In a further sign of disquiet within Haringey Council’s majority Labour group, councillors have voted unanimously for the council’s annual general meeting – called simply the “annual meeting” in the council’s constitution – to take place in September rather than in May next year. That might sound pretty united. But in fact the vote demonstrates the opposite.
It took place last week at a formal meeting of the 41-strong Labour representation, which a good source says only 22 of the party’s councillors attended. On London has been told that the 19 that didn’t included leader Joseph Ejiofor, every member of his cabinet and ceremonial mayor Sheila Peacock. What’s going on?
The immediate backdrop is the decision, taken by Ejiofor in consultation with Peacock in May, to delay the council’s annual meeting for a year, even though other council meetings are being held remotely and almost every other council in London has adjusted to the coronavirus crisis by putting off their AGMs by only a few months. Critics of Ejiofor suspect this was a ploy to effectively also postpone the Labour group’s own AGM and by so doing also delay a possible leadership challenge – national party guidance has said that if council AGMs are postponed, Labour group AGMs must be postponed too.
Some now regard the absence of Ejiofor and his allies from the ordinary group meeting as an attempt to render it inquorate and thereby prevent the vote about the annual meeting’s timing from taking place. However, the threshold, reportedly of 17 members, was met. The group vote does not alter the fact that Peacock and Ejiofor decide on the timing of the annual meeting, but it does send a message, as they say.
Covering what goes on within the Haringey Labour group is tricky at the best of times, due to the high levels of paranoia at play and the frequent fragmentations and realignments among the different factions, some of them rooted in ideology, some in personal ill-feeling, some in both. Finding two people – the BBC gold standard – to provide exactly the same account of whatever has gone on and who agree on its significance is, to put it mildly, a challenge. However, the basics of this story do appear sound and can be taken as a sign of significant discontent with Ejiofor within the group.
The cabinet, by contrast may be more firmly behind him, following his recent (second) sacking of Zena Brabazon, whose husband, Alan Stanton, frequently disparages Ejiofor and his cabinet member for housing, Emine Ibrahim, on Twitter.
Ejiofor has since elevated another fellow member of Momentum, Seema Chandwani, to the status of his deputy. Even so, one of his Labour group critics says of this: “Some will think the Momentum take over is complete, but it won’t last. This is end of days stuff”. We shall see.
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