Having been swept to power on a wave of Corbynite protest against the demolition of council housing, leaders of Haringey’s “Corbyn Council” soon found themselves advocating the destruction of two blocks on Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate, which have been found to be unsafe. Residents of one of those blocks, Tangmere, must move out by the end of October and are currently being offered alternative accommodation.
This distressing situation for Tangmere residents is also adding to unrest within the council’s Labour Group. On Monday, the plight of Tangmere households received national coverage from BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, but no one from the council appeared in either the (very good) film report or the ensuing studio discussion. Why?
Within three hours of the programme ending, Sarah Williams, newly-elected first time councillor for West Green ward and very much the Full Jeremy, had emailed all her fellow Labour Group members complaining that on the prior Saturday she and her two fellow West Green councillors, who represent Broadwater Farm residents, had been informed of council leader Joseph Ejiofor’s instruction that “we should not speak to any journalists (should we be contacted by the show)”.
Williams also complained that she and her West Green colleagues had not even been “asked to feed into Haringey’s response or consulted in any way” when they could have actually been on the programme “letting the public know what good work is being done around this very serious safety matter”. Her pointed sign off? “I hope colleagues will watch the programme and take a view on our communications ‘strategy’.”
By tea time, Ejiofor had replied to Williams in person, copying in all fellow group members. “Dear Comrades,” he began, before explaining that “it is extremely important that the information shared on Broadwater Farm is accurate and that there is a consistent voice and a consistent message on the issue.” Further on, he elaborated:
Our agreed communications protocol makes it clear that it is for the leader and the cabinet to disseminate the policy messages of the council. We are responsible for explaining the decisions we make. This is the norm. The cabinet are the ones in the public eye representing the voice of the council and delivering that consistent message. It was not considered appropriate for new councillors who have not had media training to go on a live TV show.
A message there for Comrade Williams. Ejiofor also explained that the Derbyshire show item had been originally scheduled for last Wednesday, but delayed due to the Westminster terror attack. His deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and estate renewal Emine Ibrahim had been lined up to appear on that day, but neither she nor Ejiofor himself had been available on Monday.
Local voices were eventually provided by Jacob Secker, secretary of the Broadwater Farm Residents Association who is very unhappy with the council’s handling of the Tangmere situation, and Nora Mulready, a former researcher for Tottenham MP David Lammy who has lately left the Labour Party in conspicuous disgust at its Corbynite turn, especially as manifested in Haringey.
Given this, it’s understandable that Williams and maybe others in the Labour Group felt that the council should have done better than produce a written statement (although that was at least read out). And Ejiofor himself acknowledged that the lack of someone in the studio discussion explaining the council’s position was “far from ideal”.
Nonetheless, the leader’s email made plain that he is keen to avoid media embarrassments. “We have already had a situation where an off the cuff comment caused a public ‘misunderstanding’ with another council,” he observed – surely a reference to the fallout from cabinet member Noah Tucker’s rather preposterous false claim that Southwark Council, regarded by London Corbynites as Blairite Central, is replacing all its council blocks with private ones.
Ejiofor concluded: “The issues surrounding the decanting of residents of Broadwater Farm are too important to risk any ‘misunderstanding’ live on national TV. As I said, not ideal, but life is about judgement calls.”
Ejiofor’s judgement of at least some of his Haringey comrades appears clear – and it appears to be mutual.
You can watch the relevant Victoria Derbyshire programme here for the next three weeks.
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