Posts Tagged ‘Luke Akehurst’

AV would end the scourge of tactical voting

09/12/2010, 11:24:00 AM

by Luke Akehurst

One of the great myths about the alternative vote (AV) is that it will predominantly benefit the Lib Dems.

I’ve spent all my political life trying to expose the Lib Dems and resisting calls for tactical voting for them. As an election agent one of my proudest moments was when Hackney Labour reduced the Lib Dems from 17 seats to just 3 on our local council.

But I see no contradiction between this and my support for a Yes vote in the AV referendum next May.

The starting point when judging any electoral system is not a snapshot of the partisan benefit to your own party, but whether that system delivers for voters.

AV isn’t proportional representation, so it does not necessarily deliver an improvement on first-past-the-post (FPTP) when it comes to proportionality (that is, share of votes relating to share of seats). (more…)

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Luke Akehurst reports from his first meeting of Labour’s NEC

03/12/2010, 07:00:35 AM

by Luke Akehurst

I approached my first full NEC meeting on 30 November with some trepidation, expecting a baptism of fire.

Six and a half hours later I emerged from Labour’s 39 Victoria Street HQ feeling euphoric and more optimistic about Labour’s fightback than at any point since the “election that never was” in 2007.

I apologise now that I will not be providing a verbatim report of key debates, unlike that provided by another NEC member after the September meeting. The papers are clearly marked “confidential”, much material is financially or politically sensitive (in the sense of providing useful intel to other parties) or relates to specific individual staff or members, and colleagues have a right to make their points in confidence without seeing them broadcast.

Within those constraints, I’ll try to paint as full a picture as I can. (more…)

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Together we are stronger

19/11/2010, 04:42:56 PM

by Jessica Asato

Is social action ‘un-Labour’? On Twitter, I recently praised this Progress article by Tessa Jowell. In it she describes what fun she and her local party had during a day of volunteering in her constituency clearing flower beds, planting bulbs and launching a new tenants’ association. I suggested in my Tweet that this is the sort of grassroots community engagement local CLPs across the country should be emulating.

I wasn’t prepared for the reaction which came from two Labour councillors and campaigners whom I much admire – Antonia Bance and Luke Akehurst. “We’re not Tories; our social action is making the system work for ordinary people, not isolated acts of benevolence”, wrote Antonia. “I’m with Antonia on this”, wrote Luke, “I think it’s a bit tokenistic and a sticking plaster where we need a shield”.

I can see where they are both coming from. Labour people shouldn’t have any truck with the idea of noblesse oblige or that entrenched social and economic inequalities can be transformed by acts of charity. Or “the big society”, for that matter.

But if Labour members plant some bulbs with local residents, this can’t mean that they have capitulated to one nation Toryism? Our history should tell us otherwise. The strike by the Bryant and May factory girls in the late nineteenth century was an impressive display of the growing power of organised labour, but it was still supported by the soup kitchens of the salvation army. Early socialists did not just agitate for justice, they tried to build it through social activism. The two should not be mutually exclusive.

Matt Carter, in his fantastic, if dense, book on TH Green and the development of ethical socialism, writes that this strand of Labour’s early thinking places “individual moral development and character above simple state reforms”. According to Carter, ethical socialism recognises that “however beneficial state action is, it cannot simply force through social improvement”. If one lesson should be learnt from the last 13 years of Labour in power, it is that unless we take the public with us, our progressive reforms will be smashed to pieces the moment we are out of it. Too often, New Labour imposed change on our poorest communities, rather than taking them on a journey where citizens felt they owned that change.

Planting bulbs may seem a far cry from a discussion about the role of the state, but reconnecting with people, in a soggy trousers, dirty hands sort of a way, is essential if we want to engage in a wider debate about what the party should do in power. This is what David Miliband understood when he launched the movement for change as part of his leadership campaign. In his Keir Hardie lecture, Miliband spoke of how the Labour movement was “built on ethical relationships that were forged between people through common action”, and how Hardie embodied this: “Hardie was not a mechanical reformer who tried to bring about change through external control. He was a moral reformer who understood that you cannot create virtuous people by bureaucratic methods”.

