As the SKWAWKBOX reported last night, right-wing Labour councillors in Labour-run Haringey are this evening staging what opponents have termed a ‘racist coup attempt’ against London’s only black council leader at an ’emergency’ meeting on Wednesday evening.
And Labour’s London region has now stepped in on their behalf to protect them against media scrutiny.
Cllr Joe Ejiofor is highly regarded by local members and, in accordance with the group’s rules – and in line with the national party’s decision to postpone its annual conference because of the coronavirus pandemic – he and Haringey’s mayor had agreed to hold the group’s next annual meeting (AGM) in May next year.
But right-wing councillors have called an ’emergency’ meeting this evening – what the ’emergency’ is supposed to be seems unclear – to bring a no-confidence motion against Ejiofor at a cost in a move opponents have described as a ‘racist coup‘.
‘Consistent racist attacks’
A petition started by local Labour members, which has gathered almost 1,700 signatures in the short time since it was launched, states:
Stop the racist coup attempt on London’s only black council leader
We stand with Joe Ejiofor against attempted leadership coup
We stand with Tottenham councillor Joe Ejiofor, London’s only black council leader, against the attempt to overthrow him while people’s backs are turned owing to the global pandemic.
Joe has come under consistent racist attacks since he took over being depicted as an African dictator, a monkey and various other racist tropes, now like the 2 black leaders of Haringey came before he is facing challenges from inside his own party.
Since Joe has been council leader he has made significant progress towards implementation of the 2018 Haringey Labour Manifesto which residents overwhelmingly supported. While much work remains to be done, the achievements of the council range from cancelling the Haringey Development vehicle, to raising the pay of care workers to the level of the London Living Wage, to making a start on bringing council services in-house, and delivering hundreds of new council homes at council rents.
All of these achievements demonstrate that Joe is a successful leader redistributing wealth and power across the borough and using his position to improve the lives of the residents of Haringey.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role local authorities play in providing the services on which all of us, and especially the most vulnerable in our communities. Haringey Council has stepped up to provide vital care and other services to the people of Haringey during the crisis.
That work must continue as lockdown starts to ease, financial support to individuals and businesses from central government is removed, landlords resume evictions, unemployment rises, poverty worsens and those who rely on universal credit are once again subjected to punitive sanctions.
There is no justification in changing the leadership of the Council, and are concerned that this could result in rowing back on the improvements already made to peoples lives.
The Labour Party has recently come under criticism for inadequate representation of Black people in positions of power.
We are asking people to sign this petition to Labour Councillors in Haringey to vote against the motion of no confidence on Wednesday.
Two local constituency Labour party executive committees have also near-unanimously issued a statement condemning the move.
One Labour councillor has already been suspended over alleged antisemitism and threatening behaviour toward Mayor Sheila Peacock, a Jewish woman in her eighties on the right of the party, for her agreement with Ejiofor to hold the AGM next May.
And one ex-councillor, who is married to another involved in the ‘coup’, has been slammed for tweets depicting Ejiofor as an African military dictator and using an image of a chimpanzee:
Antisemitic abuse and physical threats have also been directed at Haringey mayor Sheila Peacock, a Jewish woman in her eighties, despite belonging to the right of the party herself, for agreeing the AGM date with Ejiofor.
The executives of two local constituency Labour parties (CLPS), Tottenham and Hornsey and Wood Green, have also approved – almost unanimously, including branch officers – a joint statement condemning the manoeuvers by a small group of right-wing councillors.
Tea with Keir, then a ‘coup’
The attempt to remove Ejiofor comes just days after a photograph was released showing Keir Starmer in the much-derided ‘power stance’. The picture was taken last weekend at a garden party arranged by right-wing Haringey councillors – and locals say that left-wing councillors were not invited.
