I am standing for Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) because we need a decent and rational governing body that supports Keir’s leadership and wants ‘Labour to Win’. My starting point is one of lifelong loyalty to the party. I voted for Starmer in the leadership election and I am delighted that he won. I want to work on the NEC to make his leadership a success, to reunite and rebuild a divided and demoralised Labour Party after four consecutive general election defeats and to get Labour into fighting shape for the next general election. I will work constructively with anyone, from any tradition in the party, who is committed to its unity and electoral success.
I am proud to be standing as part of a team of candidates from a wide range of political currents within Labour, all focused on party unity. Starmer is making rapid progress in restoring our credibility, our moral purpose and our focus on winning so that we can change the country into a fairer, more equal society. But he needs an NEC around him that will help him do that – not act as a roadblock to essential changes. I and my fellow Labour to Win candidates Johanna Baxter, Gurinder Singh Josan, Terry Paul, Michael Payne and Shama Tatler want to represent members as friends of Starmer, but willing to hold the leadership to account when it falls short, and provide the party with experienced, effective and accountable governance.
I am passionate about tackling poverty and inequality. As a parent and cancer survivor with a disability, I will fight to defend our NHS and schools from Tory cuts. But we cannot help the people Labour was founded to fight for unless we can win power. That requires moving on decisively from the self-indulgence of the last five years.
The party wasted five years talking to ourselves about our own policy hobby horses and ideological purity, not developing the pragmatic solutions voters wanted. The party turned on its own elected representatives and tried to find ways to deselect them, instead of helping them campaign against the Tories. The party became a place where instead of experiencing comradeliness and pluralism, members were hounded out for expressing dissent or, even worse, because they were Jewish. The public saw what we had become and punished us with the worst election defeat since 1935.
We need NEC members who are experienced campaigners and can contribute useful insights to the development of our plans to win in 2024. I bring over 30 years’ experience of grassroots campaigning to the table. As a previous parliamentary candidate, full-time and later voluntary organiser, I have first-hand knowledge of what works in local campaigning. As campaign manager in the Hackney borough elections in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, I ran campaigns that increased the number of Labour seats from 29 to 50.
We need NEC members who will uphold the rules and the highest standards of behaviour in the party and change the culture of bullying, factionalism and undermining of hard-working MPs and councillors, which damaged us so much in the last five years. We need NEC members who will have zero tolerance of, and take tough disciplinary action against, the antisemitism that has damaged our moral standing as a party – and against any other form of hatred or discrimination that raises its head. My track record dealing fairly and objectively with difficult disciplinary and selection issues as a council chief whip for seven years, as a regional board member and on the NEC disputes panel shows that I do the right thing when confronted with contentious issues – not what is politically expedient.
My political hero Neil Kinnock, who inspired me to join Labour as a 16-year-old angry about the inequality, unemployment and cuts to public services I saw in the Thatcher years, has been kind enough to say this about me: “Luke Akehurst stands up for rank-and-file members, has sound judgement, passionate commitment to democratic socialism, decades of campaigning experience and the guts to take the tough decisions needed to win power for Labour. He’ll certainly get one of my NEC votes.” I hope you will agree and give me the chance to serve the party I love.