Dave Hill: Ishmael Osamor affair shows Haringey Labour merits full investigation – but don’t hold your breath

Dave Hill: Ishmael Osamor affair shows Haringey Labour merits full investigation – but don’t hold your breath

The resignation of Ishmael Osamor as Labour councillor for Haringey’s West Green ward following growing media coverage of his conviction for possessing £2,500-worth of Class A and Class B drugs adds a retrospective twist to the murky saga of last autumn’s Labour candidate selection process. Forget the Guardian’s crowing coverage of the ousting of competent sitting councillors to make way for a zoo of Corbynite ideologues and its bullshit claims that this takeover reflected some kind of community uprising. It was, of course, a well-organised drive led by Momentum activists and their assorted Far Left allies in the Stop HDV campaign to capture the council in the name of “Jeremy” and put every dissenter to the sword.

In this, they were largely successful and the nation’s first “Corbyn Council” was duly formed following the council elections in May, despite Labour losing more seats in Haringey than in any other borough. But many complaints about the way the, often bitter, selection contests were run were made at the time, citing a combination of menace and manipulation by the Corbynites to get their way. The role of Osamor’s mother Kate, the MP for Edmonton and Corbyn’s shadow secretary of state for overseas development, in helping her son’s bid to get selected for West Green ahead of sitting councillors drew much scorn from the “moderates” at the time. But the questions raised by the emergence of Ishmael Osamor’s lawbreaking are now far bigger than whether Kate Osamor is a pushy mum.

Attention is already rightly focussing on who knew what and when. Osamor junior, 29, was arrested for trying to sneak his drugs into the Bestival music festival in Dorset on 8 September 2017. There are well-sourced reports that his inclusion on the panel of approved potential Labour candidates took place following an interview on 17 September 2017. Labour rules require potential candidates to disclose anything in their political or personal past that might bring the party into disrepute. Did Osamor mention his arrest at Bestival on 8 September to those who assessed him a few days later? If not, he surely should have. If he did, why was he allowed to go forward for selection?

Did Osamor disclose his arrest to any member of the Haringey local campaign forum (LCF), the Labour body that ran the selection process as a whole, before his successful adoption as a candidate for West Green on 20 November 2017? Did he mention it to any officers of the West Green branch? Did he make it known to anyone at all in the Labour Party? Had he made it known to his mother by that time?

The fact that Osamor became a councillor despite having a criminal conviction in his personal pipeline does nothing to lessen disquiet about the running of the selection process as a whole and the conduct of Momentum and Stop HDV activists during it.

There are many, many stories of prominent Momentumites from Haringey and elsewhere working overtime to craftily move meeting dates and shift the political balance of this committee or that panel in order to improve the chances of potential council candidates they approved of securing seats. There are just as many about Momentumites and their allies using leaked membership lists to lobby and phone bank members in advance of selection meetings, sometimes under the guise of not doing so as Labour members – a figleaf that provided an excuse for inaction by those in charge of the selection mechanisms. Vexatious, harassing complaints about innocuous Facebook comments and even re-tweeting links to articles deemed disrespectful to the Momentum insurgence form another part of this unlovely picture.

All of these claims ought to be fully investigated by Labour, whose most zealous Corbynites never cease prating about “democratising” the party. But although Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee saw fit to denounce the previous Haringey Labour administration over its plans to partner with a commercial property firm to increase housing supply, it seems unlikely to stir itself to look into claims of rule-breaking and sharp practice among those who now run the Labour show in the borough. After all, they and Corbyn himself – a former Haringey councillor, of course – have a lot invested in the “Corbyn Council” appearing to be unimpeachable. And Corbyn and his very closest lieutenants are such dedicated masters of the sort of rulebook control freakery and moral self-delusion at which the Labour Hard Left has long excelled, they probably can’t see any problem in the first place.

Council leader Joseph Ejiofor has told the BBC that a local internal investigation will be carried out, but there was no mention of that in his statement about Osamor’s resignation released last night. Rather, he thanked the errant comrade for “his contribution to this administration” and wished him well for the future. That’s pretty feeble, but maybe Ejiofor deserves some sympathy: the Osamor family are Corbynite royalty, with Ishmael’s maternal grandmother recently nominated by the Labour leader for a seat in the House of Lords; and it’s no secret that plenty of Haringey Labour members, including some in his own cabinet, never wanted Ejiofor to be council leader and would like him replaced.

Ishmael Osamor himself expressed regret over “the unwelcome attention my case has brought to Haringey”, but not for the activities that have brought that attention about. He continues to work for his mother in the House of Commons. Haringey Labour needs to get its own house in order. But don’t hold your breath.

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