Haringey Labour branch chair resigns over ‘poisonous atmosphere’ in local party

by Dave Hill

The chair of a Labour Party branch in Haringey has resigned from his post citing a “poisonous atmosphere” created by fellow officers that has left him feeling “intimidated and unwelcome” due to their rejection of “anything that does not fit their narrow sectarian view of what the Labour Party should be”.

Richard Horton says in his resignation letter that he has found “hugely stressful” the “tone of discourse between branch officers, the seemingly near constant criticism of me via email, the second guessing of my actions and the insinuation that I do not share ‘real’ Labour values”.

Horton was re-elected unopposed as Stroud Green ward branch chair in September 2017, but other officer positions were won by party members backed by Momentum, the activist group formed to support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Horton has been a Labour member since 2005.

His resignation letter claims that some fellow branch officers have by- passed him in email discussions on matters concerning the branch, forwarded his email correspondence to third parties without his permission and excluded him from many aspects of decision making by holding separate “caucus” meetings to reach a view on issues without him.

Horton describes as “divisive” the recent council candidate selection process, which saw the replacement of two sitting Stroud Green councillors who support the council leadership’s plans to redevelop parts of the borough by means of a joint venture company formed with regeneration giant Lendlease by candidates approved of by the Haringey branch of Momentum.

One them, Tim Gallagher, who withdrew from the process after failing to be automatically re-selected to defend his seat in May, afterwards wrote an open letter describing the local party as “inflamed with division”.

Horton documents two of his fellow branch officers recusing themselves from their duties so that they “lead the campaign” to oust Gallagher and his fellow Stroud Green councillor Raj Sahota. The third Stroud Green councillor Kirsten Hearn, formerly a member of the now defunct Metropolitan Police Authority, was re-selected.

He describes a proposal he made for re-uniting the party by compiling a “respect statement” as being rejected and his case for it “shouted down” because it “included a reference to ‘respecting the achievements of the 1997 to 2010 Labour governments,” which were led by Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown.

Horton says his mental health is suffering as a result of the discord, describing a “particular low point” just before Christmas when his wife retuned home to find him in tears.

Council leader Claire Kober recently announced she will be standing down in May and has accused some in the Labour Party of sexist and bullying behaviour.

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