An astonishing message put out – and then deleted – by Enfield’s right-wing Labour council leader has led to a stinging response by representatives of local members.
Nesil Caliskan, a close ally of Enfield North MP Joan Ryan, was the subject of a motion of no confidence tabled by Enfield Southgate CLP (constituency Labour party) for her behaviour in removing a councillor of Turkish origin from the council’s cabinet, Yasemin Brett.
She responded with a bizarre outburst published on Facebook in which she claimed she was being harassed and made unfounded accusations of racism against Turkish-speaking councillors on the part the CLP:
The motion repeats previous unfounded accusations. A small number of members of Enfield Southgate CLP previously passed a motion referring to Turkish speaking Councillors as ‘functionally illiterate’. The vast majority of Labour members in Southgate do not agree with this and many of them have told me that they do not wish to be associated with the individuals who conduct the meetings and who continue to harass myself and members of the Turkish-speaking community.
In previous statements, I have made my position clear. I always stand up to racism, and I spoke out against the two Conservative councillors who were recently suspended from their party due to racism. The first tweeted that Turks are barbaric and the second was explicitly racist towards a Labour Turkish-speaking councillor during a public council meeting.
Like the overwhelming majority of Labour Party members, I have always grounded my politics in equality and anti-racism. I will continue to put Labour first locally and nationally. I am committed to leading Enfield Council, standing up for our public services and fighting austerity. I will ensure our Labour values of fairness and equality are at the heart of everything we do at the Council.
On Cllr Yasemin Brett’s suspension:
I removed the Cabinet Member for Public Health from her post with immediate effect last week. This was communicated to her. I did not appoint anyone else to replace her. I stated at the time that I intend to reappoint the same councillor within two weeks. In the meantime, I have taken responsibility for the Public Health portfolio.
During a public Cabinet Meeting, Cllr Yasemin Brett took the decision to break the previously agreed collective position by Cabinet to support a report (North London Waste Plan). The report that Cllr Brett decided not to support had been discussed by Cabinet and the Labour Group on numerous occasions, over a number of weeks. Cabinet operates on the basis of collective positions and confidence. I take the integrity of the Cabinet Structure of the Council to be very important in order to effectively run the Labour Administration.
When the North London Waste Plan was brought to Full Council on Wednesday evening, Labour Group members (excluding Cabinet Members) were permitted to abstain on the report. Only two members chose to do so.
Cllr Brett already knows she will be reinstated at the end of next week, therefore the motion is entirely unnecessary. By the end of next week, it will be for Cllr Brett to decide whether she wants to serve as a Cabinet Member as part of the Labour administration at Enfield Council. Cabinet Members are not obliged to take up the position if they feel that they cannot sign up to collective responsibility for Cabinet’s collective decisions. The position of ‘animal champion’ is not a position outlined in the Constitution of the Council, nor is it a position on the Labour Group and no election has been held for such a position. However, I do understand and respect that Cllr Brett takes her work as ‘animal champion’ very seriously and we all applaud her for her commitment to animals.
The Southgate motion of no confidence makes no mention of the ethnicity of any councillors. Nor did the CLP’s earlier motion calling for a party investigation into the ‘irregular’ selection of council candidates, which was overseen by Ms Caliskan before the elected councillors chose her as council leader.
With regard to the language abilities of the selected candidates, that motion said simply:
- That a substantial number of applications for Cabinet and other committees appear to be part of a job lot that has been completed by the same person, as evidenced by the same sentences and spelling errors presenting across the forms of a specific group of applicants.
- That some applications for Cabinet strongly suggest that the applicants are functionally illiterate and would not have met the “essential criteria” at interview had the essential questions been asked.
The motion also deplored the deselection of all the borough’s black candidates by what some members have termed a ‘coup’.
The CLP’s executive has circulated an email to members with its response to Caliskan’s accusations. The response includes accusing her of a ‘flat out lie‘ – and a call for members to attend and vote their lack of confidence in her:
From: Enfield Southgate CLP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: 26 November 2018 01:07
Subject: Enfield Southgate CLP Executive Committee response to the Leader of Enfield Council’s statement
Attached is Enfield Southgate CLP Executive Committee’s response to the Leader of Enfield Council’s statement on the “No Confidence” Motion – both reproduced below.
Secretary Enfield CLP
ENFIELD SOUTHGATE CLP EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE RESPONSE TO THE COUNCIL LEADER’S STATEMENT ON THE NO CONFIDENCE MOTION
The malpractice that occurred during the Council candidate selections process and afterwards is grounded in factual evidence and is being investigated by the NEC.
Both Enfield Southgate CLP and Enfield North CLP passed motions by huge majorities calling for an investigation, as did 15 senior Party officials and Councillors from across Enfield, including half of Enfield Council’s Cabinet, the deputy leader of the Council, and the Chair of the Labour Group. The 15 signatories came from diverse backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities, including Turkish, Greek, Cypriot, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Irish, Black, Bengali, Somali, and Sri Lankan.
We note that calls for an NEC investigation into the selections malpractice came from across the spectrum of views within the Labour Party, from the left, the centre and the right, and included hugely experienced Enfield Councillors who have represented wards for up to 28 years.
Southgate CLP executive committee is the most diverse it has ever been, and we are proud that a majority of its members are BAME, including our female Chair and female Secretary. EC members come from a wide range of ethnicities and backgrounds, including Black, Irish, Sri Lankan, Polish, Caribbean, Jewish, and Romanian.
The CLP EC has a close and supportive relationship with all our Turkish Councillors in Southgate, and we stand in solidarity with Cllr. Yasemin Brett who has wrongly been removed from the Cabinet.
Our diverse EC voted unanimously for the no confidence motion in Nesil Caliskan that will be moved by our Political Education Officer at next Thursday’s All Members Meeting and seconded by our Diversity Officer.
It is outrageous for Nesil Caliskan to falsely accuse CLP EC officers of “harassment”, when all they have done is attempt to hold her to account in accordance with party rules.
Nesil Caliskan states that a “small number of members of Enfield Southgate CLP previously passed a motion referring to Turkish speaking Councillors as ‘functionally illiterate’”. This is a flat out lie.
There was no mention of the ethnicity of the Councillors in the motion she cites (which was passed at an All Members Meeting with just 2 votes against), and we demand a retraction and an apology.
We note that candidates who failed their Council selection interviews but went on to become Councillors after being misreported by Nesil Caliskan as having passed, included white middle class men.
Nesil Caliskan’s claim to speak on behalf of the “vast majority” of Southgate members is risible. Our CLP is governed by our members who take decisions at All Members Meetings, and they have regularly and democratically voted to hold the Council leader to account for her refusal to answer the 25 questions asked by the Enfield Labour Party’s Local Campaign Forum (LCF) into her role in the selections malpractice, and her breaches of Labour Group standing orders.
Racism is a scourge on our society and must be fought, as our majority BAME EC knows only too well. Nesil Caliskan’s attempt to distract attention from her role in the selections malpractice she oversaw and her role in the removal of Yasemin Brett from the Cabinet, trivialises racism for her own political agenda and is beneath contempt.
Southgate CLP will continue to hold Nesil Caliskan to account and we urge you to attend Thursday’s All Members Meeting where the motion of no confidence will be put.
MEETING BEGINS AT 20:00 THURSDAY 29 NOVEMBER at the Southgate Club by Southgate Tube. Please arrive 15 minutes early and bring Membership ID.
Nesil Caliskan has stated that she does not wish to be contacted for comment by the SKWAWKBOX.
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