Haringey Labour has been the subject of nonsensical media smears because local members want council candidates who will represent their opposition to a damaging sell-off of social housing planned by the incumbent council leader and her supporters on the council.
A local Labour member – who is not a Corbyn supporter – asked the SKWAWKBOX to share her story, because she is so frustrated by the smear campaign. Understandably, given the readiness of deposed councillors and their supporters to smear, her identity is withheld by request.
What is really happening in Haringey
As an ordinary Labour party member in Haringey I wanted to write this to explain what is really going on. Unlike some, I do not have access to mainstream media, I am just someone who joined the Labour party in the 90s to fight for a Labour government as the Tories were destroying the mining town I grew up in.
I have chosen for this to be anonymous because, if I am honest I fear the repercussions and have seen what is happening to others who are speaking out.
I’ll start by making it clear that I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the two leadership elections, I voted Yvette Cooper and in the second leadership election I chose not to vote as I was not convinced by either candidate.
I have to say this, as what is going on in Haringey is being polarised as a fight between Corbyn supporters and non-Corbyn supporters.
When I moved to Hornsey and Wood Green, I was not engaged by the local Labour party, I admit I did not make an effort to engage as I just started a new job and then became pregnant. However when the Tories came into power, it sparked off a new interest. I found it hard to be involved as a newcomer but they had an active Women’s forum and when Catherine West was selected the campaigning increased which led me to be more involved. Everyone seemed very nice and welcoming; some people I met went on to become friends.
Then Corbyn stood for leader and things started to change.
In my CLP our membership exploded to 3,000 or more, there was something exciting going on. There was a lot of energy and hope that we could finally get rid of the Tories. However, the newer members were seen as a threat and were not being welcomed or involved into the local party. I felt less motivated to get involved in the party and stopped attending activities. The atmosphere was getting very toxic and despite media reports, it was not the new members who were being aggressive.
When Corbyn was challenged for the leadership I was in two minds about supporting him. I did not feel that he was as committed to the EU as he should have been but I liked a lot of his policy ideas. I was not sure if he was the right person to carry out those visions. Angela came across very weak at her leadership launch and Owen Smith was not strong enough for me to be a leader. I found his campaign to be more about Corbyn than what he stood for. I was demotivated. The party was falling apart and I could not see an end to the division.
I received a phone call from someone telling me they were from “Saving Labour” and how I should turn up to a nominations meeting and ‘save the party from Corbyn’. I had no idea what a nominations meeting was, I was not invited to one.
I also had no idea how “Saving Labour” had my contact details, when I asked they said I signed up to receive communications. I challenged this, there was no way I signed up to any such campaign. I was mollified by being informed my number would be removed and did not pursue it further.
A few weeks later I found out my CLP voted to nominate Owen Smith. Whilst I was not a Corbyn supporter, I found this odd as thousands of people joined because of Corbyn, I saw many of them campaigning for him in Crouch End. It did not add up.
I called another party member that I became friends with in the Women’s forum, she told me with glee and pride that the party had made sure that only the older members could attend the nominations meeting so none of the new members could vote or the CLP would have voted for Corbyn. She was normally very friendly, but she seemed devious and saw nothing wrong with purposely excluding people to achieve an outcome.
Shortly after the second leadership election, I began to find out about the Haringey Development Vehicle known as the HDV. I read about it in the local paper. I found it astonishing that any council, let alone a Labour council would even consider such a plan. As time went on, I began to hear more and more about this project. Simultaneously there was the sell-off of the Hornsey Town Hall and concerns about Muswell Hill Library.
The council were also under fire for spending £45,000 going to Cannes to sit on yachts smooching property developers. They were closing services but spending £20,000 a day on consultants. This was not “fake news”, I could not believe it myself until I saw it in the council papers and through freedom of information requests online. In the midst of the most vicious Tory cuts in my lifetime, the council decided to spend £90,000 on a new logo. The most astonishing was £200,000 on a chicken shop in Tottenham.
I attended a meeting in February in Wood Green by the HDV campaign group, I wanted to find out more. It was packed with 200-250 people. The speakers included trade union representatives, Professors from UCL and even the Highgate Society! There were people from all political parties including Labour but also Lib Dems, Greens, TUSC and even a few Tories. But most of all there were people from Haringey, residents who were concerned.
