Haringey: a tale of two Labour Parties

by Dave Hill

It isn’t funny, actually. But there is a bleak comedy about the battle for supremacy between the two different versions of the Labour Party in Haringey – the Jeremy Corbyn model and the one other Labour members belong to – for control of the borough after next May’s elections.

To the average person, the idea that Labour councillors already ensconced in seats would seek to replace fellow Labour councillors from others in the same local authority might seem strange. But in the caustic atmosphere in which candidate selections for next year’s Haringey borough elections are taking place, the notion appears not to be thought outlandish, at least by some

Emina Ibrahim, currently representing Harringay ward, is also a board member of Labour’s London region and national vice chair of Momentum, the activist group formed to back Corbyn’s leadership. Emails obtained by On London (as they say), sent to ward branch members before selection meetings were underway, list Councillor Ibrahim – whose forename is sometimes spelled as “Emine” – as having formally expressed an interest in standing in two Haringey wards other than the one she presently represents.

The two wards are Seven Sisters and Noel Park. The former is represented by council leader Claire Kober and the latter by Alan Strickland, the council’s cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning. They are the driving forces behind the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), the joint venture company the current leadership intends to form with property giant Lendlease in order to redevelop council-owned land and property with a view to increasing housing supply and economic growth.

Ibrahim is a prominent opponent of the HDV, and she and her allies would love to see Kober and Strickland brought down. That didn’t happen on Wednesday, when Seven Sisters members backed Kober to go forward automatically to defend her seat next year by the large margin of 64 votes to 19. One of her two fellow sitting councillors, Dhiren Basu, was also strongly endorsed. Had either failed to secure a majority, they would have been open to challenge from those, including Ibrahim, who had expressed an interest in fighting the seat instead of them.

The third sitting Seven Sisters councillor, Joe Goldberg, another of Kober’s cabinet allies, had decided to stand down. However, when members at the meeting shortlisted two prospective candidates to succeed Goldberg from a field of six, Ibrahim came last but one in the first round of the ballot. She is said to have been fully aware that she was unlikely to have been selected for Seven Sisters and it is also said that she would have withdrawn had she been shortlisted, though it is unclear why that would have been.

Noel Park, whose members meet on 15 November, might be more promising territory for her should she continue to be interested in representing the ward, with which she has strong family connection. Kober was generally expected to stay installed in Seven Sisters, albeit not so comfortably, but Strickland is thought less secure, as is one of his fellow Noel Park Labour councillors Stephen Mann. That is because the make-up of the Noel Park membership is more pro-Corbyn and anti-HDV, making it more likely that they will have to face a challenge from other prospective candidates.

However, the ward’s third Labour councillor appears safe from the Momentum push: Peray Ahmet, the current cabinet member for environment, is a good friend of Ibrahim and has been perceived by some as positioning herself in a left-wards direction lately with a view to succeeding Kober as council leader.

Others from the Momentum wing listed as interested in contesting Noel Park include Ishmael Osamor, the son of Kate Osamor, MP for Edmonton and Corbyn’s shadow international development secretary. He too is firmly opposed to the HDV.

Also on the list of those who expressed an interest Noel Park is Maria Jennings. She also sought shortlisting at Seven Sisters, but was eliminated before Ibrahim. All prospective candidates compile a one-page statement of their experience and views, which is distributed to fellow members. Jennings’s expresses pride in having “shared my expertise” with shadow chancellor John McDonnell and possessing a “masters degree in housing practice”, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, doesn’t mention her time as chair of Hornsey Housing Trust.

That ended in October 2012, when Jennings decided against seeking re-election to the post following the government’s Homes and Communities Agency serving a statutory notice on the trust, requiring it to provide documents about how it was dealing with complaints of poor governance. Inside Housing reported at the time that 14 of the trust’s 16 employees had filed grievances against Jennings and that the trust had had five interim chief executives since February 2011.

Dedicated Corbynites have played prominent roles in running the Haringey candidate selection process, which has generated many stirrings in the undergrowth. What other interesting individuals might have been deemed suitable for representing the people of the borough?

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