The Corbyn test-tube council?

THE posts earlier in the week about Peray Ahmet and Claire Kober’s contrasting views may seem a little off-topic for Camden readers, but Haringey really is grabbing the attention of headline writers niche political spotters. There is a story which has half done the rounds that something similar to the deselections and walkways they’ve seen on that side of the borough boundary could’ve happened in Camden, if new faces had not already been brought in to lead Labour earlier this year. But it’s hard to see how the internal rivalries which exist within the party in Camden would’ve boiled over this spectacularly.

You may not have seen the update to Cllr Ahmet’s stinging resignation letter to Cllr Kober on Tuesday; the council leader rejected the criticisms and politely told her to buzz off with the call to hold back major decisions until after May’s council elections. The leader has asked Labour councillors to consider standing for the vacant role on the cabinet caused by Cllr Ahmet’s resignation. For now Cllr Kober is standing firm against what outsiders may view as a bid to convince her to relinquish the leadership before the borough votes in May.

Either way, a contest for the top job is almost certain at the annual general meeting, which will come after the local authority elections. Several potential challengers have been gossiped about and, yes, Cllr Ahmet’s name has been prominent among the speculation.

Significantly, a new leader standing on the ticket that the council shouldn’t be signing up to the Haringey Development Vehicle – the Lendlease deal seen by critics as a surrender of public land  – would have to halt the policy, and it’s not quite clear at this stage what the alternative is. No wonder, Cllr Kober’s supporters keep asking.

It’s hard to tell from afar though whether it’s simply a bad policy or a not-so-bad policy which hasn’t been communicated well. Some of the losers of the Haringey revolt say neither assumptions are correct, as to them the criticism is simply fired by a Momentum-driven plot which they say, at its base, hangs on cynically removing councillors who are considered Blairites. That doesn’t explain why David Lammy and Catherine West have been opposed, though, and beyond the games that go inside all political parties you can quite easily find people who dislike both the HDV and Jeremy Corbyn.

And what of Corbyn? Don’t think he isn’t fully aware of how things are panning out: it’s a neighbouring constituency to his own, he used to be a councillor there, he knows the councillors well, some get invited around for tea. He knew what was happening in Haringey even if he didn’t mention the borough directly when he condemned these type of land deals during his conference speech in Brighton. Haringey is not a remote trial of Labour ideologies unfolding in some faraway parish council. The opposite, it could potentially become the test-tube sample for what an administration run by Corbyn supporters looks like. Previously, we have seen a swell of new members across London talk enthusiastically about his leadership – Haringey, like Camden, has seen the Labour membership expand in recent years – but none of them hold any real position of local power. Most Labour councils are still run by leaderships who are either agnostic to Corbyn, or politely struggle to conceal a hostility.

It’s easy then to see how the success of any post-Kober administration could be used to directly judge Corbyn himself. It will be badged as the Corbynista Council and if it all goes to shit – sorry to be blunt – then newspapers and pundits will be banging on the door with warnings for us all not to let the same happen to the country as whole by letting him to Downing Street. Do you feel safe with Corbyn as PM, when Haringey can’t get the photocopiers in its libraries working?

The flipside of all this is that Corbyn and his team surely must see that danger. His supporters may see Haringey as too Corbyn to fail, and it’s not a stretch of the imagination to see how extra help, extra focus, extra manpower derived from the Momentum/new member army would be sent to N22 to ensure that this one north London borough provides the best possible advert for a Corbyn-led government. Some scorched earthers inside the Labour Party, still disbelieving that he remains as leader after a general election, are sceptical, and think it doesn’t matter how many Corbynistas you send in to troubleshoot, the expertise just isn’t there. His supporters, however, suggest they are tired of being cast as people who tweet and wave placards but can’t run actually things, and are ready to seize their chance. Either way, all eyes on Haringey.


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