Home » Tensions Erupt at Luke Akehurst Protest in Durham North

Tensions Erupt at Luke Akehurst Protest in Durham North

by Mohammed Ahmed
Tensions Erupt at Luke Akehurst Protest in Durham North

Violence and heightened tensions erupted at a protest against Labour candidate Luke Akehurst outside Pelton Community Centre in North Durham. The demonstration, involving pro-Palestine supporters, turned violent as the protesters were assaulted by supporters of Labour candidate Luke Akehurst.

Luke Akehurst, who sits on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) as a representative of constituency Labour parties (CLPs), has sparked a strong backlash following his selection. Akehurst, an influential voice on the right of the Labour Party, has a long history of party activism, joining in 1988 at the age of 16 and serving as a councillor on Hackney Council in London from 2002 until 2014. He has also run unsuccessfully for Parliament in Aldershot (2001) and Castle Point (2005).

Akehurst is the director of the London-based lobby group We Believe in Israel and the secretary of Labour First, an Oxford-based organization aiming to keep the Labour party “safe from the organised hard left.” On the We Believe in Israel website, Akehurst is described as a committed Zionist, despite not being Jewish.

Akehurst’s selection is controversial primarily due to his pro-Israel stance. He has denied that Israel’s actions in Gaza have been “disproportionate” and supported Israel’s right to keep land with settlements considered illegal under international law. In October 2022, Akehurst tweeted that he considered the United Nations to be antisemitic in response to the UN calling out Israel’s illegal settlements.

His positions have attracted significant criticism from those who oppose his views on Israel and Gaza, contributing to the backlash against his selection to Labour’s NEC.

The protest began with demonstrators voicing their opposition to Akehurst’s candidacy. Akehurst’s partner, Linda Smith, an Oxford Labour Party councillor, exacerbated the situation by telling the pro-Palestine demonstrators that their views belonged in Iran.

During the protest, a small group of Akehurst’s supporters, approximately four or five individuals, started threatening the pro-Palestinian demonstrators. One of Akehurst’s supporters, a labour councillor, was seen engaging amicably with individuals who were intimidating the protestors.

As the situation intensified, protestors blockaded Akehurst’s car outside the community centre. The police were called to the scene and arrived shortly thereafter to manage the escalating confrontation. Eventually, Akehurst was escorted away by the police.

Local residents were also caught up in the turmoil. A children’s party booked at the community centre months in advance was disrupted by the protest. Party attendees were angered by the derogatory comments made by some of Akehurst’s supporters.

Inside the North Durham CLP meeting, frustrations ran high among Labour Party members. Many were unaware of Akehurst’s candidacy until it was announced on social media late Thursday. They expressed their discontent over the imposition of Akehurst as a candidate, highlighting that there were three local candidates prepared to run for selection in the constituency.

Akehurst was blocked in his car by pro-Palestinian activists. Supporters of his were instructed to block cameras and placards were used to obstruct views of Akehurst so he would not be photographed.

The scene underscored the deep divisions and high stakes in the upcoming election, raising questions about the Labour Party’s candidate selection process and the ability of candidates to engage constructively with the public.

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