Councillor Joseph Ejiofor is to be the new leader of Haringey Council after members of the majority Labour Group elected him as their leader. The new deputy leader will be Councillor Emine Ibrahim, also elected earlier this evening.
Both are members of Momentum, the campaign group formed to support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and hold positions at national levels in the organisation. However, Ejiofor’s victory is seen by some as a rejection of the wishes of the most Hard Left strand of Haringey Labour’s strongly Corbynite membership, which is believed to have wanted another leadership candidate, Zena Brabazon, to become leader.
In the event, Brabazon and a fourth leadership candidate Kirsten Hearn were the first two be knocked out, leaving Ejiofor and a fourth candidate, Peray Ahmet, to run off in the final round of voting, with Ejiofor emerging victorious by 24 votes to 16. Two ballot papers were spoiled.
Ejiofor has been a councillor for Bruce Grove ward since 2010 and is a member of Momentum’s national co-ordinating group. Ibrahim, who often spells her forename “Emina“, is a Momentum vice chair and a member of the board of Labour’s London region.
Yesterday, the outcome of an “indicative ballot”, which only ward branch delegates to one of Haringey’s two parliamentary constituency organisations could vote in, was won decisively by Brabazon, who got 69 votes to Ejiofor’s 30, followed by Ahmet with 14, Hearn with 12 and a fifth candidate Felicia Opoku, who appears to have since dropped out, in last place. The delegates are regarded as strongly of the left, having secured their positions with the backing of Momentum locally.
All but seven members of the 42-strong Labour Group declared themselves opposed to the previous administration’s plan to increase housebuilding in the borough by forming a joint venture company with regeneration specialists Lendlease and redevelop council-owned land, enabling them to be included on candidate “slates” backed by Momentum.
However, not all are Momentum members or particularly enamoured of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, which helps explains Ejiofor’s win. Though a Momentum member, he is personally popular with some councillors from other parts of the Labour spectrum and seen as relatively flexible, giving him an edge over Brabazon.
Ahmet, who once supported the HDV but then changed her stance and resigned from her cabinet position in the last administration, is regarded by members as more of a “soft left” figure but also by some as an opportunist. Critics of Ejiofor wonder if he has the staying power required for what might be a difficult group to manage at a time when the council will come under continuing financial pressure and face challenging policy choices.