Candidates backed by Momentum, the activist group formed to support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, have won election to a string of key positions in branches of the party in Haringey.
Annual general meetings held in the Alexandra, Bounds Green, Crouch End, Hornsey, Noel Park and Stroud Green wards have seen sitting branch officers and delegates to Haringey’s two constituency parties replaced by challengers compiled into “slates” of candidates declaring support for Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto and singling out its pledge to provide “homes for the many and not investment opportunities for the few”.
The highlighting of that line from Labour’s housing policy promise is a clear reference to Labour-run Haringey Council’s extensive redevelopment programme, which includes the demolition of council-owned housing estates in partnership with specialist regeneration giant Lendlease. In July, the council agreed to form “development vehicle” joint venture (HDV) with the developer to transform parts of Tottenham, Muswell Hill and Wood Green and is expected next week to sign a different deal with the same company to do the same with the High Road West area.
The HDV has been the target of protests outside Haringey Civic Centre and elsewhere and opposition by some Labour councillors. The council says it will generate large quantities of new and better housing, including replacements for those knocked down offered to current residents on the same terms, as well delivering new amenities, workspaces and employment, which it cannot provide on its own.
Party members from other parts of the Labour spectrum expressed surprise and dismay at the high level of organisation by Momentum activists, which they fear foreshadows concerted attempts in the coming weeks to deselect or at least weaken the positions of sitting councillors considered too right wing by the Corbyn supporters. Council leader Claire Kober, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning Alan Strickland, cabinet member for economic development, social inclusion and sustainability Joe Goldberg and others have angered some for pressing forward with the regeneration programme.
There are also predictions of changes in the officers of Hornsey and Wood Green constituency Labour Party next Wednesday, with current chair Steve Hart, a veteran trade unionist, facing a strong challenge.
Leaflets listing the Momentum slate for Crouch End ward (pictured, below) were distributed outside the meeting before it began on Tuesday night, which had an unusually high attendance and was reportedly preceded by a concerted phone banking effort. The Momentum-backed candidates won a clean sweep of all the posts contested. Unconfirmed reports from Labour sources say the same outcome occurred in Bounds Green, Stroud Green, Hornsey and Noel Park.
None of the names on the Crouch End slate state their current party membership as dating from before 2015, the year Corbyn became a candidate for the Labour leadership following the party’s defeat in the general election of that year.
Of the 15, five describe themselves as having “rejoined” the party and the same number document “former” occupations or describe themselves as retired, suggesting a significant representation of older people who had become disillusioned with Labour in the past but warmed to it again due to Corbyn’s ascendancy.
New Crouch End branch secretary Steve Jeffreys, who replaces veteran post-holder Joel Northcott, was a long-time prominent member of the Socialist Workers Party before taking up Labour Party membership. He is reputed to have been a Labour member before and to have left it during the time of Harold Wilson’s leadership.
New Crouch End general committee delegate Miriam Levin’s Linked In profile says she works for the department of communities and local government and lists as one of her “notable successes” leading Tottenham’s Future, a community engagement programme conducted for Haringey by the consultation company Soundings in 2013 and 2014, whose results informed the council’s March 2014 strategic regeneration framework.
The re-elected Crouch End chair, journalist Charley Allan, writes for the Morning Star newspaper, and has penned articles there against the HDV, which he termed “literally a right-wing land grab“, and drawing comparisons between Corbyn and the former president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez, claiming that “both were brought to national power against all the odds by popular, broad-based socio-political movements, shaking the Establishment to its core”.
The new chair of Hornsey ward, Martin Upham is a reviewer for Labour Briefing, the author of a new book called Britain Explained, which examines British identity, and a 1980 History of British Trotskyism to 1949. His website says he left Labour in 1996 after 30 years’ membership.
In Alexandra ward, the new chair is Momentum-backed Bob Harris, a former Haringey councillor, who won by a single vote.
In Noel Park ward, incumbent chair Liam McNulty, who was recommended for expulsion by Labour in 2015 for being a member of the Trotskyist Alliance for Workers Liberty, was re-elected. McNulty, is reportedly the founder of Momentum in Haringey, which which was launched in October 2015.
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