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, November 19, 2009

Open letter to Bob Piper

Dear Bob,

I was a bit surprised by your vituperative attack on me yesterday (http://www.bobpiper.co.uk/2009/11/not_in_my_name_2.php).

I know you are on the left of the Labour Party and I'm not (by any stretch of the imagination) so I don't expect you to agree with me on everything or vote for me in the NEC elections. What I don't expect is an ad hominem attack accusing me of being "someone who is so sectarian, negative and divisive [he] is not fit to be a member of our NEC."

We've only met once and it was perfectly amicable. I know from talking to your local MP John Spellar that you are a great local councillor and a good campaigner. My take on you was that we were actually kindred spirits even though from different ideological wings of the party - people that are passionate about their politics, enjoy the legitimate cut and thrust of debate within the Labour Party as well as taking on Labour's opponents and put public service and campaigning first.

Your accusation of sectarianism, negativity and divisiveness just isn't borne out by my record:
  • working with people from the Labour left to run election campaigns in Bristol, Camden, Hackney, Aldershot and Castle Point;
  • yes expressing my views robustly in meetings but being comradely about the way I do it and not confusing the personal and the political;
  • consistently upholding the rulebook and defending party democracy so that as Chief Whip in Hackney I was more often than not the one arguing against suspensions from the group etc., on our LGC I was the one fighting for every ward to retain its right to select its own candidates; when I have sat on regional appeal panels etc. I have a record of scrupulous fairness and regularly find in favour of people with the opposite political views to mine;
  • having personal friendships that extend across the spectrum of Labour politics because I can disagree with people without it descending into acrimony

Then I thought, fair enough Bob hasn't actually been in the same region or CLP as me so maybe he's judging me just on the blog. So I did a trawl through to see if what I had written in the last three months since I came out of hospital justified the description "sectarian, negative and divisive".

The following could broadly be described as positive and unifying from a Labour perspective:

  • Anti-Tory 11 posts
  • Pro-Labour 5 posts
  • Praising individual Labour politicians (Ed Miliband, Blair, Mandelson, John Woodcock) 4 posts
  • Anti-LD 2 posts
  • Anti-BNP 2 posts
  • Reporting my speech to conference about the NHS 2 posts
  • Calling for unity at Party conference 1 post
  • Calling for a May election date 1 post
  • Calling for retaining the fourth Trident submarine 1 post
  • Promoting local achievements in Hackney 1post
  • Calling for action on pleural plaques 1 post
  • Praising Norway's Labour election victory 1 post
  • Obituary of left wing Castle Point activist John Trollope 1 post
  • Announcing my own NEC candidature 1 post
  • Linking to trade union websites 1 post
  • Linking to articles I agree with 1 post

Then there were some neutral ones:

  • Reporting council by-election results 11 posts
  • Reporting opinion polls 6 posts
  • Commenting on the timing of election counts 1 post
  • Personal stuff about my illness 1 post
  • Reporting this blogs rank in a league table 1 post
  • General psephology 1 post
  • Analysis re. political role of trade unions 1 post

The only ones that could be defined as negative are:

  • Reporting on the GRA slate for the NEC - 5 posts (incidentally all just repeating what Peter Kenyon and other GRA members are saying, not attacking them directly)
  • Attacking Compass 3 posts
  • Attacking Charles Clarke 2 posts
  • Calling for resignation of Baroness Scotland 1 post

So, 69 posts in 3 months: 36 of them positive, 22 neutral and just 11 negative, of which 3 were having a go at people on the right of the party not the left, and 5 were just reporting gossip.

The hook for your attack was just bizarre, a post where I linked to a Labour party political broadcast that praised the party's radical past and included footage of Michael Foot, and then a plea for the PLP to fight the Tories not quit or plot against the PM! The targets of this weren't the left - one of the best fighters in the PLP is Denis Skinner. I have no idea what annoyed you about a statement of the bleeding obvious - that we need to unite, focus on fighting the Tories and not give up.

As for my post this week on Compass if it is now off-limits to criticise people who are calling for a leadership coup just months before a general election, then I plead guilty ...

You say you've "been around the Labour movement and the Labour Party longer" than me but given I've been a Party member 21 years through good times and bad, since I was 16, that's only because you are a couple of decades older than me.

