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.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.