The recent selection process to choose candidates to stand for Labour in the London Borough of Haringey council elections in May 2018 has resulted in mass democratic engagement by party members locally.
At 36 shortlisting and selection meetings, members have turned out in large numbers – many meetings attracting over 100 members. With over 90 candidates to consider – both sitting councillors and new applicants – members had a genuine choice of local representatives and they demonstrated their eagerness to participate in this democratic process to the full.
Haringey Labour members represent the entire range of political opinions that exist in the broad church that is the Labour party today. There is support for groups from Progress to Labour First to Momentum.
The majority of members would probably not align themselves with any particular Labour grouping but our two constituency parties – Hornsey and Wood Green and Tottenham – comprise engaged and active members who have strong views on a wide range of local, national and international issues.
The big local issue in the party currently is the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). Faced with 40 per cent cuts since 2010 imposed by a brutal Conservative government, a shortage of council and social housing, unaffordable private rents, a growing housing waiting list and high levels of homelessness, the current Labour leadership on Haringey council viewed this partnership with property developer Lendlease as a way out of the current housing crisis.
However, the HDV has been opposed by both constituency Labour Parties (CLPs), both Haringey MPs – Catherine West in Hornsey and Wood Green and David Lammy in Tottenham – and a significant section of the local community.
Faced with a refusal to listen or compromise from the current council leadership, it is hardly surprising that members took their prospective councillors’ views on the HDV into account when making their choices for candidates in 2018.
There was political lobbying by the various groups within Labour in the lead up to shortlisting and selection meetings. But ordinary members attended the meetings, and it was ordinary members who considered candidate statements, heard their speeches, asked them questions and then voted in secret ballots for the candidates of their choice.
In all the brouhaha surrounding this process, no one has suggested that there was any impropriety in the conduct of these meetings. And rightly so. All meetings were conducted in exemplary fashion by hardworking branch officers.
Every one of the 36 meetings was overseen by members of the Local Campaigns Forum (LCF), all elected local representatives of the two CLPs. One meeting had additional observers from the London Region Labour Party, which was consulted at all stages and the advice of its officials followed.
Some councillors chose to step down rather than participate in the process, which was their right and choice. Many of the sitting councillors who did participate were reselected – 24 in total across the borough. In addition, we have 33 new council candidates (eight of whom have been selected to fight seats for which there is currently no sitting Labour councillor) who will bring a mix of skills and talents to the council if elected in May.
The new Labour Group will again represent the full range of political opinions within Labour. There has been no coup, no takeover.
We joined Labour to fight for social justice and end the hideous levels of inequality that plague our society and that are only too apparent in Haringey. We look forward to working with all our comrades in Haringey Labour in the run-up to the May council election to ensure we win every seat for Labour. Haringey people deserve nothing less.
Celia Dignan is chair of Hornsey & Wood Green CLP and Russell Dove is chair of Tottenham CLP. They wrote this in a personal capacity.
Information about the authors:
Celia Dignan joined the Labour Party in 1979 but left in the mid-90s. She re-joined Hornsey and Wood Green Labour party in 2015 after Jeremy Corbyn became Leader. Active in community politics, particularly around education, she was a founding member of Haringey Fair Funding for all Schools, which kicked off the national campaign. She became Hornsey and Wood Green CLP chair in September 2017 and is a Momentum member.
Russell Dove joined the Labour Party in Tottenham in 1979 (after the election of Margaret Thatcher).He was Tottenham CLP secretary and vice chair from 2010-16 and has been chair since 2016. He is not affiliated to Momentum or to any Labour Party group.