You make the throw away comment that I am someone who "can't think for themselves, and who thinks every utterance from the Party leadership has to be swallowed whole" but even the briefest effort to read this blog would reveal that to be a lie.

I always knew that some people would find my NEC candidature hard to stomach - I've not been running for a popularity contest writing this blog so it might turn out I'm not popular! I'm resigned to people picking on one thing I write and using it to have a go, that's fair play in politics.

But Bob your post overstepped the mark and presented a caricature of me that doesn't reflect my real record or my real views.

I'm proud of my politics and happy to take stick for my views where they are contentious. But running for office in the Labour Party, or writing this blog, doesn't give people who disagree with me a licence to smear my character, behaviour or motives.

Looking forward to debating Labour's future with you on a comradely basis going forward, and best wishes for the coming elections in Sandwell,



Anonymous Arnold said...

Luke - this guy is on the front line as a Labour Councillor and besides becoming a rapidly declining species, he probably sees the world as it actually is and not the theoretical world a few of your contributors seem to live in. eg. People like Duncan Hall claiming the Tories did nothing for women after Thatcher won 3 elections (the one Gordon likes so much) really stretch credibility for all members of the Labour Party.

Dogma and stupidity seem to go hand in hand with the current government yet you never criticise them and that is not loyalty Luke and it seems to defy all logic.

Bob Piper speaks to people in the real world and he knows the truth about Labour's chances at the next election... it's just over. Finished. The party is hated and the Prime Minister is (rightly) despised - he's useless.

With articles like that quitters thing on this blog you may secure votes for loyalty in the party but you do yourself no favours in the long term.

Gordon Brown needs sacking for incompetence because he is, a new leader needs to be selected and a case for a Labour government needs to be put to the UK electorate.

Bob Piper could have selected any number of the left leaning blogs - (most actually believed that PPB was good - it wasn't Luke - the faithful left Labour around the time Gordon took the job so the demographic was wrong) but I think he just singled you out because you dont "seem" to be critical of the leadership.

You should be, they don't deserve your support.

5:46 pm, November 19, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


Er... I'm on the front line as a Labour councillor too. In the last month I've phone canvassed about 300 people in my ward so I have a pretty good record of "speaking to people in the real world" (admittedly in one of the most deprived parts of central London so not statistically representative of the rest of the UK).

6:01 pm, November 19, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Luke

6:07 pm, November 19, 2009

Anonymous Arnold said...

Hope you're not doing party political stuff when you should be acting on behalf of the voters Luke ;-)

If you think things are OK for Labour then either:

1. People are being polite and lying
2. People really are not statistically representative of the rest of the UK

Stop supporting the unsupportable Luke and get rid of Brown.

6:11 pm, November 19, 2009

Blogger tagskie said...

hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day! http://kantahanan.blogspot.com/

8:30 pm, November 19, 2009

Anonymous Chas said...

Fantastic! Thirty years of internecine strife should keep your lot out of government for a generation. Keep it up.

9:45 pm, November 19, 2009

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

People like me? Good God! The very thought! Luke - you should distance yourself from me, quickly!! I don't criticise the government enough!!

I haven't read Bob's article yet, so can't really comment. To be fair, Luke, you often ARE very sectarian - usually in quite an unapologetic way! It's often entertaining enough, and it does - I would concur - focus on the political rather than the personal. But left-baiting has always been part of this blog's brief, surely? Hence the 'subtitles for the hard of left' gag, etc.

To be fair to Luke - when he was National Secretary of Labour Students I remember (vaguely - I wouldn't like people to get the impression I was still living in the student politics of the mid-90s...) presenting a series of concerns about conference arrangements to Luke and - while I wasn't satisfied with the outcome - he did treat them seriously and answer them all; he could easily have dismissed the communication as hard left 'whinging'...

12:01 am, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comrades. Doncha just luv em.

Wait until the election is over. Then we'll see the knives out. Luvely jubbly.

Go on. My son. Get stuck in.

12:37 am, November 20, 2009

Anonymous rob smith said...


don't bother about Bobbie he is a loud mouth egotist who slags off anyone who dares to disagree with him - he even slanders and hates his own trade union.

