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Local people stopped the Haringey Development Vehicle - now it's time for unity

The party needs to pull together to take on the challenges facing the borough. 

The end of the Haringey Development Vehicle is a story of local democracy and accountability in action. Over the last year, residents of all political affiliations and none, from across Haringey’s diverse communities, have come out in huge numbers to lobby our councillors and persuade them to change course.

The media has focused on Momentum but they were a small part of a broad based opposition. Hundreds of members organised and turned out to vote in selection meetings and most belonged to no internal grouping at all. Inside the Labour Party, that has had a powerful impact. It has generated a debate – not always an easy debate to have, but a necessary one – about housing, regeneration, and how we stick to our values in difficult circumstances. That debate was evident in our recent councillor selection meetings in Haringey with candidates opposed to the HDV being elected to make up the majority of Labour council candidates for the May local elections. Labour’s general election manifesto had a big impact locally and resulted in increased majorities for our two MPs, and a widespread belief that Labour could do things differently

Haringey Labour’s leader, Claire Kober, has had a difficult job since she took office and I wish her well in her future career. Like many inner-London boroughs, our residents feel the housing crisis keenly along with the creeping rise of low wages, poor conditions and horrendous level of child and in-work poverty. The council under Claire’s leadership has faced budget cuts of over 40 per cent since 2010, and struggled to guarantee the high-quality public services that residents deserve. Being in local politics, where the effect of national decisions and debates are felt painfully with little recourse to influence them, is not easy.

So I understand why some of my colleagues took the view, initially, that the HDV was the best way of getting new houses built quickly. But we had to ask the question; at what cost? The deal would have involved the transfer of billions in public land and assets – or in plain English, people’s homes, small businesses, social spaces, a school, a library and communities – being placed in an unaccountable development scheme where both residents and elected politicians would struggle to have even a small amount of influence on the area’s fate.

We need housing, desperately, and the best way to ensure that we get safe, decent and affordable housing in sufficient numbers is to put Labour in government at a general election. But in the meantime there are other ways of delivering what we can, as other London councils who have refused to enter into HDV-style partnerships have demonstrated. Rapacious developers and restrictions on local government are a problem for councils across the board.

Yet alongside all the other concerns about the HDV – accountability, quantity of genuinely affordable housing, the ability of the developer to get the job done (a firm that does not share Labour values) – it is the strength of opposition on the ground which has helped shape local opinion. 

It hasn’t just been blind opposition. We have articulate, bright, and sensitive residents, both inside and outside the Labour Party, who are not only opposed to the HDV but brimming with ideas about how we can improve our community in a tough climate.

The debate about the HDV is now decisively ended. The local Labour MPs, a majority of council candidates for May’s elections, the Labour Party nationally, community organisations, unions, and more are united in favour an alternative approach to housing. We’re about to have a local manifesto conference where we can work together to propose the ideas that go into our election platform.

And the voices of those who took a different side in the HDV debate remain important. We had a robust political disagreement but there are people of all political persuasions in our party who I respect, and I like to think the reverse is true as well. It will take the energy and talents of people across the Labour family – and most importantly, across the communities we represent – to ensure we meet all the challenges facing us in getting the decent homes, strong public services and participatory democracy that people have entrusted us to provide.

Celia Dignan is chair of Hornsey & Wood Green Constituency Labour Party and a member of Momentum.

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I’ll miss the youthful thrill of Claire’s Accessories – but the tween Mecca refused to grow up

From an adolescent rite of passage to struggling to stay open: how the tackiest shop on the high street lost its shine.

The first day I was allowed to go into “town” (hailing from rural Essex, that’s the local shopping centre, not London) with a friend – unsupervised by a parent – was a real cornerstone of my childhood.

We were 13, and looking back, we had neither mobile phones nor contingency plans, and my mum must have been sat at home for the entire two hours scared shitless, waiting for when she could pick me up again (by the Odeon carpark, 3pm sharp).

Finally free from the constraints of traipsing around department stores bound by the shackles of an adult, my friend and I had the most grown-up afternoon we could imagine; Starbucks Frappuccinos (size: tall – we weren’t made of money), taking pictures on a pink digital camera in the H&M changing rooms, and finally, making a beeline for tween Mecca: Claire’s Accessories.

As a beauty journalist, I’m pretty sure Saturdays spent running amok among the diamante earrings, bow hairbands and fluffy notebooks had an influence on my career path.

I spent hours poring over every rack of clip-on earrings, getting high on the fumes of strawberry lipbalm and the alcohol used to clean freshly pierced toddlers’ ears.

Their slogan, “Where getting ready is half the fun”, still rings true for me ten years on, as I stand on the edge of dancefloors, bored and waiting until my peers are suitably drunk to call it a night, yet revelling in just how great my painstakingly applied false lashes look.

The slogan on a Claire's receipt. Photo: Flickr

On Monday, Claire’s Accessories US filed for bankruptcy, after they were lumbered with insurmountable debts since being taken over by Apollo Global Management in 2007. Many of the US-based stores are closing. While the future of Claire’s in the UK looks uncertain, it may be the next high street retailer – suffering from the surge of online shopping – to follow in Toys R Us’ footsteps.

As much as I hate to say it, this is unsurprising, considering Claire’s commitment to remain the tackiest retailer on the high street.

With the huge rise of interest in beauty from younger age groups – credit where credit’s due, YouTube – Claire’s has remained steadfast in its core belief in taffeta, rhinestone and glitter.

In my local Superdrug (parallel to the Claire’s Accessories, a few doors down from the McDonald’s where we would sit, sans purchase, maxed out after our Lipsmacker and bath bomb-filled jaunt), there are signs plastered all over the new Makeup Revolution concealer stand: “ENQUIRE WITH STAFF FOR STOCK”. A group of young girls nervously designate one among them to do the enquiring.

Such is the popularity of the three-week-old concealer, made infamous by YouTube videos entitled things like “I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS CONCEALER!” and “FULL COVERAGE AND £4!!!”, no stock is on display for fear of shoplifters.

The concealer is cheap, available on the high street, comparable to high-end brands and favoured by popular YouTube “beauty gurus”, giving young girls a portal into “adult life”, with Happy Meal money.

It’s unlikely 13-year-olds even own eye bags large enough to warrant a full coverage concealer, but they’re savvy enough to know that they can now get good quality makeup and accessories, without going any higher than Claire’s price points.

They have naturally outgrown a retailer that refuses to grow with them; it’s simply not sustainable on Claire’s part to sell babyish items to a market who no longer want babyish things.

Adulthood is catching up with this new breed of teenagers faster than ever, and they’ve decided it’s time to put away childish things.

Tweenagers of 2018 won’t miss Claire’s Accessories if it goes. The boarded-up purple signage would leave craters in shopping centre walls soon to be filled with the burgundy sheen of a new Pret.

But I will. Maybe not constantly – it’s not as if Primark has stopped selling jersey dresses, or Topshop their Joni jeans – it’ll be more of a slow burn. I’ll mourn the loss of Claire’s the next time a pang of nostalgia for blue-frosted shadow hits me, or when it’s Halloween eve and I realise I’m bereft of a pair of cat ears. But when the time comes, there’s always Amazon Prime.

Amelia Perrin is a freelance beauty and lifestyle journalist.