Martin Bright

Akehurst v. Harris: The Labour Battlelines Are Drawn

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As readers of a right-wing magazine there is no reason you will have heard of the following individuals, but as this is supposed to be coming to you from enemy territory, listen and learn.

Luke Akehurst (activist, councillor, Labour parliamentary candidate in 2001 and 2005) has always been a passionate advocate of the centrist New Labour orthodoxy. Funny thing to get passionate about, you might think. But Luke's Blog has been essential reading for those fascinated by the minutiae of Labour politics for some time. Now there is a real possibility of Labour meltdown, those of Luke's persuasion is convinced that the true enemy of the party is, wait for it, "the soft left" as represented by the fashionable pressure group Compass and especially the Guardian pop writer and political commentator John Harris.

If you want an example of some of the arguments that are likely to emerge within the Labour Party in the second half of next year, look no further than Luke's thoughts on Harris's most recent Guardian column.

Here is the bullet-point summary of the Compass/Harris line as provided by Luke's Blog:


  • write off all the achievements of Labour in government as "outrages and disappointments" - the betrayal myth
  • casually attack and insult the PM for "serial failures and Neanderthal style" - without naming the failures, possibly because there haven't been any?
  • write off the General Election now and start planning for the mother of all faction fights
  • drive false ideological wedges between leading figures in the party to exacerbate the factional split
  • crudely smear your enemies as believing in "genuflection to business, an insistence on the market-driven reform of public services, a belief that Labour should dispose of its residual belief in equality"
  • make veiled threats about leaving Labour for "a new life alongside a few potential allies: Lib Dems, Greens, the unreconstructed Old Left" (I'm tempted to react with an anglo-saxon invitation to do so)
  • then, with complete hypocrisy, falsely accuse cabinet ministers with roots in the party going back generations of plotting a "realignment of the centre-right via the ultra-Blairite split that some Labour insiders have been mischievously predicting for a few years"
  • elevate Jon Cruddas to the messianic status accorded to Tony Benn last time round - the problem being that like Benn he will probably lose his seat if Labour loses as badly as Harris seems to be willing us to

I take my hat off to the man for his heartfelt rage that clearly comes from a deep political conviction. I have never known anyone to be quite so fired up by the politics of the centre-left (except perhaps Jessica Asato at the Blairite think-tank Progress).

I can't quite decide whether this level of passion will save the Labour Party or destroy it.