1:12 am, November 20, 2009

Anonymous bob said...

Tiocfaidh ar La

7:37 am, November 20, 2009

Blogger Newmania said...

Er... I'm on the front line as a (admittedly in one of the most deprived parts of central London so not statistically representative of the rest of the UK).

Yes Luke it is deprived area but it also home to a Metropolitan New Labour elite who despise provincial working class voters . You are after all but an eco friendly cycle ride from Upper Street the very birthplace of New Labour and I have no doubt you frequently lunch there sipping from elegant wine glasses and nibbling on Olives , ..
“ This bottle of Sancerre , lets call that White van man and this nut selection , lets say that’s Mums net woman ....blah blah... honestly darling he actually dislikes the EU ...(silvery laugh).... Oh forget that oik Piper darling I know his MP , mooa mooaa must fly ciao darling putting kids down for Public school...”

Thats your life Luke, you cannot deny it

11:02 am, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, well, well Luke, you're only too happy to dish out personal vicious attacks on people within and outside your own party, but when you are picked up on this by a well respected mature councillor, you spend hours trawling through your old blogs trying to disprove the bleeding obvious.
Me thinks you do protest too much...
You on the front line? Don't make me laugh. When you ring up the 300 or so people in your ward - the majority of whom are not even English speakers, do you explain how you support Extraordinary Rendition, Guantanamo, Zionist Israel bombing Palestinians back to the Stone Age?
No, thought not, otherwise you'd never get re-elected, comrade!

11:14 am, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you've defended yourself Luke. Calling you a sectarian is like calling Ken Clarke a sectarian.

You simply retain honourable positions which you defend.

This characterisation of you as an Islington luvvie mwah mwahing is a joke to anyone that knows you. Luke's life revolves between Hackney Council and Homerton Hospital.

Frankly I don't know anyone more on the frontline than Luke.

1:19 pm, November 20, 2009

Blogger Martin Meenagh said...

Far be it from me to intrude into private grief--but in what world is praise for a nuclear-bomb laden submarine, an obituary, and over a dozen posts attacking other members of the political class who happen to be in different parties positive? You've counted them as such. I acknowledge that you said 'from a Labour perspective' beforehand.

I'd also caution you to look at liability for the debts of the Labour Party if it goes bankrupt. They used to rest on the NEC. Still, you could always cadge a lift with Harriet Harman away from the scene--skills she'll soon be able to practice in the inevitable OJ-style chase....

1:27 pm, November 20, 2009

Blogger kris said...

I think I've found my a soul-mate in Arnold.

4:13 pm, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Newmania's point is crap.

Anyone who has been to Islington South knows it has a nice street running up the middle and some nice Georgian houses but is actually one of the poorest constituencies in the UK.

5:12 pm, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Islington was like Kensington - posh.

Shows how much us country bumpkins know about the capital!

6:18 pm, November 20, 2009

Blogger Mike Blakeney said...

"people who are calling for a leadership coup"

I suppose the point is that we're not.

6:40 pm, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Azon 459 said...

That's why you're going to lose the next election Mike.

Big time and it serves you right - you can feel the despair in Labour supporters in Wales.

The party is not supposed to be about the Kensington set, twats like the Milibands, it's supposed to be about the working classes.

For 12 years you have shit on us from a great height and at the election we are going to return the favour...

8:05 pm, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

Bob Piper is pretty rude and needs to stop being a plotter.
I don't know what his problem is?
He needs to lighten up, and be bit nicer.

10:46 pm, November 20, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dirty Euro - the guy is just a realist and if you care about our party why aren't you?

Brown has got to go. If you can show me someone who actually likes this man I'll show you a liar.

Forget loyalty and dump this chump.

The guy is s"*t and you know it and you are a Labour voter. Being the least popular prime minister since records began and then some, tells you all you need to know, Christ even John Major never got so low in popularity and he had the guts to call an election and he won it :-(

At the Queens speech the Labour benches were even emptier than at the conference - the MP's know it's over - why don't you?

12:22 am, November 21, 2009

Anonymous Clapton Ali said...

" ... as Chief Whip in Hackney I was more often than not the one arguing against suspensions from the group ... "

As often as not, you had a vested interest in not being associated with someone at risk of suspension so you argued against their suspension! Your actions were self-serving and you wanted to avoid exposure of bad behaviour and corruption within the Group.