I found it very informative but also was sceptical, surely a Labour council would not be doing the things these people claimed. I started to attend the council’s scrutiny meetings and I heard Labour councillors raise really serious concerns, council managers responses were also very concerning but the councillor in charge of housing, Alan Strickland was not concerned. He showed absolutely no interest in what was being said to him. Underneath the gloss was almost an intention to play down the high risk of this project.
It was through these meetings I met members from the other Haringey CLP, Tottenham and some of the new members from my own CLP who had been excluded from participating.
It struck me that they were really nice people; they came from a mixture of backgrounds. One woman I met was a linguistics lecturer with a PhD who loved living in Tottenham and had lived there for over 30 years. They were a mix of ages, ethnic backgrounds and ranged from having manual and highly professional jobs. What surprised me the most was they were members who had been members for decades and some just a few months.
They told me they did not care how long people had been members, they were all made to feel welcomed. Some were already on the executive committee and one had already became a councillor in a by-election. New members were being fully engaged and there was not a nasty atmosphere as there was in my CLP. Over the snap election the Tottenham members were campaigning all over the country, they were focused on getting a Labour government. They were all seemed to get along. I was jealous.
The councillors in Haringey were very split, not just over the HDV but in the way they engaged with members. Some councillors were really friendly and came to events to engage members, I went to a quiz night in Tottenham and had two councillors in my team. But some totally distanced themselves.
I attended a fundraising dinner in Tottenham and could not believe it when I heard from others the council leader had never attended one fundraising dinner or any type of social event in Tottenham in the past 4 years.
It is no surprise to me that those who have quit or not secured the votes to be selected are the very same people who had not engaged members in events and fundraisers.
When the conference arrangements committee elections were taking place, I was called by my friend from my CLP women’s forum to vote for Gloria and Michael. I told her I was only voting for the two women and was confronted by disgust that I was voting for Seema. I was not sure about Gloria, but Seema I was 100% sure of as I had met her several times as she was the CLP Secretary for Tottenham but she also organised The Battle of Wood Green 40th Anniversary event and she proved she had the skills to run events.
My friend could not tell me why I should not vote for her, after a heated debate she said that she was told to call people and make sure Seema was not elected as she was ‘a nasty piece of work’. My friend admitted she had never met her and was surprised to hear about her involvement in the Battle of Wood Green 40th Anniversary event, but it didn’t change her mind.
A few weeks later I was called by my friend again, she sounded desperate and flustered. She said I had to attend the branch meeting to elect GC delegates for the AGM. I had no idea what a GC delegate was. She said that the ‘far left’ were trying to take over the CLP and turn us into a far left CLP like Tottenham.
I asked other Labour people I met through the anti HDV campaign what a delegate was and how AGMs worked. I was surprised to hear that the AGM should have happened in July, like it did in Tottenham, but the older members were trying to push it back to the new year so they could stay in power longer, possibly to stitch up the selections.
So I attended the branch meeting and voted for all the people she told me not to. The thought our CLP could be anything like Tottenham excited me. I am not a Corbynite, I am a Labour party member who wants a Labour government to implement Labour policies.
The HDV is a bad idea, so bad that the councillors supporting it cannot convince anyone why it is a good idea. It is not about building homes for people on the waiting list, these homes are not for vulnerable people they will go on sale and be purchased by foreign investors. Knocking down 2,500 council homes and adding those people to an already stretched list as outlined in the council’s documents will make it 100 times harder for people on the waiting list. This is nothing more than social cleansing, framed as ‘creating mixed communities’. If the council really wanted to build new homes for those on the waiting list, there are many sites in my affluent part of Hornsey and Wood Green.
The way the council leader persecuted councillors who dared to ask questions with suspensions and disciplinary has been a serious abuse of power. It is shameful irony that some are on social media upset that they are subject to complaints given they remained silent when councillors were being suspended for doing their jobs.
Members used motions and meetings to ask the council leader to respond to the concerns or rethink. Both MPs have done the same. Councillors who support the HDV have treated members with distain and now members have the opportunity to vote on who should represent them, it is no surprise they have not chosen people who treated them so badly.
The behaviour on social media of some pro-HDV councillors and their supporters shows that they are not fit for public office and the sooner they are replaced, the better the people of Haringey will be. Haringey deserves better.
I am not a Corbynite. I am not from the far left. I am just an ordinary member who made up my own mind on the HDV, on councillors and on the leadership.
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