The resignation of Claire Kober, the Blairite leader of Haringey Council, has left the Haringey Development Vehicle, the scheme her leadership had championed, in tatters. It was a victory for the Stop HDV campaign and the Labour activists who had systematically worked to select candidates for the May council election who opposed the sell-off of £2 billion of public land, the destruction of social housing, and a partnership with the blacklisting giant Lendlease.
The intervention of Labour’s National Executive on this issue has led to thousands of column inches and multiple TV appearances for Kober. She has accused HDV opponents of bullying and sexism. The decision to oppose and campaign against the HDV has nothing to do with Claire Kober as a person. She is unpopular for her politics, and among the majority of members in the two Haringey CLPs. However, it would be wrong to completely dismiss allegations of sexism against her.
Her reports of members of the public, possibly but not definitely Labour Party members, singing Every Breath You Take, the Police song about stalking, from the public gallery is alarming. In the context of the ongoing revelations of the problem of harassment across Westminster and within the Labour Party such allegations should be taken seriously, but not be allowed to detract from the important victory for the left and democracy in the Party. Kober has said she will not go forward with the HDV. It is now dead.
She has pursued a strategy of doing her utmost to ruin any last relations with local Labour members. With front page articles in the Evening Standard, interviews on the Daily Politics, Andrew Marr, the Guardian and the Times, she has given huge exposure to a successful campaign to stop social cleansing in a borough that desperately needs houses on social rents and the upgrading of its existing stock. It seems to already have had a knock-on effect with the delay (at least) by Southwark Council in their plans to destroy Elephant and Castle shopping centre and the Heygate estate. It was with this in mind that GC delegates from the two CLPs met on 4 February to discuss the potential contents of the local government manifesto.
The conference, a first of its kind, saw motions on a range of issues; from a wholly owned development vehicle to replace the HDV to planning a campaign to restore all the funding cut since 2010, discussed and voted on. The ideas from the conference had come from local branch meetings, with each branch able to submit three motions. They will now be put to the councillors who will put together the manifesto. They could in theory ignore everything discussed but they will be under increasing pressure to go forward with the things almost unanimously supported at the event.
Whatever the outcome, council candidates have a strong mandate to run on the policies passed at this conference nonetheless. The democratic element here should serve as an inspiration to Labour party members elsewhere. Others should learn from this process and demand their own parties hold these meetings and write a programme that has the mass support and endorsement of the local party.