why not put forward an article yourself?

9:14 pm, March 09, 2008

Anonymous Matthew Stiles said...

Luke reckons Christine is a Leninist and that he has made nothing up, you can go and google her. So I go to google, type in "christine shawcroft leninist" and guess what, the first two results come from this very thread. The next two come from The Weekly Worker where a writer criticises her for being a reformist. The other results are even more tenuous. There is no substance at all to calling her a Leninist.

11:26 pm, March 09, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


please don't out words in my mouth. I have not said I think she is a Leninist. She is however a member of the editorial board of Labour Briefing, at least one member of which has told me they are a Trot, and is an officer of LRC, which has both Trotskyist and Stalinist affiliates. Her own position hasn't been made clear.

10:37 am, March 10, 2008

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Of course the majority of LLB contributors, and LRC members and affiliates, are neither Trots nor Stalinists. But that is far less interesting. Why should Christine Shawcroft "clarify her position" on Russian politicians of the early 20th century rather than talking about issues which concern members and voters?

Oh and the comparisons between the Militant and LLB are really daft. As I understand it, the Militant was a democratic centralist organisation with a central committee that could mandate its members on how to behaviour in Labour Party internal business. That is why they were expelled. The same cannot be said for either LLB or the LRC.

10:56 am, March 10, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I accept that most of the conventional Hard Left are democratic socialists. That's why I find it hard to understand why the LRC is prepared to accept say AWL and NCP into affiliation. Don't you feel a bit uncomfortable sitting there with people who would put you first against the wall when/if the revolution comes? Why would you want to be associated with them?

You've chosen these unpleasant political allies so you need to accept you will be made to pay a political price for it.

11:22 am, March 10, 2008

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

There are an awful lot of people in the Labour Party I disagree with about most things and feel uncomfortable sitting around with, but such is the reality of being in a political party.

If individuals or organisations want to sign up to the programme and principles of the LRC I see no reason to refuse them membership or start up the witch-hunts. Come the revolution I'll probably opportunistically swap sides just like Trotsky did anyway...

11:32 am, March 10, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Isn't belief in parliamentary democracy a fairly fundamental dividing line? That's not just about being in a different wing of a political party, it's about coming from a completely different - and antagonistic - political tradition.

11:44 am, March 10, 2008

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Would you like to see ALL Trotskyists thrown out of the Labour Party?

12:02 pm, March 10, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

As someone not affiliated to the left I would agree with Luke on the last point. I think too many left wingers fail to note this key difference. Not all.

I suppose it depends what LRC is for. I would hardly be a candidate for membership, but if its an informal network aimed at working across boundaries, that's OK. I was involved in peace groups and there were all sorts of people there from deep green through to liberal through to apolitical. As someone who was on the right of the party in nearly all the other key issues may presence always attracted attention, particularly when I refused to vote for Benn over Healey

We do have to be a bit careful that we don't judge others simply on the basis of affiliation.

I mean, I have already said that I would find it very hard to vote for you because of your job, but I don;t think you should be prevented from being a candidate.

12:07 pm, March 10, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

JJJ: I would - Trotskyism and left wing democratic socialism are not the same.

That is the dividing line, surely?

12:08 pm, March 10, 2008

Blogger susan press said...

"I have actually heard them say this Labour government is the enemy of working class people."

Shock, horror. So blocking measures like the Trade Union Freedom Bill is helpful to the working-class, is it? Likewise tuition fees, Acade mies etc etc Brown's Cabinet seems far more keen to please its pals in the CBI than the TUC.
Even my MP, not at all hard left, concurs with that one. Why do you think the LRC is growing Luke? Because people have simply had enough of New Labour. One of my keenest fellow members was an arch-fan of Brown.....until he took over. You should get out more.

4:55 pm, March 10, 2008

Anonymous Kevin said...

You're factually incorrct.
Lots of us on the Labour Briefing Editorial Board lost our jobs under Thatcher.
It gave us the time to produce an excellent magazine.

2:17 pm, March 11, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shawcroft was her usual flakey self at the selection meeting last night and Lilian Greenwood took the selection. My friend only moved to the CLP a couple of years ago and had never met her before. He wrote succint notes on all the candidates performance and for Christine wrote
'speech - largely irrelevant lacking detail, complacent, casual attitude almost flippant', then at the end he wrote 'lazy and disorganised contribution'.
One could add the same of her run up campaign to the selection meeting - didn't knock on my door once or phone, just a couple of leaflets (mostly covered in endorsements)and two letters from the sitting MP saying he wanted a 'mini-me'.

7:54 am, March 14, 2008


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