A broad coalition of Labour councillors, ex-councillors and party officers – including around half of the council’s new Cabinet – has sent Enfield Labour into ‘nuclear meltdown’ with an unprecedented and astonishing letter to Labour’s NEC (National Executive Committee) and General Secretary.
Outrage and intimidation
The letter – signed by Labour figures from the whole of Labour’s political spectrum and across Enfield’s ethnic communities – demands an urgent inquiry by the party into the conduct of the new council leader when she was the borough’s ‘Local Campaign Forum’ Secretary in charge of the process of selecting candidates for last month’s local elections.
It also alleges that several female signatories have already suffered intimidation to try to force them to acquiesce.
Signatories and their many supporters . – around 80% of members in the borough according to local estimates – are so outraged that one said that if the NEC does not intervene to suspend the group for a full investigation, it will be seen as complicit.
The leader, Nesil Caliskan, has admitted that the most difficult questions in candidate ‘panel’ interviews were not asked of all prospective candidates – and an investigation into the selections found that prospective candidates rejected by the interviewers had subsequently been approved onto the candidate list without explanation.
In a further move that caused outrage among ethnic communities in the area, all sitting black councillors were deselected, with only a few managing to fight their way back onto the list.
The moves were described locally as constituting ‘a coup by one ethnic group against others‘.
The beneficiaries of these and other procedural ‘irregularities’ then promptly elected Ms Caliskan as the new council leader, ousting an incumbent popular across the local party. Ms Caliskan and her family are firmly on the right of the party, close to Enfield North MP Joan Ryan and to the right-wing Labour First and Progress factions.
‘Explosive’ does not come close to adequacy in describing the impact and importance of the strongly-worded letter, which has been sent to NEC Chair Jim Kennedy, General Secretary Jennie Formby, a number of other NEC members and to Jeremy Corbyn’s Chief . of Staff Karie Murphy:
And in text for those using readers (emphases added by the SKWAWKBOX):
Dear Andy Kerr, Jim Kennedy, Jennie Formby
We are writing to add our voices to the calls for an NEC investigation into the Enfield candidate selection process and we would be grateful if you would add this item to the agenda of the forthcoming NEC investigations sub-committee and the full NEC.
We are senior Enfield councillors, ex councillors and party officers, reflecting views across Enfield Labour Party’s political spectrum, and we come from diverse backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities, including Turkish, Greek, Cypriot, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Irish, Black, Bengali, Somali, and Sri Lankan.
Four signatories were members of Enfield LCF throughout the selection process and three were observers at about 20 shortlisting and selection meetings across the borough. They joined the majority of LCF members in making Regional Officers aware of their concerns about the procedures, concerns that were either rejected or ignored. This is all a matter of record.
There is widespread anger amongst the membership and the public about the selection process, and in the Labour Group.
Two CLPs have passed motions by overwhelming majorities calling for an inquiry, citing compelling evidence that significant irregularities occurred at every stage of the selection process.
The Enfield Co-op party has also expressed its “dismay at the lack of diversity of the candidates selected”, and community associations representing Caribbean, Nigerian and Somali residents have written to the Regional Director and others expressing their outrage at the de-selection from their seats of all of the black councillors (6) who stood for reselection in 2018.
This growing scandal has already generated negative media coverage for the local party, and our fear is that it is already beginning to damage community relations and our electoral prospects.
Three of the signatories, all women, will be writing to you separately regarding incidents of intimidation.
We would therefore urge the NEC to intervene as a matter of urgency to restore confidence in the local party and the Council.
Abdul Abdullahi, Chair of Health Scrutiny 2015 -2018; Councillor 2014 -2018
Daniel Anderson, Deputy Leader of Enfield Council 2018 – present; Cabinet Member for Environment 2015 – 2018; Councillor 2014 – present; Councillor 1998 – 2002
Dinah Barry, Chair of the Labour Group 2018 – present; Associate Cabinet Member 2017 – present; Councillor 2014 – present
Yasemin Brett, Cabinet Member for Public Health 2018 – present; Cabinet Member for Communities 2010 – 2018, Councillor 1994 – present
Thushara Dassanayake, Secretary Enfield Southgate CLP 2016 – present
Achilleas Georgiou, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services 2018 – present; Deputy Leader 2010 – 2018; Councillor 1990 – present
Dino Lemonides, Cabinet Member for Housing 2018 – present; Cabinet Member for Finance 2016 – 2018; Councillor 2006 – present
Valerie Lestrade, Chair Enfield Southgate CLP 2016 – present
Maria McCaul, Secretary Enfield Nth CLP 2017 – present
Don McGowan, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Services 2010 – 2016; Chair of Enfield Health and Wellbeing Board 2011 – 2014; Councillor 2006 – 2018
Ahmet Oykener, Cabinet Member for Property and Assets 2018 – present; Cabinet Member Housing & Housing Regeneration 2010 – 2018, Councillor 2004 – present
Ayfer Orhan, Cabinet Member for Schools, Children Service, Protection 2010 – 2018; Councillor 1998 – present
Vicki Pite, Associate Cabinet Member 2015 – 2018; Councillor 2014 – present; Chair Enfield North CLP 2008 – 2014
Ruth Rosenthal, LCF delegate Enfield Co-operative Party 2015 – 2018
Alan Sitkin, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Business, Chair Sustainability Scrutiny Panel, Councillor 2010 – 2018
Kind regards and thanks for consideration of our concerns
It is hugely significant that the signatories above and the coalition of members supporting the call for urgent action by the party come from all wings of the party and none.
Some members of the coalition have even been advised by whistleblowers to vary their daily routines for their security.
This story is not just huge for those who live in Enfield. How Labour responds to the situation there – and similarly in Sandwell – will be an enormous factor in how Labour deals with the entrenched right in local government across the country: the next big battlefield in the recreation of Labour as a mass movement sweeping into government.
But while the mainstream media were delighted to regurgitate the fake news of supposed ‘left bullying’ in Haringey, it’s unlikely they will give much if any coverage to the broad coalition of Labour officials and members in Enfield fighting what locals regard as a right-wing ‘coup’.
The Labour Party must surely act without delay to intervene in the murky and even dangerous situation signalled by an unprecedented letter.
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