REGULAR reader of this blog, Peter Brayshaw has upset a correspondent. When a well known housing campaigner wrote to Camden’s Labour group late last week to complain to councillors about the decision to build new offices for the council in King’s Cross, he wrote back:
Kindly refrain in future from including me in your arrogant, ill-informed, and ignorant (of the facts) e-mails.
This was taken as incendiary name-calling and the return fire, abridged here, was soon in every Labour councillor’s inbox :
In a loose sense your words arrogant, ill informed & ignorant are the very same words that the people choose to describe the 15 Labour councillors who participated in the vote.
A little squabble over the email network it may be, but it’s another indication of how the group’s attempts to resolve its differences and convince the public over the sale of a host of council buildings, notably the Town Hall annexe in Euston Road, and the plunging of those receipts into new headquarters (automatically assumed to be plush and swanky) have not wholly been successful.
And, who knows?, if the internal vote on the scheme had taken place two weeks earlier than it did, it’s quite possible that the 15-10 victory for backers of the scheme would not have materialised at all. There were, it seems, many change of hearts. Dare I say, panic, frantic heads. Abdul Hai, for instance, seemed worried about the scheme at one stage but was voting for it the next. Same goes with a few others. Which way did Roger Robinson vote? If he voted for it, then I was wrongly under the impression that he had been among those opposed.
It is, of course, a perfect time for putting pressure on potential rebels in the pack. Cabinet positions will be decided in the next ten days and there is room for a reshuffle among Nash Ali’s cabinet. Talk of leadership challenges are subsiding but you’d get long odds on having the same ten sitting around the table following the group’s annual general meeting in the first week of may. In theory, there’s wriggle room to play on over the selection of the waged whips and even the mayoralty too. Imagine if somebody said: ‘Sorry folks, we are giving the mayoralty to Flick Rea’.
Nobody involved in these contests wants to make a false move now – or fall out with the wrong people. Throw in some late officer warnings about the district auditors potentially investigating how the property deals were discussed by Camden and suddenly the rebels start to feel nervous. Ten stuck to their guns in the end but the opposition had dwindled dramatically over the final few days.
There is the question of the five councillors who didn’t turn up to the meeting. Could they have levelled it at 15-15? Not likely. Leader Nash Ali, on a pre-booked holiday, was in favour. Obviously. So, by this stage was another absentee Jonathan Simpson, who is almost certain to make a run for Abdul’s community safety job (although he might have company in that endeavour). Milena Nuti was in Italy: she by all accounts had reservations about the scheme. Pat Callaghan and Michael Nicolaides were also missing. The plan was approved.
I asked a couple of the senior councillors whether all of this positioning over the annexe sale was something of a dummy run for the cabinet contests. That if the scheme had fallen, so would some big faces in the executive. Answer: ‘No’.Maybe the victory on this one has shored up the positions of some of those who were looking over their shoulders. A kind of back me or sack me, that resulted in a back me.
Everybody stay calm out there.