Admittedly your postings over the past 3 or 6 months have not been particularly "negative" [reflecting your recent physical condition perhaps] but over the long-term, the last 3 years say, you have spent enormous amounts of time and energy devoted to vitriolic attacks, often on people just trying to do their best at doing public service too.

Your attitude has been "if you can not stand the heat get out of the kitchen" and yet now you can not stand the heat yourself.

I think it is called Karma.

Luke, please forget your personal ambitions and get back to replaying Napoleonic battles and other harmless past times. I sincerely hope you enjoy a long and peaceful retirement from politics. May it come soon.

1:20 am, November 21, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Clapton Ali,

I don't have "personal" ambitions - just an ambition to contribute to making Labour electable.

Thanks but no plans to "retire" just yet while my involvement in politics upsets people like you. A major neurological illness/cancer hasn't been able to stop me fighting for what I believe in so I've no intention of lowering the red flag yet.

I'm fine with attacks that slam my political views - I'm proud of what I believe in and if people don't like it then that's their problem.

Nor do I mind being attacked back when I've dished something out - a certain Lib Dem cllr in Islington has the right to respond in kind to stuff I've said about her.

But your accusation that I would behave improperly in a disciplinary scenario as whip, to further my own political agenda, is a libel, but one you can get away with because you use a pseudonym.

And what offended me about Cllr Piper's remarks is that they concluded that I am unfit to hold an office in the party which is quite different from saying he won't vote for me because of my views or the tone of my blog posts.

I very much enjoy the heat of the political kitchen - in fact I wear it as a badge of honour if people whose own views I see as wrong, ridiculous or daft are attacking me - but I won't turn a blind eye if criticism crosses over into unsubstantiated character assassination or attempts to smear my reputation with falsehoods.

6:59 pm, November 21, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...But running for office in the Labour Party, or writing this blog, doesn't give people who disagree with me a licence to smear my character, behaviour or motives"

What goes around comes a round - you have heaped vitriol on individuals, but you can't take it yourself - what a wimp!

8:04 pm, November 21, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

That's the first time anyone's ever called me a wimp.

The vitriol I dish out is aimed at parties or political organisations, or on the rare occasions I attack a named individual it's an attack on their political views or conduct. I don't make up stuff about their character or denigrate them personally, a) because that would be cheap and b)because I have the guts to write this in my own name so I'd get sued for libel if I did.

11:03 pm, November 21, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sitting at a keyboard spewing bile does not require much guts - its cowardly. Hence the final line in your piece on Bob - lets discuss this in a 'comradely' way, blah blah - really funny

5:48 pm, November 22, 2009

Blogger John said...

I guess the truth hurts.

11:40 am, November 24, 2009

Blogger Andy Howell said...

There's a certain amount of over-reaction here.

But Luke, you are over the top in your sectarianism.

You're pop at Compass is a point in question. Compass are not planning to topple the PM — you are just repeat nonsense despite clear comments from Compass on this. I know this to be true because unlike you I was at the meeting.

If you were more even handed, objective and thorough in your research I would have more time for your argument.

I'm with Bob.

12:21 pm, November 24, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


I plead guilty to being subjective.

If you are looking for an objective analysis of people I disagree with, then the BBC is a better starting point than a proudly partisan blog.

Re. the Compass post though, if I am wrong about this then so are the highly paid full-time political journalists whose Guardian story I merely responded to.

2:40 pm, November 24, 2009

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


The official Compass statement about the Guardian article didn't rebut the allegation that the leadership had been discussed. It says:

"The Compass Management Committee recently had a routine meeting and had a conversation about the political situation and the uphill struggle facing Labour and its leadership. Sadly some of the conversation was given to the press."

2:43 pm, November 24, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Piper should be applauded for drawing attention to Luke's nastiness. Your opinions and attitude would clearly be more at home in the Tories (or perhaps the BNP) than Labour. Fancy describing yourself as a supporter of NATO and Israel on your homepage and expecting people to believe that you are in some way a democrat, a socialist or a social democrat. Thank god you've no chance of actually winning a seat on the NEC!

11:12 pm, November 30, 2009


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