The SKWAWKBOX has covered at considerable length the battle in the London borough of Enfield between a broad coalition of Labour members and officials from all wings of the party and a group they allege has taken over the council by anti-democratic means.
Those means included huge – and at least partially admitted – departures from proper procedure in the selection of council candidates overseen by the Labour officer who is now council leader – and the ‘coup’ resulted in the deselection of every sitting black councillor, as well as in the selection and ultimately election of councillors who failed to pass selection interviews.
Members across the borough, as well as the council’s deputy leader and around half of its Cabinet, called on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to investigate and intervene – and aspects of the story broken exclusively by the SKWAWKBOX were picked up by national media last weekend.
Now new information has emerged that proves that Labour’s right-dominated London regional office was fully aware of the issues.
The SKWAWKBOX has heard a recording of a meeting of Enfield’s LCF (local campaign forum) that took place on 21 November last year – almost six months before May’s local elections in which an array of candidates were elected who had failed to pass selection interviews and who then elected the official who oversaw their selection as Enfield Council’s new leader.
A transcript of the key parts of that recording is below. Labour’s London regional director was present at the meeting and many of the contributions by LCF members were directed to him.
Emphases have been added by the SKWAWKBOX. The information is explosive:
LCF FEMALE DELEGATE 1
The interviews and assessments we were very specific that we wanted all questions answered. I’m yet to receive any explanation as to why the interview panels would fail to ask the questions. The interview process was not fair and equal.
The representation of black candidates is a very emotive issue. There are some of us who mentored those candidates who were deselected in finding their voice… many of them were women…we trained them to speak in male dominated meetings… how to become representatives of their communities.
And to find ourselves in a situation where 4 years ago we were congratulated for the diversity of our Labour Group and our candidates: a group of candidates and a Labour Group that represented almost every community in this borough. And now to find ourselves with one token black candidate, no Somali representation when the community is in deep trouble with their young people, and they need XXXX (deselected black councillor) and they need people like him.
It’s shameful. I’m ashamed to say I’m a member of Enfield Labour Party. I feel personally aggrieved and broken-hearted by it.
These are good, hard-working people. And what are we saying to the community out there?
And also my own community, the Jewish community. One token Jewish candidate… what are we saying to the Jewish community? That they are not good enough to have representation in the Labour party? Are we saying that to the Nigerian community, to the Somali community, to the Ghanaian community?
I could go on all day. I won’t. This is shameful. This is really, really shameful.
And you’re right, the members selected the candidates. And we all know, and we are lying to ourselves if we don’t admit to this, that there are groups of people in the borough who have joined the party and who turn up to meetings as voting fodder. We’ve seen it now for years in Edmonton Labour party.
Not only do we not have any black council candidates, we don’t have any black officers in Edmonton Labour party, no statutory officers. That is the first time for 10 years we have not had one black statutory officers. We have a couple of token junior officers, as I would call them. That was the first slap in the face last year, and this… this is appalling. I’m going to end there, I can’t say any more. I’m too upset.
LCF FEMALE DELEGATE 2
Why do we have this process? It is to ensure that those people who are going to represent the Labour party and the people of our borough are appropriate to do so, are qualified to do so and have been tested… and they are going to stand with integrity.
And so we spent a lot of time drawing up the [interview] questions, to draw out any problems… to select people who are suitable to go on a panel of candidates for the wards to then choose from.
We took that very seriously, a lot of people put a lot of time and energy, far more than I have. I was part of choosing those questions and expecting them to be answered… it was ignored, it was not done. And with respect, we don’t know why not.
…For some reason we cannot understand they did not ask the questions that we had chosen. They did not get answers to many of the questions that they did ask. And then from what we’ve seen even when people consistently didn’t seem to provide any answers… the interview panels overall assessment in many cases seemed to be “no, doesn’t look like they’ve told us enough to get on to the candidate panel”, nevertheless they ended up being on the panel for the wards to choose from.
Members made a choice, but what choice did they have in front of them? It wasn’t a process we agreed… the outcome isn’t credible.
We have got to protect the Labour party, the Council, the people of this borough by choosing people through a process that has got integrity. It has failed.
