Last weekend, the SKWAWKBOX revealed the motion overwhelmingly approved by Enfield Southgate Labour members in which they condemned ‘irregularities’ in the selection of candidates for May’s local elections – and the involvement of the then-Secretary of the LCF (local campaign forum) in those procedural improprieties.
The former LCF Secretary is now the new leader of the council: Nesil Caliskan (née Cazimoglu), whose younger sister Eda Cazimoglu is a candidate on the right-wing Labour First/Progress slate for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
Their mother Alev works for right-wing Labour MP and LFI chair Joan Ryan.
Ms Caliskan was voted in as council leader by a Labour council group that included candidates who were able to stand as a result of the ‘irregularities’ – irregularities in a process that was controlled by Caliskan as LCF Secretary.
The complaint by Enfield Southgate members involves a number of ‘irregularities’. These were the subject of a joint investigation by the chairs of Southgate and Enfield North CLPs (constituency Labour parties) – who reviewed the process for all candidates, except for one whose paperwork could not be found.
The outraged members across Enfield, significantly and remarkably, are not all left-wingers – instead, they represent a coalition of members from the whole Labour spectrum: left, right and centre.
They identified a host of problems with the way candidates were selected. The main issues are outlined below.
Standard of the process/reporting
The investigators found that the overall standard of the process was shoddy, especially in regard to the expected information about interviewers’ decisions – with much information either sketchy or missing entirely.
With regard to successful applicants, their report states:
Concerning candidates rejected or ‘not yet selected‘:
Put simply, some candidates were approved, some rejected or put on hold – with next to no information from the interviewers as to why.
The missing questions
Any applicant wishing to stand as a Labour councillor faces a selection process involving, as its main hurdle, an interview by three panellists. In order to ensure a fair process, the interviewers are supposed to ask the same standard questions to each applicant and then each interviewer separately reports her/his findings and recommendation to the LCF.
The investigators found problems with two key questions:
Many – but not all – applicants were not even assessed for their contribution to the party or, perhaps even more importantly, for their communication skills.
Some successful applicants have since been found to be barely literate, at least in English – yet were ‘rubber-stamped’ through to stand for the party as Enfield candidates.
But the decision to ask those questions was selective. Some candidates were asked them and some were not – and there was a correlation between the asking of the questions and the likelihood of being successful.
In summary some rejected members appear to have undergone a more rigorous assessment than many of those accepted.
The investigators’ conclusion on that selectivity was damning:
When LCF members discovered the discrepancy, they demanded to know from Ms Caliskan why the two “essential” questions (5 & 7) had been omitted and why she had withheld this information from them.
Ms Caliskan refused to say why she had withheld the information. But she did tell the LCF that the first interview panel had, for unknown reasons, failed to ask the two “essential” questions and for the sake of consistency and fairness she had directed all subsequent interview panels not to ask them.
However, the London Regional Director wrote to the LCF on 8 January 2018 rejecting Ms Caliskan’s explanation. He stated: “The Chair of the first panel confirmed to me that all questions were asked to applicants.”
The obvious question is: if the explanation provided by Ms Caliskan is inaccurate, what were her real motives in “guid[ing] the interview panels to omit” two “essential” questions designed to weed out unsuitable candidates?
So far, Ms Caliskan is maintaining a wall of silence.
Pattern 1: ‘potentially’ becomes ‘yes’
The report contains a table – minus candidate names – of:
- whether the questions were asked of each applicant by each interviewer
- what the overall recommendation of the panel was in terms of the candidate’s suitability to stand
- the recommendation that actually went forward to the LCF
Below is part of the table for successful applicants
Candidate 3 was assessed as unsuitable – but eventually became a candidate anyway.
The blue highlights show, for the two key questions, where a candidate was not asked those difficult questions. As can be seen, almost no successful candidate was asked.
The green highlights show candidates who were marked only as having potential, but not yet being ready – yet were put forward to the LCF as a firm ‘yes’.
In total, according to the table and the report, no fewer than five candidates were considered only as possibly suitable in future but not yet ready:
A further four applicants marked ‘potential’ were recommended as ‘yes’ and put onto the candidate panel – but failed to win selection by a Labour ward in the borough.
The report also notes that one interviewer’s comments about a candidate were completely incompatible with a ‘yes’ recommendation.
Pattern 2: no recommendation at all becomes ‘yes’
The image above, which is of the same part of the assessment table, shows highlighted in pink four applicants where a majority of the interviewers did not even make an assessment at all – yet the applicants were reported to the LCF as successful.
The report notes that eight applicants in total were successful in spite of two out of three interviewers making no recommendation at all.
Pattern 3: tougher interviews for rejected candidates
As noted above, the investigators observed that the tougher questions were asked more often of those applicants who were rejected. But that wasn’t all – the reports were more detailed, suggesting that the unsuccessful candidates had been given a far more intensive grilling than those ‘rubber-stamped’ onto the candidates’ panel.
Not only that, but one candidate who was asked the tough questions ‘aced‘ the process was not, in the end, put onto the candidates’ panel at all:
The SKWAWKBOX called Nesil Caliskan to ask for her comments, but she declined to discuss the situation by phone at that time and asked for an email in order to set up a call for later.
The email was sent – but this blog then received an email from the council’s Press and New Media Manager advising that she would not be discussing the issues and all enquiries should be directed to the Labour Party.
The SKWAWKBOX’s next articles on the situation in Enfield will provide evidence of the unsuitability of at least some candidates who passed the LCF’s deeply defective process – and other, even more troubling aspects of the selection situation.
The LCF Secretary oversaw a process that is clearly deeply flawed – and then was voted in to replace the council’s leader by those who got through that flawed process.
Those flaws appear to be merely the tip of the iceberg. The motion overwhelmingly passed by Southgate members – and the LCF itself – said that ‘even more information was withheld from the LCF’.
Southgate members have asked – and many Enfield North members appear to agree – that Labour’s NEC must thoroughly investigate the flawed process and its consequences.
But the NEC must go further – and suspend the entire Labour group until the investigation is completed and any officials found to have acted improperly have been dealt with appropriately.
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