Darcus Howe vows to save the carnival from Ken
Ken Livingstone will not succeed in taking over the Notting Hill Carnival reports Darcus Howe
The Queen's jubilee parade starred the Notting Hill Carnival. It was perhaps the first time that the British people have got a clear view of what the carnival - associated with bad police-black relations, racial stereotypes and bacchanalian revelry - is really all about.
This wasn't easy to achieve. Two years ago, the jubilee committee contacted Claire Holder, then chief executive of the carnival trust. She duly got to work organising meetings and sponsorship. But by April of this year, troublemakers had thrown the carnival movement into confusion. Unsubstantiated allegations against Holder were recklessly bandied about.
She withdrew from a central role, recommended two women stalwarts to continue the liaison with the palace and, in spite of all the abuse, it went without a hitch.
But I fear the carnival has become a snakepit. The Mayor of London's office has recommended three names (including Janet Boateng, wife of the new cabinet minister Paul, and Chris Mullard, a prominent black academic) as possibilities for chair of the carnival. None of them qualifies through past involvement with the carnival. The names insult the carnival because they suggest that it cannot produce leaders from within. Yet it has plenty of artists and musicians with administrative experience, people who were shaped in the fret and fever of building a movement from scratch. It is their carnival. I myself have been involved from the beginning: I helped start a steel band, won best costume band for three consecutive years and chaired the carnival committee. I should know.
I am certain that Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone's race-relations adviser, is behind the mayor's nominations. He once opposed Holder for the top carnival job in a public election. He did not get a single vote. Now he is trying to use the weight of the mayoralty and the power of money.
There will be a fight. The current organising committee has disenfranchised all the constituent parts of carnival. The costume bands and the steel bands have not a single vote in the new constitution, which was designed by Farrer & Co (the Queen's solicitors). The bureaucrats are at the centre of decision-making. Those who produced the spectacle at the jubilee are now without power. Carnival is not supposed to be a mayoral parade. It is a people's movement with humble origins. The attempted coup from the mayor's office will not succeed.