The outcome feels very worrying about what that might mean for the Labour party, for the borough, for the council in the future.
I just don’t think we can go ahead. I appreciate how difficult it is. I appreciate how near next year’s elections we are and we’re all frustrated with that. How difficult it’s going to be to manage, legally, PR wise and everything.
The alternative is to go ahead into next year’s election and risk going into next year’s elections with candidates we do not have confidence in how they got to be candidates. Nor can our voters be sure that they are people of integrity. They might be. I got no idea. But the process that was put in place hasn’t been there.
So we risk a campaign and possibly a council that we cannot support. And In the long run that’s going to feel worse than the short-term pain we’re going to cause ourselves now by taking decisive action.
LCF MALE DELEGATE (first contribution)
I think very clearly we have a process that has been corrupted at every single stage, from interview panel assessments, through to shortlisting and selection. And much of that appears to be systematic.
I’ve sat on several interview panels. I’ve chaired two interview panels in other London boroughs in the last month. And I simply cannot understand how it is possible that questions which are written down on a pro-forma interview questionnaire and are passed to the interview panel to complete, and finally the information is collated by the interview panel chair and passed to the procedure secretary. It strikes me as quite extraordinary that those questions weren’t asked, in our case questions 5 & 7, and they’re interesting questions because they relate to the ability of candidates’ to communicate with the public, and candidates’ campaigning track record within the party. So clearly two core questions that must be satisfied before any candidate is put through.
LCF MALE DELEGATE (second contribution)
The [selections] process was contaminated amongst other reasons because of the data breach and also obviously because the LCF set questions were not asked. And as a result, undue influence took place in the shortlisting and selection meetings. The procedure wasn’t followed, as reported by our LCF observer.
But I want to come on to the outcome of this process because I think that’s what’s critical. And the outcome is, as everybody knows, that every single black councillor in Enfield has been deselected along with, I believe, two of the three Jewish councillors. We are left with a panel which is completely unrepresentative of the communities we seek to serve.
Now, to the Regional Director: surely you can no longer be seriously suggesting that we go into May’s election with a panel tainted by allegations of malpractice and ethnic exclusion, and with the black community actively discussing withdrawing support for the Labour Party and spreading that message across London?
…It seems abundantly clear that doing nothing and endorsing the panel as it stands is not an option. Everyone knows that with a meeting this size that the documentation, including the incendiary letters from the black community, which I was very disappointed weren’t passed to us at the time, are flying around all over the country.
I got a call from a Labour MP on Friday. I picked up the phone and he asked me straight out: Is it true that all the black councillors in Enfield have been deselected? To which of course I had to reply: Yes.
Look, I work in the media. The cat is out of the bag. Enfield is one of London’s 32 boroughs. It’s simply a matter of time before this media shitstorm breaks over us. And the very first question that you’re going to be asked, and the LCF officers are going to be asked, is what did you do about this malpractice when you were first alerted to it?
And if the answer to that question is nothing, or we decided to try and brush it under the carpet, then you will have a scandal on top of the original scandal, and probably a bigger scandal than the original scandal. That is the media and political reality that faces us.
So there can be no option of doing nothing here. Personally, I’ve made my position robustly clear. I’ve written to the Regional Director setting out what I believe the consequences of this flawed and corrupted process are likely to be for the Labour Party. So my hands are completely clean. But if this panel is endorsed as it is, those who take that decision own it, and they own the outcome and everything that’s going to flow from it.
Almost three months later – too late for the LCF to un-endorse the selected candidates and re-run the process – the regional director announced that the process had been conducted properly.
But crucially, he left in a claim that all the mandatory interview questions had been asked of each candidate – even though by that time the then-LCF Secretary (now council leader) had admitted that they had not.
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) is meeting today and the NEC’s ‘Organisational Subcommittee’ is scheduled to hear investigators’ preliminary report. It is essential that a full investigation is authorised and that it is pursued, to its conclusion, without fear or favour – and that appropriate action is taken in the same way.
Labour’s reputation and its relationship with the communities of Enfield depend on it.
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