Haringey: more tales of two Labour Parties

by Dave Hill

Having failed to oust Haringey Council leader Claire Kober from her Seven Sisters seat last week, the Momentum wing of the Labour Party in Haringey secured a victory yesterday when Jeremy Corbyn supporter Ruth Gordon was chosen to contest the Tottenham Hale council seat at next May’s borough elections.

Gordon, a music teacher who rejoined Labour in 2015, defeated sitting councillor Lorna Reith, who has represented Tottenham Hale since 2003, in a candidate selection vote held yesterday. In her campaign literature Gordon said she had returned to Labour “because of the election of a leadership committed to socialist policies” and claimed that, under Corbyn, Labour is “on the verge of power”.

In July, Gordon attacked the current council leadership’s plans for redeveloping parts of the borough in an article for the Morning Star newspaper, describing it as “a small cabal” and linking its regeneration policies with the Grenfell Tower fire.

Haringey Momentum and the campaign against the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), the joint venture company proposed for delivering the regeneration plans, are intent on de-selecting sitting councillors who support it or are considered insufficiently hostile to it. Their aim is to take control of the Labour group after the elections and block the HDV.

Reith’s de-selection brought commiserations on Twitter from, among others, Hackney’s Labour mayor Philip Glanville, who described her as “an incredible and dedicated councillor”. Backers of the council leadership contend that Reith, a veteran housing campaigner and a director of council ALMO Homes for Haringey, was targeted by Momentum/anti-HDV organisers after she helped strengthen the rights of council tenants under the HDV plans, which was seen as colluding with the project.

Another to pay tribute to Reith on Twitter was her fellow Tottenham Hale councillor Vincent Carroll, who was re-selected yesterday having failed to secure automatic re-selection last week. Carroll, who works in the public relations department of Thorncliffe, a company specialising in helping property developers obtain planning permissions, has previously assisted former housing minister Caroline Flint in her unsuccessful 2015 bid to become Labour Party national deputy leader and in June 2016 signed a petition calling for Corbyn to stand down as Labour leader. However, he now enjoys the support of the Corbynite campaign that brought down Reith. Carroll has been invited by On London to explain how this came about.

Momentum and anti-HDV campaigners hope to make further progress this week as members of other Labour ward branches meet to take candidate selection votes. Corbyn-supporting Muswell Hill councillor Mark Blake has been shortlisted as a prospective candidate for the Woodside ward, where one sitting councillor is to stand down at the next election and another, Charles Wright, failed to secure automatic re-selection last week. The Woodside branch is due to make its choices this evening.

Wright is chair of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, and defenders of the council leadership claim he has been targeted by the Momentum and anti-HDV campaign, which is also supported by Green Party and Socialist Workers Party activists, on the grounds that he has not taken a sufficiently aggressive approach to the HDV plans. Neither Wright nor Blake have responded to requests for comment.

Blake is supported by fellow Haringey councillor Emina Ibrahim (sometimes spelled Emine Ibrahim), who is a member of Labour’s London region board and national vice chair of Momentum. Ibrahim, who currently represents Harringay ward, formally expressed her interest in contesting Kober’s Seven Sisters ward (where members did not shortlist her as a potential replacement for an outgoing councillor last week) and Noel Park ward, one of whose present councillors is Alan Strickland, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning and a driving force behind the HDV policy.

Noel Park branch members are due to meet on Wednesday to vote on whether Strickland and his two fellow councillors for the ward should go forward automatically to defend their seats next year or face challenges at a separate meeting on 20 November from other prospective candidates approved by their party’s local campaign forum. The Bruce Grove, Tottenham Green, West Green and White Hart Lane branches are also due to meet on Wednesday for the same purpose.

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