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Labour First is a British political organisation associated with the British Labour Party, originally founded in 1980, but refounded in 1988.
Born out of Labour's struggles with, and eventual expulsion of, the Trotskyist entryist Militant organisation, it sees itself as protecting the tradition of the "old Labour right". It organises petitions, endorses likeminded candidates, and runs events.
The original Labour First formed in 1980 as a grouping of MPs on the right of the Labour Party who, while politically aligned with fellow Labour right faction, The Manifesto Group, desired a more collegiate party and thought that the bitter left-right factional battles of the 1970s and 1980s were damaging the party's electoral prospects. The group's chair was Brynmor John and its secretary was Edmund Marshall. By 1983 the grouping had effectively merged into the Labour Solidarity Campaign, the successor to The Manifesto Group.
In late 1987, the Labour Solidarity Campaign was in the process of winding itself up, believing that it had won its fight against the hard left. A core of Labour Solidarity activists centred around John Spellar argued that there was a need to continue to organise and with Brynmor John's permission, continued under the Labour First name, thus founding the current incarnation of Labour First.
Aims and views
It aims to keep the Labour Party "safe from the influence" of what it erroneously calls the "organised Hard Left", such as Momentum, ensuring that moderate voices are heard and thus ensuring that Labour remains as electable as possible in the Westminster parliamentary system through policies that make a difference for ordinary people. It calls these aims "Clause One Socialism", after Clause One of the Labour Party constitution, which sets the Labour Party's aims as maintaining a Labour Party in parliament.
It also represents the historic pro-NATO, pro-United States and pro-nuclear deterrent tradition in the party, and was historically pro-European Union. Recently it has become more neutral on the subject of EU membership, as a number of MPs aligned with it sit in seats that voted heavily to leave the EU in the 2016 Referendum and thus have chosen to respect their constituents' wishes.
In 2018, its secretary, Luke Akehust called on "the historically mainstream wing" to fight in "saving Labour and restoring it to decency".
Structure and activities
Labour First is an network of freely associating Labour Party members who share their personal contact details with the organisation. It maintains a network of volunteer local organisers.
In 2016, the Birmingham Mail identified MPs John Spellar, Tom Watson and Ian Austin as having links with Labour First, and reported it as describing itself as "a network of Labour moderates fighting against Momentum and other Hard Left groups to keep Labour as a broad-based and electable party". MP Khalid Mahmood has also attended Labour First events.
Its secretary is Luke Akehurst. Akehurst was a Labour councillor in Hackney for 12 years and spent 11 years as a lobbyist for a PR company, working with Weber Shandwick, largely for the defence industry, as well as for property companies and local authorities. More recently, he became director of BICOM's We Believe in Israel project. In 2017, Labour First employed its first full-time national organiser. In 2019, a digital organiser was also employed.
It organises petitions, endorses moderate candidates in Labour Party elections, and runs a series of meet-ups and events both at Labour Party conference and in the country at large.
It is funded through individual donations from Labour Party members.
Links with Progress
Historically, Labour First had little connection with Progress, a more recent Labour party factional organisation on the right of the Labour party, originally associated with New Labour. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum in the Labour Party have seen Progress and Labour First, while remaining distinct organisations with different traditions, carry out more joint activities, including joint endorsement of right-wing candidates in internal party elections.
During the 2020 Labour Party leadership election, Labour First formed a joint venture with Progress called Reclaiming Labour, holding meetings around the country analysing why Labour lost heavily in the 2019 United Kingdom general election.
- "Antisemitism, Cosmopolitanism and the politics of Labour's 'old' and 'new' right wings". opendemocracy.net.
- "Where next for the Labour Right". Jacobin magazine.
- Dianne Hayter (2005). Fightback!: Labour's traditional right in the 1970s and 1980s. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0 7190 7271 9.
- Chakelian, Anoosh (23 October 2015). "Labour's warring factions: who do they include and what are they fighting over?". New Statesman. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
- "Clause One Socialists will win the day". Progress.
- "About Labour First". Labour First.
- Akehurst, Luke (31 July 2018). "Luke Akehurst: Thinking of leaving Labour? Here's why you should stay and fight". Labour List. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
- Walker, Jonathan (1 December 2016). "Labour 'moderate' group backed by MPs seeks donations to fight Jeremy Corbyn's supporters". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
- "Why non-Jewish Luke's family has always given support to Israel". Jewish Telegraph.
- Edwards, Peter (6 January 2017). "Labour First recruits key organiser to oppose Corbynistas after cash call". LabourList. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
- "The problem with the Labour Right". labouruncut.co.uk.
- "Joint NEC slate with Labour First announced". Progress.
- "Reclaiming Labour". reclaiminglabour.org.