Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26892
Haringey: no fudge with the right wing
Nick Auvache, North London Socialist Party
Haringey council has been in the eye of the storm recently following the very public and dramatic resignation of its Blairite leader Claire Kober.
Under her leadership Haringey's Labour council enthusiastically backed the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) scheme which is a social cleansing scheme so toxic that not even Tory local authorities would embrace it: a £2 billion deal that would have seen homes, land and municipal buildings sold off to a multinational blacklisting firm, Lendlease.
This incensed many residents and local people as well as Labour Party members and trade unionists. Over the last 18 months the campaign has called local meetings and organised demonstrations and lobbies of the council as well as challenging the council in the courts to buy time.
In a departure from what has happened in council reselections elsewhere, the left in Haringey Labour Party organised to deselect right wing pro-HDV Labour council candidates.
This, together with the welcome intervention of the Labour Party NEC, lead to the resignation of Claire Kober.
Then last Wednesday the full council held a further vote on the HDV. The Lib Dems had opportunistically put up a motion to vote down the HDV despite their party's enthusiasm for similar schemes in other areas of London.
The anti-HDV march to the Civic Centre and lobby on that day should have been a victory celebration. Had the "rebel" Labour councillors who had previously opposed the HDV voted against the scheme it would indeed have been a celebration.
The vote would have amplified the victory and sent a clear message of defiance. It would have shown that a determined community campaign can kill off social cleansing schemes and acted as a warning against attempts to implement further cuts.
It would also have acted as a warning to other local authorities following a similar path.
But it wasn't to be, as the rebel councillors agreed to a compromise with the defeated Blairite Labour leadership.
The right wing of the party were terrified of the effects of contagion and unfortunately the left have been swayed by the idea that there needs to be "unity" in the party in order to win in May's council elections.
The leaked report of the NEC-appointed Haringey Mediation Committee as well as Labour councillors, actually called for the demo and lobby to be called off! Correctly the anti-HDV campaign refused to obey the instruction to demobilise, although many future anti-HDV Labour candidates and many Labour members were absent.
The council Labour group moved an amendment that removed all criticism of the hated HDV and delayed any further decision until after the next council elections.
It is good that Kober has resigned and that the decision on HDV is postponed until the anti-HDV councillors are in place in May.
But this is a missed opportunity and underlines the impossibility of uniting Corbyn supporters seeking a complete change in the Labour Party with the Blairite right wing.
Lack of democracy
It sowed confusion amongst Labour's ranks and was a huge propaganda gift for the Lib Dems. This was not discussed on the left or through the party structures, but was cooked up behind closed doors, the typical method of the Blairites.
In a message sent out to party members, councillor Stuart MacNamara explained that an "agreement" had been reached - but this was not with ordinary party members or with the residents affected by the HDV.
He went on to say that the agreement had been reached after much "wrangling", not democratic debate, and tellingly states: "As such new candidates shouldn't take part in the demo in my view as of course they aspire to be councillors in less than three months and need to take account where their Labour Group colleagues (I refer to the anti-HDV ones) are at."
We cannot afford to give one inch to the Blairites. We need to continue to bring pressure to bear through rallies, protests and petitions, but this also demonstrates the need for clear socialist policies alongside the idea of standing anti-HDV, anti-cuts candidates against the pro-HDV Blairite evictioneers.
This would not weaken the Corbyn wing of Labour but strengthen it. This would not weaken the fight against the cuts and social cleansing schemes, instead it would be a chance for those who so clearly demonstrated their opposition over the last few years to support and vote for candidates who are accountable to activists not a small group of Blairites.
It would allow them to support and vote for candidates that are 100% opposed to the HDV and 100% opposed to cuts and austerity
We cannot allow any pro-HDV Labour evictioneers to stand unopposed and we should not allow the Lib Dems to falsely masquerade as a genuine anti-HDV party. We need an alternative that is transparent, democratic and socialist.
For an anti-austerity manifesto - a Labour Party member comments
Virtually every day has brought new articles in the national press and TV appearances by Haringey Labour leader Claire Kober vilifying the Labour Party, with unsubstantiated allegations of sexist bullying.
The billionaire press, who have given no voice to the tenants of the estates slated for demolition, gladly repeat her slanders in bold headlines.
When she was asked on TV why she had not raised her allegations with the Labour Party, she said that the Labour NEC was the problem.
Despite these brazen attempts to attack Haringey Labour Party and undermine its chances in the May elections, all a thinly-veiled attack on Jeremy Corbyn, no action has been taken against Kober, she has not been suspended from the party and remains leader of the Labour group in Haringey council until May when she steps down.
Despite the barrage of attacks, the Labour Party in Haringey has not produced any material in its defence, or anything explaining how a new post-Kober Labour administration would be different.
It has not even produced a single leaflet criticising the right-wing Kober council or committing itself to abolishing the HDV.
In fact, when Claire Kober announced her resignation, the constituency leadership of Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party and the MP Catherine West wrote letters thanking Kober for her work. Many workers in the borough will ask, for what work? For sacking hundreds of workers? For closing council services? For privatising social care to outsourcing firms that paid their staff poverty wages?
The election manifesto
Haringey Labour Party organised a Manifesto conference, attended by 300 members, which discussed motions and manifesto ideas from each of the 17 Labour Party wards, and passed radical policies, including building 1,000 council houses, implementing a municipal EMA [education grant] and bringing privatised services back in house.
But rather then deciding the manifesto, this conference merely suggested policies to a manifesto sub-group of four outgoing councillors, which includes right-winger Elin Weston, who is a member of the secretive shadow board which includes right-wing councillors and Lendlease executives - a body intended to oversee the transfer of council assets to Lendlease.
This sub-group will decide which, if any, of these ideas will be included in Labour's manifesto for the May elections.
Publication of Labour Party material is controlled by the Labour Party's local organiser, a deselected pro-HDV councillor.
This individual has been rewarded for her loyalty to Claire Kober by being appointed to the well-paid position of chair of the Ally Pally board, also to the board of directors of Homes for Haringey, the General Assembly of the Local Government Association, the London Councils Transport and Environment Committee, as well as Labour Party local organiser.
In the latter position she has blocked criticism of the pro-austerity policies of the outgoing council or of the HDV in Labour Party material.
There has been a reluctance to take on the entrenched officialdom and the pro-HDV right by some of the outgoing councillors.
They claim that any show of disunity will harm Labour's election chances. But months of screaming headlines mean that anyone who has not been hiding in a cave will be aware of the civil war in Haringey Labour Party.
So it is vital that this battle is not about bogus claims of sexist bullying, but is about the HDV and the council's austerity programme.
There is probably a desire on the part of some outgoing councillors to dampen the enthusiasm of the Labour Party rank and file, whose confidence has been lifted by the battle against the HDV and right-wing councillors.
Participants in the anti-HDV movement have made gains in Haringey Labour Party. They have won the leadership of most wards, of the constituencies, have deselected all but six of the pro-HDV councillors, and forced the resignation of council leader Claire Kober.
But these gains mean nothing if the right wing still controls what the Labour Party says and what material is produced.
- Drive the Blairites out of the Labour Party. For the immediate suspension of Kober and others who are slandering the Labour Party in the billionaire press
- For a Labour manifesto based on the democratic decisions of the conference, with no veto for unelected officials and discredited Blairite councillors
- For the production of bold, hard-hitting election material explicitly committing the party to abolishing the HDV and ending the cuts
- For the right of branches to produce their own election material
- The content of political material must be controlled solely by elected representatives of the members and not by unelected paid officials