Maya and the Mayor

> PLAY: Maya De Souza, Nash Ali and Abdul Quadir

> MP3:  Maya De Souza, Nash Ali and Abdul Quadir

THERE are split opinions among the ruling Camden Labour group about how far one seat on the council should get you in local politics. The hardliners say lone Green councillor Maya De Souza can’t hold meetings to ransom by demanding a right of reply on every issue.More sympathetic members say to that point of view: Fair enough, but let her speak for a few minutes on the big ones.

When she wasn’t called by Mayor Abdul Quadir at Monday’s full council meeting, a bit of a stand-off developed – as the audio and linked here above shows. It was a clash between a new mayor understandably looking to assert himself on notorious squabblers at his first meeting in charge and a Green councillor frustrated at her lack of opportunities. Listening to it back, council leader Nash Ali plays an honourable job as peacemaker. It didn’t stop Maya leaving the room and heading home earlier.

You can watch the whole of Camden Council’s recording of the meeting, pictures and sound (it goes on for three hours), here..

6 Comments on Maya and the Mayor

  1. Phil Jones // June 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm //

    It would have been interesting to hear Maya’s views on the Leader’s report on Monday – I find that she tends to be more constructive and thoughtful than some other councillors I could mention! Given that this report set out the way forward for the council in coming years, I do think the fact Maya represents a different party to all other councillors should be taken into account on such occasions. As Richard reports, Nash Ali was very willing to take questions and comments from Maya.

    However, the recording from Monday shows it is difficult to chair that kind of debate and I recall that Maya was called to speak earlier that night on High Speed 2. She is not the only one who gets frustrated by not being able to speak on everything she chooses – there were a few Labour ones complaining too after the meeting, and no doubt from other parties as well. Unless we are prepared to return to meetings that last until 3am (I’m not!) then I guess that’s inevitable.

    For the benefit of any Camden council anoraks reading this (and let’s face it, if you have made it this far this then you are), the Labour Group has consistently bent council rules to give Maya more of a say than the constitution allows given she is one councillor out of 54 rather than an official group. Specifically, we gave up a scrutiny committee place to allow Maya to make a contribution there. We also give up one of our allocated questions each meeting so Maya always has a formal opportunity to challenge the administration in public and on record. The Conservatives and Lib Dems are unwilling to do either of these things, although I accept they have fewer questions and committee places to start with.

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    • Richard Osley // June 30, 2011 at 3:56 pm //

      Thanks for your thoughts Phil, I’d say just two things:

      1. Maya can speak for herself (maybe that’s the wrong turn of phrase here) on what happened but she was called to speak on HS2 and somebody had already asked the question she was going to ask and she sat down quickly. It would be worrying if that counted against her making a proper contribution later in the evening.

      2. In terms of length of the meeting and cramming everyone in – I’d don’t think you would have to stay til 3am. If you look at this week’s full council and many others in recent years, I’m sure you and others could think of large portions of pointless squabbles and election grandstanding that could have been avoided. If we are to take the leader’s debate seriously, then maybe you could give more time to it (Nash seemed willing, as the recording shows) and less time to other sections of the meeting. If you can’t think of some flabby bits of the meeting that could be culled, I’d be worried.

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      • A section that is definitely not flabby, is between 33 and 55 minutes from the start. Dalby St, Talacre. Though Sue Vincent’s response, both oral and written was a disappointment, her letter in today’s CNJ was robust except that she writes as if the development will be built when that can only happen if Camden doesn’t enforce the terms of the s106.

        Nick Harding

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  2. Mike Katz // June 30, 2011 at 4:28 pm //

    In retrospect, Monday’s meeting seems the perfect exemplar of Parkinson’s Law. The agenda was unusually slim, so I – and most others – fully expected to get through at least one motion, and onto the second. Somehow; and perhaps there was a collective, subconscious indulgence in what Richard calls grandstanding, some may call political debate, on the basis that there wasn’t much to talk about. Hey presto – we don’t get to motions at all.

    In that context, we could easily have afforded Maya time to speak, and given it was the Leader’s annual statement, she should have had that opportunity, in my opinion.

    However, what mustn’t be forgotten (and this applies to the issue around the deputation too) is that the Mayor is an independent chair, and it is his or her call, ultimately. I found the comments from some very experienced opposition councillors on this quite puzzling. You either accept the Mayor as independent when chairing Full Council or you don’t.

    Going by what some suggested – that he could have been ‘leant on’ to give some airtime to Maya, or, indeed, the Belsize school deputation – presumably those some opposition councillors would be happy to accede that he should give Labour councillors more time or call more of them?

    It’s a double-edged sword, this argument, but I don’t think they would like the other side of the blade. I like to think that was sort of implicit in a comment made by Andrew Marshall in support of the Mayor. You accept the Chair as independent and take the rough with the smooth, or you thnk that he or she will act partially and will always look to bend the rules. But you can’t have it both ways.

    Similarly, the constitutional position of a councillor from a single party is clear – as an individual, he or she can’t constitute a political group and thus is not entitled to enjoy what privileges or rights groups enjoy. Doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t make accommodations where reasonable, sensible and practicable. Doesn’t mean that, in this case, Maya, shouldn’t always be grateful to the whips of other parties. But it’s simply the rules that apply across the board.

    I won’t necessarily agree with all the Mayor’s rulings – didn’t last year, won’t next year, in all probability. That’s certainly true for Monday’s meeting. But I do defend his (or her) right to make them. In the end, someone has to be the ref – rarely an enviable task.

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    • Keith Sedgwick // July 3, 2011 at 12:11 am //

      To my mind, the Chair presiding over a debate, should seek to have as wide a range of views as possible expressed about the subject in hand and to allow any its interrogation to be as equally thorough. After all, is not the Full Council the one and only place where the voice of entire borough is expressed in one moment of time. There truly is nothing like it.

      So, to not give the Green Councillor a suitable opportunity to contribute to Full Council debates in a meaningfull fashion, is to deprive Camden’s residents of a more comprehensive discussion if important issues; something for which the Borough is ultimately all the poorer.

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