A Labour MP has suggested that the leader of Haringey Council should quit the party if she fails to take note of local opposition to its public-private development scheme.
Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle took to Twitter to hit back at Labour council leaders who had attacked the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) for urging a pause in the controversial plans.
Some 71 town hall chiefs wrote an open letter at the weekend denouncing the NEC’s intervention as “dangerous” and an “affront” to local democracy.
The local party is deeply split over the issue, with Haringey leader Claire Kober arguing that the development plan is a viable way of providing new homes in an era of Tory cuts, while the council’s critics suggest it’s out of touch with residents and activists.
HuffPost UK revealed last week that the NEC had stepped into the dispute, voting to recommend Haringey ‘pause’ its proposals if mediation efforts, led by Shadow Cabinet minister Andrew Gwynne, failed to find a way forward.
https://twitter.com/lloyd_rm/status/957679733084475393But Russell-Moyle signalled that Kober and her allies may have to leave the party if she continued to defy local Labour members, scores of councillors and two local MPs in pushing ahead with the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) proposals.
Defending the NEC’s vote, the MP declared that “if branches, if all local MPs (elected just this year by the public), if majority of the incoming candidates are against and against local manifesto then current office holders should take note or leave party”.
He added that such a problem would never happen in his local Brighton and Hove council “as we work well together”.
“There wouldn’t be a problem if labour groups listened to their membership, their MPs and their electorate and stoped [sic] bring the Party into disrepute.”
Shadow Cabinet Office Secretary Jon Trickett has said that the row had been “exaggerated” and “we have asked for a pause, not necessarily a change in policy”.
The NEC acted after a request from 21 local councillors who claimed that it had to intervene to “ensure effective political management and leadership”. They had argued that going ahead with the scheme “following the Carillion crisis, and with the political argument for the HDV lost… is inexplicable and reckless behaviour”.
However, some of Russell-Moyle’s fellow MPs, and council leaders, have now in turn rallied behind Haringey’s leaders.
Wes Streeting, MP for Ilford North, told HuffPost: “I don’t know the ins and outs of Haringey Council’s approach to building new homes, but I do know for certain that councillors elected by the people of Haringey are better placed to know what’s best for Haringey that members of Labour’s National Executive Committee or MPs from other parts of the country.
“NEC meddling in the policies sets a dangerous precedent and one that is being rightly resisted by our leaders in local government who’ve actually managed to win power. We should be learning from them, not lecturing them.”
Neil Coyle, MP for Bermondsey, added: “The electorate spoke. The electorate chose Labour councils and Labour group leaders delivering for Labour at local level.
“Labour councillors and council leaders have done an extraordinary job defending local people from national cuts and deserve leadership that defends and promotes them, not trashes their record or attacks and undermines them with an agenda that not only fuels our opponents but offers no alternative to the people who need us and our policies most.”
Michael Payne, deputy leader of the Labour group on the Local Government Association, said: “Day in, day out, across the country, Labour councils have to make tough decisions as a result of Tory austerity.
“Has he [Russell-Moyle] ever had to make one of these tough decisions in his time in the party? He seems to be saying we should just walk away when a tough decision comes along. His response is a sign we are not only electorally a long way from Government, but also emotionally a long way from it.
“I have to make these decisions every day. If we don’t make them, the people who lose out are Labour voters. Councils are innovating to help the poorest to defend themselves against the Tories. They need national support for that, not criticism like this.”
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council and a member of the NEC, told the BBC that the intervention of the ruling body was unnecessary.
“I do think quite a lot of this has become a little bit out of hand. Local Labour groups are accountable to their local communities and the NEC has no business interfering in the running of those Labour groups.
“It’s really important that some of the north London politics that we see happening don’t get played out in the rest of the country.”