The leader of Enfield Council appears to have strengthened her position within the borough’s majority Labour Group with the formation of a new cabinet following the acrimonious departure of some of its previous members, including her now former deputy.
Nesil Caliskan, who became borough leader following last May’s elections, has faced continuing opposition from within her own party locally, including from some members of her original executive team.
But the annual general meeting of the 46-strong Labour Group of councillors last week saw the election to the cabinet of group members more supportive of Caliskan as prominent critics stepped aside.
In a statement seen by On London, Daniel Anderson, who was elected deputy leader by Labour Group members a year ago, confirmed after the meeting that he had stood down from his post and, along with four former cabinet colleagues, decided not to again seek election to the cabinet.
Anderson complained that his role, and those of the others who had resigned, “has been emasculated and repeatedly undermined” and his advice “regularly ignored”. He said his decision was in line with the wishes of Labour’s local campaign forum in Enfield, a body that includes representatives from the three Labour parliamentary constituency organisations in the North London borough.
Caliskan is thought to have become the youngest female local authority leader in the country when, at 29, she successfully challenged her predecessor Doug Taylor after he led Labour to a third consecutive victory in the once politically marginal borough last May.
Her election as leader by fellow Labour Group members was followed by resistance by some longer-serving Labour colleagues to her leadership style and new approach, and by a request to the national party by Anderson and others to investigate what they said were irregularities in the candidate selection process which worked to the advantage of people who are of Kurdish or, as Caliskan is, of Turkish descent at the expense of black sitting councillors.
Both the Sunday Times and the alt-left Sqwawkbox website carried articles to this effect. The former, which emphasised claims that a form of entryism had taken place by members of Enfield’s Turkish-speaking communities, is the subject of ongoing legal action by Calisken. She described it when published as “nothing less than a disgraceful smear designed to create conflict within our party on the basis of ethnicity”.
Caliskan was at the time of the candidate selections secretary of the Enfield local campaign forum, which has responsibility for running selection processes, though she was not the procedures secretary, who has the principal role in running the process.
Opposition to Caliskan has come from an unlikely combination of “old guard” moderates and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. As in a number of other Labour boroughs with large party memberships, Corbynites have been elected to many officer positions in Enfield’s parliamentary constituency and ward branch organisations, giving them significant influence. Enfield North MP Joan Ryan left Labour and is now a member of the Change UK party.
It is known that Caliskan considers herself the object of resentment of her being female and young. There have been numerous allegations of bullying, intimidation and racism from both sides of the argument about her leadership and the run-up to the elections last year.
In March, the Labour Party told the Enfield Independent that it was not correct that the Labour Group had been suspended, as some reports had said at the time, although it had advised that it would be appropriate for meetings not to take place for a period while it investigated various complaints relating to the elections. On London has been told that both the regional director and the head of Labour’s national governance and legal department attended last week’s AGM, which saw the election of the new cabinet membership.
At the meeting, Ian Barnes became the new deputy leader after Anderson and two other councillors withdrew. He will have various cabinet responsibilities, including performance monitoring and electoral services and scrutiny. In Enfield (as distinct from other boroughs) cabinet members too are elected by the Labour Group, but the leader allocates their roles. Other new members are: Rick Jewell (children’s services); Gina Needs (social housing); George Savva (licensing and regulatory services); Mahtab Uddin (public health); and Nneka Keazor (community safety and cohesion).
Caliskan’s mother, Alev Cazimoglu, continues to hold the health and social care portfolio, Mary Maguire retains finance and procurement brief and Guney Dogan, who previously had the environment brief, is now cabinet member for environment and sustainability, which includes responsibility for Enfield’s cycling programme, which had previously been Anderson’s.
On Facebook, Anderson said he was “not prepared to serve in a cabinet led by Nesil Caliskan, who I and many others deem to be unfit for public office”. A source at the meeting, who is a critic of Caliskan, has told On London that the field of candidates seeking cabinet roles was very limited, suggesting this reflected a lack of enthusiasm for her leadership. However, Caliskan is understood to be delighted with her new cabinet line-up and to consider the bulk of the Labour Group to be behind her.
A London Labour Party spokesperson said:
“After receiving complaints from Labour Party members about the London Borough of Enfield, our national executive committee (NEC) decided to investigate a number of local party bodies to ascertain if there had been any misconduct that needed further attention and action.
As part of a process to look into the various complaints, the party conducted a thorough and extensive investigation over a period of four months, speaking to Labour Councillors, LCF and CLPs to gather information.
From the outcomes of the investigation the Labour Party NEC have provided a list of recommendations to ensure the highest of standards are met across Enfield and to help foster good intercommunity relationships. The local party has implemented and is continuing to implement the NEC’s recommendations.”
Complainants say they are awaiting news of any further action by the NEC’s governance and legal unit.
This article was updated with additional information on 14 May 2019, including the statement from the London region. It originally wrongly described Daniel Anderson as having been appointed deputy leader by Nesil Caliskan in May 2018 when in fact he was elected to the position by Labour Group members in a contest separate from elections to the cabinet. That arrangement continues to apply to the deputy leader post. Apologies for the error.
OnLondon.co.uk is dedicated to providing fair and thorough coverage of London’s politics, development and culture. The site depends on donations from readers and is also seeking support from suitable organisations in order to get bigger and better. Read more about that here. Thank you.