UK Labour names pro-Israel lobbyist as candidate amid ‘purge’

UK Labour named controversial pro-Israel lobbyist Luke Akehurst as their parliamentary candidate for North Durham on Wednesday, amid what critics say is a “purge” of leftwing and pro-Palestine MPs and candidates.

The appointment of Akehurst, director of the We Believe in Israel campaign group, comes ahead of the UK general election on 4 July and amid fractures within the party over its support for Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza.

Oxford resident Akehurst was not chosen by the local North Durham Labour party but was “parachuted” into the safe seat in Britain’s north, according to British media reports.

Akehurst joined the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in 2020, as the party marked a shift in direction when Kier Starmer took over the party’s leadership from veteran pro-Palestine MP Jeremy Corbyn.

The new North Durham candidate has long been a vocal supporter of Israel, including for its current war on Gaza.

During Israel’s eight-month assault on the Palestinian territory, he has defended the Israeli military’s actions, calling them neither “disproportionate” nor “genocide”.

He has also suggested that videos showing the aftermath of Israeli attacks on Palestinians are “staged” and has published posts on social media in favour of Israel annexing parts of occupied Palestine.

Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy staffer who was the subject of an Al Jazeera documentary in 2017 in which he discussed plans to “take down” Labour MPs, was filmed describing Akehurst as “one of the best inside [the party]”.

After his appointment on Wednesday, Akehurst deleted over 1,500 tweets, according to analysis done using internet archiving tools.

The reported deletion of tweets came as many X users trawled the Labour candidate’s social media use to highlight his political views.

Speaking to The Metro, the candidate said this practice is “quite standard” for those running in an election to “not give your opponents a large library of things that they can quote out of context”.

Akehurst also reaffirmed his support for a post in which he asked: “Aren’t Jews politically black?”.

He said his comment is “quite common as a position that people would take in discourse about race”.


Akehurst’s appointment has been met with backlash from activists online.

Trade Unionist and activist Howard Beckett shared a video of Akehurst admitting being pro-Zionist, adding that he is a “Zionist who believes the UN is antisemitic”.

Meanwhile, well-known rapper and pro-Palestine activist Lowkey alleged that the candidate and his group had tried to get his music removed from the music streaming platform Spotify. 

The Labour Party’s announcement comes after the party has been accused of purging left-wing candidates.

On Wednesday, Labour leader Keir Starmer denied his party had banned pro-Palestinian MP Diane Abbott from standing as a candidate in the upcoming general election after the MP said she had been barred.

The party suspended Abbott following accusations of antisemitism after she said the prejudice experienced by Jewish people was similar to, but not the same as, racism.

At the same time, another left-wing candidate, Faiza Shaheen, was banned from standing for the party after complaints came in that she ‘liked’ social media posts relating to Gaza and Israel.

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