Meet Luke Akehurst, part of Britain’s ‘pro-Israel furniture’ and now Labour MP

Labour has taken the hit for ‘balanced’ Gaza stance, he says in an interview with the JC


Luke Akehurst MP in Parliament's Westminster Hall. Credit: Twitter/X

 “War criminal”, “Likud Luke loves a bit of scampy [sic] between lobbying for Israel!”, “I bet there are many Palestinian children who wish they could also eat food.”

These are just some online reactions Luke Akehurst, the new Labour MP for North Durham, elicited when he posted a photo of himself tucking into scampi and chips at a local pub during the election campaign.

The former head of advocacy group We Believe in Israel was unfazed. He told the JC: “I’m glad that it had no cut through with ordinary people. The electorate in North Durham are completely indifferent to this.”

The new MP, 52, describes himself as “part of the furniture of the pro-Israel movement in the UK”. He has been inundated with supportive messages from the network of nearly 30,000 pro-Israel supporters he has built up over the years. He’ll miss visiting synagogues. “It was a huge privilege to be invited into a place of worship and to get an insight into the feelings and thoughts of a community. I think I clocked-up the best part of 200 different synagogue speaker meetings. That was quite profound experience for me to be welcomed, as a non-Jewish person, into the heart of communal life.”

Akehurst, who has served on Labour’s governing body the National Executive Committee, is a veteran organiser of the party’s moderate faction Labour First. “I’ve been part of politically marginalising the Corbynite left, and the even more extreme fringe left beyond them. I can understand why they don’t like that.”

He was happy with Labour’s manifesto stance on Israel. “It advocated for a two-state solution. And that’s something I’ve always profoundly believed in. I’m a Zionist, I believe in the rights of the Jewish people to a nation state. It would be odd and inconsistent if I didn’t also believe in the rights of the Palestinian people to a nation state and the way to eventually bring peace to the region is a two-state solution.”

He is not worried that pressure in heavily Muslim constituencies could affect foreign policy. “The Labour Party has already taken the hit electorally for taking the balanced stance it did on the Gaza conflict,” he said.

“Some good people lost their seats to pretty awful independent candidates and other people had a very difficult general election campaign and were put under a lot of pressure. But I think Keir Starmer will want to do what is right and what is in the national interest. I don’t think he’s going to be determining his stance on foreign policy questions based on electoral impact. That would be hugely inappropriate.”

He believes his party should find ways to reconnect with Muslim voters: “It’s unhealthy for any political party to have a situation where any ethnic or faith group feels alienated from it… it requires a deep engagement and reconnection with Muslim community, because it’s not a healthy thing to have to have those kinds of divisions.”

His first priority is his constituents. But he wants to thank supporters of We Believe in Israel for their support. ​He added: “The Jewish community in the UK should be really proud of the way that it’s reacted to almost impossible-to-imagine horrors.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive