A month ago David Mason was warning fellow members of Hornsey & Wood Green Labour they still needed to learn the lessons of the party’s antisemitism crisis and turn away from the “bitter factionalism of the recent past”.
Now the Muswell Hill rabbi is celebrating selection as a Labour candidate in Haringey’s Crouch End ward, a key target for the party in May’s council elections.
It’s a “special moment”, said one veteran party member, “a milestone in the process of rehabilitation after that period of distance from much of the Jewish community over antisemitism.”
The ward has been Liberal Democrat-held since 2018, when a swathe of sitting Labour councillors including those in Crouch End were ousted by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn – a process which saw seven Labour seats lost in all but also the election of the first self-proclaimed “Corbyn Council.”
For Mason, his convincing selection clean sweep with like-minded colleagues in the marginal ward, is a vindication of his decision not to leave Labour under Corbyn and his sense that things are changing. “It’s different under Keir, more focused on good local policy rather than factionalism,” he said.
“My selection speaks outwards to local people, about where Labour is going, and inwards too, that we are moving forward, away from something that didn’t work, back to the time of positive activism.”
A rabbi for 18 years, including the past 13 years at Muswell Hill, Mason ascribes his politics to his grandparents, who were refugees from Ukraine. “They supported Labour, and Labour supported them,” he said.
His vision, he says, building on his work setting up Haringey’s interfaith network and refugee support groups, is of a society which “allows for identity but also brings people together”. And his pitch to the people of Crouch End is very much about local issues.
Mason’s selection comes at the end of a hard-fought process which now seems likely to deliver a secure majority for council leader Peray Ahmet, who ousted former leader Joseph Ejiofor, a prominent Momentum member, by just one vote a year ago.
“Overall, a bit later than nationally, the ‘sensibles’ are taking back control in Haringey,” concluded one party member, adding that Mason’s selection could have wider significance in Lib Dem-held wards in the west of the borough, where it is estimated that Labour’s antisemitism issues cost votes in 2018. “We will get a hearing again now from those voters,” he said.
Ejiofor himself was barred by the Labour Party from standing in the elections, a decision thought to relate to a highly critical Local Government Ombudsman report into the handling of a proposed housing development.
A Momentum fightback saw Ahmet’s deputy Mike Hakata deselected earlier in the process, provoking unprecedented anger from residents supporting his commitment on environmental issues, but he went on to be selected in an adjoining safe Labour ward.
Ejiofor supporter and former cabinet member Mark Blake was deselected in the safe Labour Woodside ward, making it onto the ballot paper only in Lib Dem-held Fortis Green, while long-standing councillor Gideon Bull, also a cabinet member under Ejiofor, was not approved as a potential candidate and will stand as an independent.
Meanwhile Nicola Bartlett, political adviser to shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, will stand in the safe Labour West Green ward, and previously ousted Crouch End councillor Sarah Elliott was selected in Alexandra, another Labour target.
Ahmet underlined her break from the previous regime in the local Ham and High newspaper last week. “We want to run a different kind of council, one that empowers you as a resident to shape our borough,” she said. “This means a cultural change at the council, listening to and working with our communities to find solutions to the issues that matter.”
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