London Labour steps in
The SKWAWKBOX wrote to three councillors with questions about the ‘coup’:
- Patrick Berryman, the former hedge-fund trader who is said to be the right’s leader-in-waiting if Ejiofor is removed
- Zena Brabazon, who is married to Alan
- Stanton, shown above posting tweets about Ejiofor as an African dictator and associating him with an ignorant chimp
- Vincent Carroll, who has been suspended by Labour – reportedly pending investigation of messages to Mayor Peacock that triggered complaints of antisemitism and threatening language. In spite of his suspension, local Labour sources have told the SKWAWKBOX that he is still working with the ‘coup’, in spite of Keir Starmer’s promise to adhere to demands by the Board of Deputies to outlaw such cooperation
The SKWAWKBOX wrote to all three councillors with variants of the following questions (Berryman version):
Please provide your comments by return on the following:
– a petition in support of Cllr Ejiofor against what it calls a ‘racist coup’ now has almost 1,700 signatures. How do you respond to the signatories to that petition, which says:
“Joe has come under consistent racist attacks since he took over, being depicted as an African dictator, a monkey and various other racist tropes’?
– the petition also notes that Ejiofor has “made significant progress towards implementation of the 2018 Haringey Labour manifesto which residents overwhelmingly supported”. How do you justify to Labour members and local residents an attempt outside the party’s rules to remove him?
– the mayor and the council leader had agreed, within the rules, to hold the next group AGM in May 2021. Given that the Labour Party has postponed its national annual conference because of the pandemic, while other organisations have acted similarly, on what basis is the meeting you have called an ’emergency’ meeting that cannot wait until May?
– ex-Cllr Alan Stanton has posted tweets of Ejiofor as an African military dictator and comparing him to a chimpanzee. Why are you not condemning him publicly and standing in solidarity with Cllr Ejiofor against racism? Why are you cooperating with Stanton’s wife Zena Brabazon to remove Ejiofor?
– Vincent Carroll has been suspended for antisemitic and threatening tweets against mayor Sheila Peacock, but is said to be still involved in the manoeuvres to remove Ejiofor. Keir Starmer’s pledges prohibit such cooperation and support. Why are you working with someone who threatened to physically remove a Jewish woman in her 80s and accused her of being focused on money, rather than supporting her agreement with Ejiofor to hold the AGM in May?
– the vote you are intending to hold will cost local council-tax payers around £400. Why are you spending their money on this attempt to retake control of the council?
Cllr Brabazon responded asking for a discussion by phone. However, when called she did not pick up.
This morning, the press officer of the London Labour regional office emailed the SKWAWKBOX to insist that no more emails be sent to the councillors:
I know you’ve reached out to some of councillors in Haringey, about multiple questions.
We won’t be providing any comment to your questions. Direct any further questions you have to me not the councillors as they will just pass it onto me anyway.
“We won’t be providing any comment” on questions directed to three councillors personally about racism allegations – questions that were not directed to the Labour Party because both sides in the situation are Labour, yet Labour’s regional office is has intervened to defend one side.
When the SKWAWKBOX queried whether the response really meant that Labour would not be commenting on tweets comparing London’s only black council leader with a chimpanzee etc, the no-comment was confirmed.
When the SKWAWKBOX further queried whether London region’s press office is acting for a councillor who is no longer even a Labour councillor because of antisemitism allegations, this was also confirmed.
A senior Haringey Labour source told the SKWAWKBOX last night:
This is a manoeuvre driven by the right’s opportunism. They think that with Keir Starmer running the party it’s their time to re-take control and they certainly seem to be getting the assistance of regional Labour officials. But the meeting has no basis – there’s no ’emergency’ and no grounds for calling an emergency meeting.
The behaviour toward Joe Ejiofor and Sheila Peacock has been appalling. Sheila’s on the right of the party so her agreement with Joe on a date can hardly be called factional, but these councillors are just not willing to bide their time until May so they’re pulling this disgraceful stunt.
It’s a blatant factional attack on a good council leader, with racism in the mix.
Now, as the right on Haringey council prepares to launch its ‘coup’ tonight against the popular black leader of Haringey council, Labour’s regional office for London has not only stepped in to protect two right-wing Labour councillors from scrutiny over their involvement – it is also defending a non-Labour councillor suspended from the party over complaints of antisemitism and who is now sitting as an independent councillor.
‘Zero tolerance’? ‘Black lives matter’?
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