Of course, it would be better if the system ran perfectly, with the state keeping flower beds neat and the new tenants’ association not needing Labour’s support to get it going. But there should be more to Labour’s aims than keeping the bureaucracy in check. Our mission should be to help build the conditions necessary for people to become the best they can be, in a society which is the best it can be. Robert Putnam’s seminal paper, Bowling Alone, developed the theory that the decline of situations in which people could interact socially had led to a decline in trust and political engagement. In its simplest form, when we get together with others we develop bonds which make it easier to trust one another and understand differences. We share knowledge, networks, news, jokes and cups of tea, which helps society to rub along better. Facilitating these opportunities should partly be Labour’s role. If we say we speak on behalf of deprived communities, that has to be real, otherwise we take these people’s names in vain.

No one is saying that members from local parties scrubbing off graffiti will solve the deficit or poverty. (Well, except for some Tories perhaps). But it helps to open up a conversation which is far better than “can I ask which political party you usually support at election time”? That has to be a step forward.

Jessica Asato is a social media consultant and Islington councillor.

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The old cancer at the heart of the student riot

11/11/2010, 09:00:18 AM

by Luke Akehurst

THE SAD lesson of the hijacking of part of Wednesday’s NUS demo – by a small minority who turned it into a mini-riot – is that some of the iron laws of left politics from the last time there was a Tory PM still hold true.

The mainstream left, whether that’s the Labour party, its affiliated trade unions, NUS or other organisations campaigning against the cuts needs to know that the bad guys are not all to our right on the political spectrum.

Idealistically, we might have thought that the sheer horror of the cuts being proposed by the Tory-Lib Dem government would mean all forces on the left in Britain could unite to protest and fight to protect key public services and benefits.

Wednesday’s behaviour killed that idealistic dream as it probably killed the political enthusiasm of some of the 50,000 ordinary students on the march.

On the plus side 49,000+ of them marched peacefully. By any stretch that’s a remarkable political mobilisation. The entire membership of all the student political organisations in the UK plus non-student supporters and non-partisan student union activists does not get anywhere near 10,000 people. So 80% or more of the marchers were “real people” driven to political protest by the government, not long-term political activists.

This should therefore have been a marvellous opportunity to get an entire new generation involved in politics, inspired by participation in a powerful protest that would have got their case all over the media and put fear in the hearts of the Lib Dem MPs who betrayed their erstwhile student voters. This should have been the start of a campaign that would have seen those 50,000 marchers go back to their colleges and work to either stop a government policy in its tracks or failing that contribute to mobilising their fellow students to evict Tory and Lib Dem MPs in university seats in the next general election. (more…)

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How not to find out the NEC results, by Kirstin Hay

02/10/2010, 02:30:21 PM

I arrived in Manchester ready to head down to the Labour leadership announcement with Johanna Baxter, one of the candidates for the national executive committee (NEC). There was trepidation in the air throughout the whole conference zone, everyone waiting anxiously to find out who would be the next person to lead our party. We had all known for months exactly when and how this announcement would take place. Unfortunately, this was not quite the case with the NEC results.

We turned up to conference without knowing which day they would announce the results (not that we hadn’t tried hard to find out). While we enjoyed finding out that Ed Miliband was going to lead our party, and attending the Ed Balls campaign party (Johanna and I had both been very involved in his campaign), the rest of the evening consisted of trying to gather information from national policy forum candidates and party officials (including asking the current chair of the NEC) about what the process was for announcing the results. None of which let Johanna know when her votes would be published. (more…)

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An elected party chair mustn’t become the plaything of MPs, says Joanne Milligan

06/08/2010, 12:30:45 PM

Many weeks ago, Labour leadership contender David Miliband proposed an election for the role of party chair as a step towards ensuring that there’s a voice for party members at the shadow cabinet table.

Discussion of the idea then escalated following a Jon Cruddas’s speech to the Labour Friends of Searchlight’s Organising to Win conference in which he declared that he would put himself forward for the post.

Subsequently, both national executive committee (NEC) member Peter Kenyon and NEC candidate Luke Akehurst took to the blogosphere to offer their views. A little surprisingly – for me anyway – I find more common ground with Peter than Luke on this issue (don’t worry Luke – that doesn’t mean you’ve lost my vote). (more…)

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