Crouch End councillors pull out of selection race blaming campaign group Momentum

Crouch End councillors Jason Arthur, Sarah Elliott and Natan Doron announced they were pulling out o

Crouch End councillors Jason Arthur, Sarah Elliott and Natan Doron announced they were pulling out of the race to become candidates for local elections in May 2018. Picture: JUDAH PASSOW - Credit: Archant

Three more councillors have pulled out of the race to be selected as candidates in next year’s local elections, blaming ‘poisonous’ and ‘factional’ politics within the local Labour Party.

Cllrs Jason Arthur, Natan Doron and Sarah Elliott announced their withdrawal on social media on Sunday.

In a 1,000 word letter the trio explained the decision saying they did not believe their views would be heard ‘with an open mind’ nor their track records judged ‘in a fair manner’ by party members responsible for choosing candidates.

“The current climate of Haringey Labour politics feels factional and poisonous – anger, cynicism and distrust now shape too many debates within the local party,” they wrote, echoing the words of housing chief Cllr Alan Strickland and Stroud Green’s Cllr Tim Gallagher who withdrew last month.

Cllr Arthur, Haringey’s finance chief, is the sixth member of council leader Claire Kober’s top team to pull out leaving just four chiefs to fight next May’s local elections.

On Thursday the Ham&High reported Haringey Labour had been purged of sitting councillors who had voiced support for the authority’s housing plans, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), to redevelop the borough by transferring council homes, business premises and land to a firm jointly controlled with private developer Lendlease.

Crouch End’s councillors claimed ‘misleading’ reports about the HDV had been used to ‘scare residents and undermine sitting councillors’ laying the blame at the door of far-Left activists including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum campaigning network.

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“Momentum have spent weeks targeting us and many of our colleagues while we have been prevented by party rules from speaking to party members about our reselection.

“It has also been concerning that individuals involved in the SWP [Socialist Workers Party] have played a key role in the local anti-HDV campaign used to intimidate and deselect sitting councillors,” Cllrs Arthur, Doron and Elliott stated.

Momentum member, Gemma Short, denied the allegation saying: “What’s happened in this selection process is the normal functioning of democracy.

“If I were a Labour Party member in any place where councillors had pulled out I would be disappointed. It shows disdain for the democratic process,” she added.

Stop the HDV campaigner Phil Rose denied charges of a far-left takeover arguing ordinary Labour Party members were ‘ashamed’ of the council’s policies and joined with the left.

“This isn’t a left-wing purge. It’s ordinary members asserting their democratic right,” Mr Rose said.

The trio acknowledge in the letter ‘there are legitimate issues to debate’ about the HDV but add homelessness charity Shelter and mayor of London Sadiq Khan had come out in support of public private housing schemes.

“Yet, regrettably, nuance has been lost from the local debate about housing,” they state before going on to attack Conservative and Liberal-Democrat cuts since 2010.

“Tory national policies have done huge damage to Haringey since 2010. But it is not good enough for councillors to abdicate responsibility for finding solutions,” they stated.

Crouch End’s councillors added: “Labour has changed dramatically since we were elected. The party is offering a clear, socialist alternative to a Tory establishment hell-bent on undermining public services. This is exciting and welcome.

“However, in our view this has helped to create a disconnect with Labour councillors who are in power locally, but hamstrung by Tory policies nationally.”

Responding to the announcement Haringey Liberal Democrat opposition leader Cllr Gail Engert said: “Labour are clearly in complete disarray, with Cabinet member after Cabinet member withdrawing or being deselected by Momentum activists.

“With Haringey Labour completely disunited and being taken over by Momentum, and no Conservative or Green councillors in Haringey, the only way to stop Momentum running the council, is to vote for more Lib Dem councillors in May.

“Labour in Crouch End have a terrible record on key issues such as the HDV and Hornsey Town Hall. So I am not surprised the three have decided to withdraw,” she added.

“Unlike the three current Labour councillors we don’t consider casework from residents to be ‘mundane’. The Lib Dems will be fighting hard to win back three councillors in Crouch End, and fight for residents on all issues, however big or small including Hornsey Town Hall,” she said.

On media reports of a far-Left takeover at Haringey Council resulting from the selections, Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum’s David Winskill said: “The right wing is whipping up left wing hysteria. The Crouch End councillors were much too closely associated with Claire Kober. For many local people the sale of Hornsey Town Hall to an offshore company with few obvious benefits to the community was the last straw.”

Cllrs Arthur, Doron and Elliott continue in post until May 2018.