Momentum versus ‘moderates’: some London Labour selection stories

by Dave Hill

In Haringey, the ongoing and increasingly ugly branch-by-branch contests to become Labour Party candidates in May’s borough elections can almost be seen as a proxy for the election itself, as contenders backed by Haringey Momentum and activists from other political parties opposed to the current Labour administration’s plans for redeveloping council property and land through a joint venture with regeneration giants Lendlease try to oust sitting councillors who’ve backed those plans.

With the local Liberal Democrats stating on Twitter that they will run a full slate of candidates opposed to the project and other parties not expected to win any council seats next year, Haringey voters making a judgement on this issue look set to end up with a choice between, on the one one hand, Lib Dem candidates and the sort of Labour candidate who wants to stop the redevelopment plan and, on the other, the sort of Labour candidate who wants it to go ahead. Will they know one type of Labour candidate from the other?

Meanwhile, selection struggles between the Momentum/Corbynite wing of Labour and the rest of it are taking place in other boroughs. Unlike in Haringey, there seems no big prospect that these could result in Labour administrations of very different characters being formed next spring, though they do illustrate a little of how the idealogical reconfiguration of Labour’s London membership is playing out in different ways across the capital.

Things are fraught in some parts of Ealing, with a number of selection meetings delayed due to disputes over rules and procedures, notably in areas within the Ealing Southall parliamentary constituency. Momentum seems pretty active in the borough, though my information is that they haven’t made much ground in terms of getting their type of candidate selected. I was recently told that council leader Julian Bell, whose party has a dominating 53 of the borough’s 69 seats, regards his side of the party as being just “two down” so far.

There is, however, talk of a Momentum advance in Northfield ward. It is presently represented by three Conservatives, though Labour candidates finished close behind in 2014 and just 121 votes short of gaining a seat there in a by-election the following year. The Northfield Labour branch selection meeting is scheduled for next Friday (24 November) and three days before that Ealing Momentum will be hosting a public meeting on housing, to be addressed by the outspoken Corbynite MP for Derby North, Chris Williamson and someone from the Justice for Grenfell campaign, as well as Ealing’s cabinet member Hitesh Tailor.

Croydon was one of Labour’s gains from the Conservatives in 2014 and the party continues to hold 40 of the 70 seats. A boundary commission review has concluded that the total should remain at 70 but that the numbers of councillors representing some of the wards should change. This is expected to be confirmed in early December. The Labour selection process has been proceeding on that basis.

From what I can gather there’s so far been no very significant change to the status quo, with most of the ward decisions now taken. Council leader Tony Newman and his two fellow Labour councillors for Woodside ward have been re-selected and last Sunday the South Norwood branch chose a former councillor for that ward, Stuart Fraser, as candidate to succeed a current councillor who is standing down, albeit by  narrow margin. The two other sitting South Norwood councillors were re-selected. Both are Corbyn supporters, according to local website Inside Croydon.

In Fairfield ward, a trio of new candidates were voted in last week. One of them, Mary Croos, took the place designated for a woman and the other two, trade unionist Chris Clark and school teacher Niroshan Sirisena look to be the Full Jeremy. A former Hard Left member of late Greater London Council was unsuccessful, I’m told. Momentum looks strong in Fairfield, but it’s an all-Tory ward and the Labour candidates will need to increase their vote by at least 500 compared with 2014 to disturb any of them.

Elsewhere in Croydon, all current cabinet members have so far been re-selected as far as I am aware and two vacancies in Upper Norwood ward have today been filled by moderates (as, rather unsatisfactorily, we seem to now be calling anyone who isn’t in Momentum). From Thornton Heath ward there are reports of ructions involving a sitting councillor under challenge from members from the Progress group. Any additional information from Croydon would be gratefully received.

Last month, the Ilford Recorder reported that Redbridge Labour councillor Lloyd Duddridge had failed to be selected for the newly-formed Churchfields ward due to what he called “a concerted effort from a faction of the party”. Part of Duddridge’s current ward, Roding, is to become part of Churchfields. Redbridge came under Labour control in 2014 for the first time in its history. Duddridge consolidated that with a by-election win at the expense of a Conservative in 2016. The Recorder told us he was the first Labour councillor to be elected in the Woodford area for more than ten years.

Duddridge described himself as “always having been on the left of the party,” but appears to have been judged on the basis of working for Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, who has been a prominent critic of Corbyn. Duddridge was narrowly bested in the selection ballot by Momentumites Syed Eyamen Siddiq, who has, since his selection, updated his Facebook cover photo to an image of a tea towel praising Karl Marx, and Chowdhury Hafizur Rahman.

There are around five Redbridge branches that have yet to select their candidates, all for wards currently held by other parties that look difficult to win. I’m told there has been a small overall shift towards Momentum slate candidates in the borough, though probably not enough to have implications for the current council leader Jaz Athwal if Labour retain control of the borough. The party’s majority in the Town Hall stands at nine.

Updated on 20 November to include details of Lloyd Duddridge’s 2016 by-election win.

1 Comment

  1. Non Momentum slate won a convincing victory in Northfield Branch in Ealing despite Momentum running vitriolic campaign against one of the candidates a young asian woman.

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