THE old story goes that Raj Chada was sold a hospital pass back in 2006 when he became leader of Camden Council. His supporters say it would have been charitable for Dame Jane Roberts to leave her successor more than just six months in charge ahead of the local elections. In the end, it was Raj stuck with his dabs on the wheel when the party lost in Camden for the first time in a generation.
But it seems there are no hard feelings, as Raj has put Dame Jane into bat for him ahead of this weekend’s Holborn and St Pancras short-listing interviews. She signs off a email letter to members which spins the importance of Raj getting nominated by every branch last week. The system of voting, most members are now acutely aware, was set up in a way in which Raj, Sir Keir Starmer and Sarah Hayward were always going to be heavily nominated.
There are some Raj supporters who are unsure by this campaign strategy, a display aimed at showing he is not just a union-backed candidate. Mainly because Dame Jane was not always popular in the lead role, a cross that comes with being the council leader. And those who admire her and what she did for the borough, and don’t take it from these pages that there aren’t many who do, are slightly worried she is yesteryear’s endorsement.
It seems so long ago now, and Raj must not come across like he is stuck in the past.
Maybe the main worry for Raj sympathisers, however, is that Dame Jane’s words, by mentioning his ability to talk to tenants AND the prime minister, brings up memories of that fateful visit by Tony Blair just before the 2006 election meltdown. In terms of electoral strategy, it was perhaps one of the most idiotic things they could have arranged at a time when Labour was strung out over the Iraq War.
Raj was resolutely against the war, but it didn’t stop him losing his seat in Gospel Oak and Labour surrendering control of the council.