LABOUR have been derided after selecting Luke Akehurst, an Israel lobbyist who has described the United Nations as “antisemitic”, as their General Election candidate for North Durham.

Akehurst is based in Oxford, but North Durham is a Labour safe seat hundreds of miles away.

The selection has caused outrage on the left of Labour, especially as it comes as Diane Abbott – the UK’s first black woman MP – has been barred from standing for the party.

Who is Luke Akehurst and why has his selection sparked such a strong backlash?

Akehurst sits on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) as a member representing constituency Labour parties (CLPs). He is seen as an influential voice on the right of the Labour Party.

When running for the position on the NEC, Akehurst said in his pitch that he was “a Labour Party member in Oxford, having previously been a member and activist in Canterbury, Bristol, and London”. He said he had joined the party in 1988, aged 16. 

From 2002 until 2014, Akehurst was a councillor on Hackney Council in London.

He has previously run for Labour in Aldershot in Hampshire in the 2001 General Election, and in Castle Point in Essex in 2005. He failed to be elected on both occasions.

Akehurst works as the director of the London-based lobby group We Believe in Israel and the secretary of the Oxford-based Labour First, which has the stated aim of keeping the Labour party “safe from the organised hard left”.

On his profile on the We Believe in Israel website, it states: “Luke Akehurst has been director of We Believe in Israel since its foundation in 2011. Luke is not Jewish but has been a committed Zionist all his life.”

He also worked for 11 years at the PR firm Weber Shandwick.

Why is Luke Akehurst controversial?

Akehurst has primarily faced controversy over his position on Israel, which has seen him deny the country’s action in Gaza has been “disproportionate” and support Israel’s right to keep land on which it has placed settlements considered illegal under international law.

In one tweet from October 2022, which is still live, Akehurst said he considered the United Nations to be antisemitic in response to a direct question highlighting the body calling out Israel’s illegal settlements.

The National:

In a series of tweets posted in November 2023, Akehurst said that he considered a video of the aftermath of an attack on Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, shown by Sky News, to be staged.

"Graphic clip I just watched on @SkyNewsBreak of alleged hit on Shifa Hospital in Gaza is identical to that circulated earlier today fronted by the Hamas actor known on here as #MrFAFO. Please can news outlets at least do basic due diligence that they are not using fake footage,” he wrote.

He then doubled down, saying that a longer version of the video made it “more obvious it is staged”, adding: “The same actor is in multiple videos of different alleged incidents - you can view them all on the #MrFAFO hashtag.”

“Mr Fafo” or “Mr Pallywood” is a name given to Palestinian video creator Saleh Aljafarawi by pro-Israel campaigners. They claim that Aljafarawi is a crisis actor, in a conspiracy theory debunked by the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh.


The National:

“This viral meme claims to show a Palestinian crisis actor,” Sardarizadeh wrote sharing a widely spread image purporting to show “Mr Fafo” in different roles.

“The man in most of them is Instagram influencer Saleh Aljafarawi, the centre one is a Thai child in a ghost costume for Halloween 2022, and the one centre left is Mohammed Zendiq, 16, who lost his leg in August.”

Akehurst’s original tweet claiming the video was fake has been deleted, but the two follow-up posts remain live.

In total, the Labour candidate deleted more than 2000 tweets in the week leading up to his selection as the candidate for North Durham, according to data shared by Byline Times journalist Adam Bienkov.

One tweet saw Akehurst suggest that "Jews [are] politically black".

Sharing the post on Twitter/X, law lecturer Dr Osita Mba asked Akehurst what he had meant by the comment, later highlighting that the Labour candidate had since deleted the post.

Labour have been approached for comment.