For God's sake Luke, get a picture that isn't so little........
Yesterday evening provided concrete proof that the old cliché about men not being able to multi-task is nonsense. I managed to watch the Holland-Germany game and get into a Twitter flame war with Luke Akehurst, who appears to have taken umbrage at me describing him as a ‘wanker’. It got even messier after I had gone to bed as various other people took to the stage, and as with most Twitter flame wars, it all got a bit ridiculous. Nothing to do with me I assure you. The use of ‘wanker’ was in the most profound political sense of the word, and my digs about Christiano Ronaldo and knob-measuring were polemical and satirical.
Leaving that aside, let’s try and tease out the political issues here. Mambo style.
The debate, if you can call it that, began with the recent furore over GMB moves to get Progress turfed out of the Labour Party. There isn’t anything particularly substantive as yet, but there is probably something afoot, as this article points out.
On the actual issue in question, I don’t agree with witch-hunts of any sort, wouldn’t want Akehurst and his co-thinkers driven out of the party in a purge, however much I dislike him/them and I’m not entirely sure what this step is designed to achieve in any case. The focus should be on intellectually defeating the neo-Blairites, and if they decide to leave the party then, well, good riddance to them. (To be honest it seems like a bit of an empty left-wing gesture by the GMB, something that the trade union movement in this country is depressingly keen on. Some real militancy would be far more desirable. But anyway, that’s a debate for another day…..)
Luke Akehurst, a prominent right-winger in the party and the subject of a couple of previous articles here at the Mambo, is a member of Progress and has naturally come out against the plans. His choice of language to get his point bordered on the surreal though:
First they will come for Progress.
Then they will come for Labour First.
Then they will come to take over your CLP and deselect you as an MP or councillor.
Then they will come for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.
Then they will come for the union executives and general secretaries.
But there will be no one left to fight them.
Akehurst clearly thought it would be appropriate to re-write the words of Pastor Niemöller, who famously used similar words to defend the idea of a united front against the Nazis. One would hope that whilst writing this Akehurst would have paused and contemplated what he was doing and thought again. Apparently not though. Akehurst sadly appears not to be blessed with vast amounts of self-awareness and always resorts to the hyperbolic when making his argument. (And for those of you thinking he sounds like a kindred spirit of the Mambo, you can piss off!)
And irony is a concept also seemingly lost on Akehurst. Over the years the man has been an unashamed witch-hunter himself, and he seems to take a sadistic pleasure gloating over the persecution of the left in the party (and for what exactly? Are he and the Labour right so desperate for the approval of the Daily Mail that they are willing to expend all their efforts attacking socialists?) Does he not like the taste of his own medicine? Again, apparently not.
And this is the nub of the issue. I wouldn’t support a proscription of Progress, but it is very difficult to feel sorry for them. And the truth, regardless of their feeble attempts to suggest otherwise (thanks for being so ‘mainstream’ guys, an interesting way of describing your support for Conservative austerity…..), is that they are guilty of ‘factional activity’ and are undermining the struggle against the Conservatives. The arguments used to justify expulsion of the Militant can be equally applied to Progress. The only distinction for Akehurst, Dan Hodges etc. is that they agree with the politics of Progress and disagreed with the Militant and other radical left groupings, so Progress have a free hand to undermine the leadership but the Militant needed to be purged.
For the right, the 1980s was never about making the party more ‘effective’. It was about trying to get the party to adopt their preferred policies. And to do that they had to rid themselves of those pesky left-wingers who think that taking one’s cue from the Sun is probably a mistake.
Progress, a group whose reason for being appears only to be to drag the party further and further to the right, can only ever be destructive to the Labour Party, as the 1980s amply demonstrated. They do need to combatted. Just not in the way being proposed by the GMB.
In one of his tweets last night (after I’d gone to bed so I missed them at the time….) Akehurst asked a pertinent question:
@itsthemamboson so why exactly do I deserve all opprobium that I don’t see u dish out to oth candidates (on + off my slate) w same views
It’s a fair one and Akehurst is right in so far as he does get a lot of stick, and I have to confess I have been pretty unpleasant about him over the last couple of months. He’s also right to point out that his political views on public services aren’t anything like as wretched as many of the other supporters of Progress, who on many questions are unreconstructed neoliberals totally in awe of the free market and Thatcherite TINAism :
@itsthemamboson I voted for Ed M for leader. I put a lot of energy into supporting the union link. Cllr in LA that brought services in house
@itsthemamboson because my politics don’t justify that – I’m not on the right of the party spectrum on issues like public services
Which again is fair enough. His views on most questions are clearly more representative of the Labour mainstream than mine are. I’m not foolish enough to think that the Labour Party is full of oppressed radical socialists. It isn’t any more, in most parts of the country.
But the reason that he attracts such bile is simple, and isn’t because of his views on matters of policy.
He actively courts the vitriol with his behaviour and outbursts.
Invoking Pastor Niemöller in his recent article was repugnant but sadly representative of his style.
He can’t stop banging on about The Red Menace threatening to destroy the party and drive him out. It’s Akehurst that is the persecuted victim we are all being told. A laughable, myopic misreading of the party’s current trajectory.
Firstly that left doesn’t exist, and Akehurst’s only argument for its existence is that he frequently gets abused on Twitter. (Its paranoia, but politically expedient paranoia of course………….)
And second the left’s commitment to democracy is far greater than the right’s (which is why talk of expulsions is so counterproductive, we would just be making martyrs of Progress when there are far better, and more ethical ways of countering their wholly malignant influence)
The terminology he uses when describing his opponents is positively McCarthyite, especially when he gets angry. As I stated above he revels in the language and methodology of persecution and expulsion. He goes around accusing people of being scabs with no justification and clearly no understanding of the word.
And worst of all he seems constitutionally incapable of accepting that the New Labour years were a failure. The reason he is a member of Progress I assume. The collection of mostly middle-class white men and women in their late twenties and thirties, largely schooled in student and single-issue politics and who have absolutely no understanding of working class politics or empathy with the struggles of ordinary working class people that make up so many of the cadres in the Labour Party now have nothing to offer the current situation bar the same old failed, discredited and immoral free market, cut-supporting and state-shrinking banalities. Triangulation and Blairism to their deluded eyes still reigns supreme.
Sadly the people making the comedy death threats against Luke Akehurst last night allowed that to be forgotten, which was a mistake.