THE Labour AGM always has its winners and losers, however they decide to handle the edgy issue of choosing who should have a seat at Camden’s council cabinet. Maybe it could be described as a nice headache for leader Sarah Hayward to have, as she looks across a room of so many councillors. But voting in your best team from a squad of 40 is a headache nonetheless, and the larger the group, inevitably, the harder it is to please everyone.
And so it was that the election glory glow was dimmed a little among some of the last week’s winners as the spoils were divided up internally on Wednesday evening. Ears pricked straight away when Sue Vincent, a former deputy leader at the Town Hall lest not forget, was removed from the planning chair role. It was hard to see where she had put a foot wrong in what from the outside looks like a pretty thankless role. But the group opted for former mayor Heather Johnson instead, a choice apparently sold, rightly or wrongly, as a match-up between a candidate pledging to squeeze the most out of developers and one who as looking to curb their excesses.
There was joy for Georgia Gould, rewarded for not scarpering off to be an MP as the whispers said she would, and Sally Gimson, who very publicly did have such scarpering in mind but still ended up with the top vote in Highgate, and is therefore entitled to say to this week: So, nerrr. Both were elevated to the cabinet.
Jonathan Simpson meanwhile moved up too. He would eat his own knuckles, you get the impression, if he was left feeling frozen out on the backbenches, having failed in previous attempts to land a cabinet role and now accustom to being bigger news after two very successful stints as mayor.
It all meant Nash Ali, who was leading the whole show two years ago, dropped onto those now crowded backbenches, a democratically-decided demotion which has left a lump in the throat among friends who at one time wondered whether he should ever have been challenged for the number one role in the first place.
Sarah, however, has been more dynamic and holds the power. As said in the last post, harking back to that heady night when she took control in 2012 and the thinness of her original victory is becoming less and less worthwhile, for the Haywardites now outnumber the Tulipistas. This was said to be the reason that members did not vote in bigger numbers for Thomas Gardiner, who has waited long enough for a turn in a senior role. A couple of sources said his rally for cabinet had been somehow hampered by the mess in Kilburn last year when Mike Katz – let’s hazard a guess and call Mike a Sarah backer – was de-selected in their ward. Thomas has always said he was as shocked as everyone else when Mike was ditched from the ticket.
Any arguments that the group is still split down these grounds was clearly lost on some of the new influx, a few of whom were perplexed to find themselves straight off the bat being bombarded by politicking for positions. There was also the retention of Maryam Eslamdoust as licensing chair for the conspiracy-busters to fall back on.
As Sarah noted, despite losing Tulip Siddiq and Valerie Leach, the cabinet retains its 50/50 gender split, a clear positive in a layer of government overloaded with men. The complaint surfacing by some today, however, was that it had suddenly got whiter with the loss of Nash and Tulip and the failed bid by Samata Khatoon to get in. The figures do apparently show, though, that Abdul Hai was the most popular councillor in the first round of cabinet votes.
It’s a discussion for another day, perhaps, while we wait to see how the new top table gets on.
But there’s time for one final thought before bed, and that surely must be the message new councillor Angela Pober immediately sent out by reportedly putting in her own application for a cabinet seat, this just days after her maiden win in West Hampstead. As impressive as the Labour earthquake in the north west was, it’s a plucky thing to do so very early on in a council career. Mark your cards, folks, there’s a bit of ambition there.