Haringey Council’s ruling cabinet will have a very new look after Thursday’s annual meeting of the authority, following the recent one-vote ousting of Labour group leader Joseph Ejiofor by Peray Ahmet.
Born and raised in the borough, Ahmet, who will be the council’s first Muslim leader, will replace eight of the nine-person cabinet, including high-profile activist Emine Ibrahim, London Labour and Momentum board member and a Londonwide list candidate in the recent London Assembly election, who had overseen the council’s “1,000 homes at council rent” drive.
Also out are councillors Matt White, who was leading on the borough’s first Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, Kirsten Hearn, who recently trumpeted the “great Corbyn Council project”, Kaushika Amin, Mark Blake, Sarah James, and veteran councillors Charles Adje and Gideon Bull.
Ahmet had herself previously been sacked from Ejiofor’s cabinet at the end of 2018, along with Zena Brabazon, with Ejiofor saying he wanted to eradicate “a number of persistent personal conflicts”.
Brabazon, who had been local party members’ choice as leader in an “indicative” vote held after the 2018 elections before the Labour group backed Ejiofor instead, is now back in the cabinet for the third time. She had returned in 2019 but was sacked for a second time last year, with Ejiofor saying she had failed to keep him informed about a child protection case.
Into the cabinet too come long-standing councillors John Bevan and Isidoros Diakides, who will take over the finance brief, plus Julie Davies, Ruth Gordon, Lucia Das Neves and Mike Hakata, who will serve as deputy council leader. The one survivor from the Ejiofor regime is Seema Chandwani, firmly on the left, and widely held to have been an effective overseer of customer services, parking, waste and “streetscene”.
Will the change bring some stability after what has been a turbulent time for the “Corbyn council”? Factionalism hasn’t gone away, according to one person close to the process, and the bloc which came together to oust Ejiofor is a “pretty broad coalition”, with members as concerned about being kept informed and Ejiofor’s decision to cancel last year’s group AGM, as they are about political direction.
There was a strong pro-Ejiofor lobby among party members beyond the council chamber – even apparently including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ringing round councillors ahead of the meeting – suggesting that those predicting an outbreak of harmony may be optimistic. Leading the group with just a one vote majority won’t be easy.
In Twitter messages after her election, Ahmet said she was “so proud to have the chance to move our community forward with fairness, decency and respect at the core of all we do.” She thanked Ejiofor for his “contribution to our Borough”, adding: “I look forward to working with all Councillors in the interests of all those who live, learn and work here in Haringey.” Ejiofor, writing in the local Ham and High newspaper, was less fulsome about Ahmet: “I know she has coveted the role for a number of years, and I wish her well”.
An early challenge for the new leader will be the council’s controversial plans to demolish the Love Lane estate in Tottenham, with 500 new “council-rent” homes on offer as part of the proposed High Road West partnership scheme with developers Lendlease. A long-awaited decision to stage a resident ballot on the plans, with £91 million from City Hall to boost affordable housing numbers at stake , was put on hold the day after Ahmet’s election.
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