In a motion moved by Jim Kennedy from Unite, the Labour NEC has called on Haringey Council to reconsider the Haringey Development Vehicle, a plan to sell off £2bn of public land and form a private partnership with blacklist developer Lendlease to build 6,400 homes.
The intervention of the NEC has been deeply controversial on the right of the party, who have condemned intervention from, as one Haringey Cabinet member put it, “the politburo” into the affairs of the local council. The move is unusual, but so are the circumstances of the council’s plan. There are currently 22 sitting councillors who oppose the HDV and the overwhelming majority of selected council candidates also oppose the scheme. Only six Labour candidates who are standing in the May elections are in favour of the scheme.
Pressure has mounted on the council since both CLPs in the borough came out in opposition to the plans alongside both of Haringey’s MPs.
A lively public campaign, StopHDV, has also built up opposition to the schemes throughout the party.
At the end of December, a public meeting with John McDonnell in Wood Green pushed him repeatedly as to what local members could do to stop the HDV being put through by a lame duck council leadership. McDonnell could give no assurances then, but urged the council not to do anything “that could tie the hands of an incoming administration.”
It is perfectly legitimate for the NEC to make a decision such as this. The NEC is the highest ruling body of the Labour party. More can be done to democratise its functioning, but it has representatives from the constituent parts of the Party and there is direct election from the mass membership for the constituency places. It is far more representative than the Leader and Cabinet structure in Haringey.
The NEC’s intervention happened following a letter from three Haringey councillors asking them to consider a ruling.
Opposition to the NEC intervention has now spread to a letter to the Sunday Times signed by 70 council and Labour group leaders from across the UK. This is more than half of the 123 leaders across England and Wales. It should come as no shock that entrenched right wing Council leaderships have rallied behind Haringey council leader Claire Kober. The NEC taking a decision that benefits the communities they are meant to serve and also chimes in with the new and left wing membership — that is what worries them.
As Solidarity went to press it was being reported in the Evening Standard that Claire Kober has announced she will now stand down as council leader, and wont be standing to be a councillor in the May elections.
The Labour NEC had asked Labour Shadow Cabinent Office minister Andrew Gwynne to negotiate with Claire Kober and the council. In a letter to Gwynne, Kober said she would leave the final decision on the HDV to the next council leader — meaning this is almost certainly the end of the HDV.
A motion to abandon the HDV put up by the opposition Liberal Democrat councillors is due to be put to a full council meeting on 7 February.
Labour councillors who opposed the HDV would have been expected to vote against the HDV given the NEC ruling, although the motion will now most probably be amended by Kober or another cabinet member to say the decision has been deferred.