Eyewitness account: Haringey Seven Sisters council selection meeting #HDV


Yesterday the SKWAWKBOX published concerns raised by local members in Haringey about anomalies in the council candidate selection meeting that resulted in the reselection of Haringey’s controversial council leader as a Labour candidate for next May’s local elections.

A reader who claims to have been an eyewitness to the selection meeting contacted this blog with an account of the proceedings. We have not been able to verify it absolutely, but it seems to tally with other accounts and comments about the meeting:

When I arrived at the meeting I was surprised to see such a large group of people from one minority group crowding the foyer, many of whom seemed particularly young to me – perhaps 15 or 16.

There was a lot of confusion and bustle around the desk where ID was being checked. While waiting, men pushed in front of me and when I asked them to wait they ignored me. This was not an orderly check, even the guy doing it indicated he was overwhelmed by the chaos.

Inside the hall there was strict gender segregation with 5 rows of men on one side and similar of women on the other side. There were 87 people present and over 60 of them were from one community.

Many people were allowed into the hall after 7.30 and the start of the meeting was delayed. It was while waiting that I saw one of the committee carrying a large transparent bag containing what I would describe as a big wad of cash which was secreted by his chair. Although I thought this was strange I also thought it was probably just over-due subs but I did think it looked like a lot of cash.

Once the meeting started it was apparent to me that this group was determined to close down debate. The number of candidates short-listed was on a hand vote resulting in the minimum number of 2 candidates (for the 1 vacancy after Claire Kober and Dhirendra Basu were reselected).

I was one of the tellers for the vote and it was quite clear that people were voting in a block. The women’s side of the hall handed me their slips in one pile. The count was fair and the actual voting orderly.

Debate over length of hustings was similarly closed down by the chair. When I suggested each candidate have 45 minutes of speech and questions the chair informed me we can’t do that. Also rejected was a compromise of 10 minute speech and 10 minute questions the chair pushed the worst 5 minute speech and 5 minute questions option which was so heartily embraced by a man on the front row that he stood up to vote and then the 5 rows of men and women voted too.

At the end of the meeting a group of men surrounded me and one said “sorry but there were more of us than you” (I attended the meeting alone). I asked what meaningful discussion we could have in 5 minutes and was told “we are busy people”. I found being surrounded in this manner threatening and left the meeting quite shocked by the level of hostility, as though I were an enemy not a comrade (although I was impressed by the degree of organisation).

My main concerns with the meeting are the chaos surrounding the ID check, which seemed like a distraction to divert attention from something else, and the bag of cash. It is my suspicion that this was gerrymandering and because of this I have contacted the branch in the hope the vote may be seen as unsafe.

According to other sources, the group of people who turned up for the selection meeting had not previously participated in ward activities or meetings.

If this account is accurate, then it certainly does nothing to reduce concerns about the way the selections were carried out. The situation requires prompt investigation and firm action if the investigation’s conclusion are in line with the concerns of local members.

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  1. Under Thatcher, the Tories set out to financially compromise local government, and draw most power over local matters to the centre in Whitehall. New Labour made matters much worse with their structural reforms, which created a new cadre of council leaders and their cabinets, who have a serious financial interest in maintaining their positions, and a large group of councillors who have a very poor position as decisions are made at cabinet level. This is only exceeded by the appalling and unpopular elected mayors. Local government really does require serious democratic reform.

  2. It is awful that people are having to go through things like this in order to try to take part in democracy and make a difference. Sadly to some extent it seems to be happening across the country. I really hope people in authority in the party show zero tolerance and step in when required simply to ensure that things are fair and proper.

  3. Am I to make out that this was an intentional attack by the right?
    Doing their dirty trick CAMPAIGNING to keep the left from winning leadership and seats?

  4. Brown envelopes or in this case bags of cash for votes . Perhaps the Chair would like to explain this via this blog ( if you believe them ) .
    Region need to step in and re run this with STRICT ID checks to validate the eligibility to vote

  5. Any treasurer worth their salt would not touch that bag of dodgy cash with a barge pole until due diligence had been carried out on these “phantom” members.

    If the treasurer handling this money has not requested further investigation of these highly dubious renewals then the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that the treasurer is a willing participant in the attempted gerrymandering of this election.

      1. the clear bag held by the committee member was the arrears subs. Another person held another bag. Arrears were paid from envelopes directly containing the exact money.

  6. This is shocking corruption. I did not realise that this sort of thing was happening to this extent in the Labour Party and must be stamped out as soon as possible. Watertight rules involving proper ballots and procedure have to be compulsory.

  7. This is why I will not join the party. It’s about time the electoral commission were brought in to oversee things.

    If that means for every vote, everywhere – then so be it. It’s not as if they couldn’t afford it, what – with the ‘wads of cash’ that were in view.

    The toerags are moribund; but as long as right wing helmets and nepotists continue to infest the party it’s hard to see how outsiders will see the real labour party as a viable alternative.

    It’s time to either purge, or remain in perpetual opposition.

  8. EDIT:

    The toerags are moribund; but as long as right wing helmets and nepotists continue to infest the party, and elections are carried out in a style reminiscent of a banana republic, it’s hard to see how outsiders will see the real labour party as a viable alternative.

    1. I am afraid it is simply not good enough to just carp from the sidelines.

      The battle for democracy inside the Labour Party is happening now.

      To win the battle to increase democracy and root out corruption within the party Labour needs people like you to join and get involved.

      1. No, I will not join – for the reasons I’ve given.

        It’s for those who are already ‘in-house’ to clear the mess. We’re told there are enough in momentum to get the job done with or without my membership being an issue.

        I’ll merely leave it for me to decide whether I’ll even vote for what I’m seeing going on…And I’ve already seen plenty, living in Wallasey.

  9. Really don’t want to sound racist,but that account seems to me that someone in the Muslim community has just bought a seat/ or bought a place for selection as candidate.

    1. Do you have any evidence for that claim? It’s a very serious allegation.

    2. Your comment shows you’re not familiar with the area. But it also shows something else.

  10. I also attended this meeting and agree wholeheartedly with the above description.
    In addition, 36 of the minority group attending, were in arrears. They paid those arrears on entrance, with the exact money. Some had their money in envelopes.
    Only 3 of the people from this group have previously been present at ward meetings, and of those, only one consistently. He initially was a candidate and withdrew on the night.
    They were none of them at first interested in reading applicant biogs, and only took them when instructed that to not do so seemed suspicious.

    One of the standing councillors was outside the building with a group of people from this minority group, who when questioned, said they were not qualified to vote. However he conferred with them for over an hour, with reports being given him from inside, particularly by the one member who had a carrier bag with what appeared to be envelopes inside.
    I am glad this is being referred upwards as it appeared to be an organised attempt to overwhelm the organisation.

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