Three Labour-run London boroughs are set to have new leaders after two were unseated as leaders of their party groups and a third announced that he is stepping down.
In Haringey, Joseph Ejiofor was defeated in a vote of fellow Labour councillors last night by Peray Ahmet, who Ejiofor had sacked from his cabinet on New Year’s Eve 2018. This clears the way for Ahmet to replace Ejiofor as council leader as well.
Also last night, Ealing leader Julian Bell was successfully challenged by fellow Labour councillor Peter Mason. This follows Bell narrowly surviving a Labour group no-confidence vote in September, amid concerns over his handling of the introduction of new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) during the pandemic. Mason, previously Ealing’s cabinet member for housing, planning and transformation, resigned from the cabinet after the no-confidence vote.
Earlier yesterday, Lambeth leader Jack Hopkins said he is “standing down as leader of Lambeth Council and Lambeth Labour Group” after just over two years at the helm. In March, Hopkins survived a leadership challenge by fellow Labour councillor and cabinet member for planning, investment and new homes Matthew Bennett. A successor to Hopkins has yet to be elected.
Ejior’s removal follows months of plotting against him by fellow councillors during a frequently rancorous three years since his elevation to the leadership following the council elections of 2018. Labour won the election with a reduced majority following a successful campaign by the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting pressure group Momentum and others to de-select or force out sitting councillors not to their taste.
Dubbed the nation’s first “Corbyn Council” by a local activist, the Labour group has been consumed by faction-fights and feuds since its formation. Ejiofor fired another cabinet member at the same time as he sacked Ahmet and fired her again in June 2020 after she had returned to the cabinet following being elected Labour group deputy leader. Another cabinet member resigned in March 2019. In October 2018 the “deputy cabinet member for Broadwater Farm engagement” resigned from that role and then as a councillor after being convicted of drug offences.
Bell, an enthusiastic cyclist, strong “active travel” advocate and TfL board member has faced sustained local opposition to new LTNs brought in using government money provided to Transport for London for allocation for that purpose and without prior consultation under the terms of the first TfL financial rescue package provided in May last year. In October, motions by opposition councillors at an extraordinary meeting of the council were unsuccessful, but his leadership of Ealing, which began in 2010, will now end.
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