Here is the full text of Georgia Gould’s email to Labour group
I am writing to let you know that I will be putting myself forward to lead Camden Labour group. Over the coming weeks, until nominations open, I hope to talk to each of you about our new programme for the future and what matters most for Camden and the neighbourhoods you represent.
I want to start this email by paying tribute to Sarah and all she has achieved for Camden. She has led us in the most difficult of times, under the constant pressure of national austerity and a prolonged attack on local government. Yet against that backdrop she has led a council that has delivered on Labour values, paying the living wage, building council houses and protecting public services. Through her determination, she has managed to win massive concessions on issues like HS2. She leaves a huge legacy that belongs to all of us, especially our group of councillors who represent our community in all its diversity and brings together all wings of the party. Each of us cares deeply about Camden and together, through every scrutiny panel, late night at a resident’s forum and windy mornings speaking to our residents, we have kept alive our vision for this borough through difficult times.
What Camden means to me
Camden is my home, it is where I grew up. The borough gave me a brilliant comprehensive education. But I also remember being very aware of how kids at my school could have completely different experiences because of their backgrounds. I left my school with a strong sense that despite a brilliant education, we could still fail some students because of their lack of family opportunity. That sense of inequality has driven everything I have done ever since and there has been no greater privilege for me than representing Kentish Town ward.
In Camden we have a proud history of protest, radicalism and ambition, and we cherish our complexity and diversity. Our people are political, they volunteer, they write to the local papers, they have street parties, they organise welcome refugee events and lead a strong tenants movement. We believe in quality public services and we still offer far more than many other areas. Our schools have largely chosen to stay within the local authority and call themselves a family of schools with a focus on civic leadership that separates them from national policy. We build our own council housing and re-build our schools. We have hubs of faith and ethnic community ties with places to celebrate being Jewish, Irish, Bangladeshi, Somali, Chinese and many other diverse and overlapping communities. We celebrate our European citizens. We have some of the poorest communities in the country and some of the richest. Camden is also a world leading hub for technology, bio-medical research knowledge institutions, cultural institutions, jewellery and creative industries. Through St Pancras, we are the gateway to Europe.
Sharing the benefits of our growth
And yet we have many young people who rarely leave the boundaries of their estates and local streets, who could walk past some of these places and simply not think they are for them.
Throughout my time as a councillor I have been driven by the desire to make sure that we open up all the opportunity in Camden to everyone who lives here. My work around white working class educational achievement, the STEAM commission and setting up the Young Camden Foundation have all been about sharing opportunity and enabling more people to reap the benefits of living in our fantastic borough.
I know there are deep inequalities in Camden and while we don’t have all the levers of central government what we can do is re-distribute opportunities, networks, and political power.
I want Camden to be the home of innovation – the place where science, technology and creativity meet and fuse, and where every citizen has a say in how their community is run. I want our economy to grow and create good quality jobs for people who live here – jobs for young people, mums, people with disabilities, jobs for our whole community. I believe all the people I grew up with should be able to live and thrive in the borough. Thriving is more than just a home, it is a neighbourhood with character and heritage, healthy and green streets, cleaner air and spaces to come together as a community.
An alternative to austerity & isolationism
And I am also committed to this being a borough where we care for each other at every stage of people’s lives and where our different communities stand together.
To do this we need to build on our history to keep on offering a real alternative to austerity Britain. If any borough can show that the cuts, the national isolationism and Conservative small mindedness can’t break our spirit, it is Camden. I want to invite everyone who lives or works in Camden to be part of building this alternative. And one of the first things I would do as leader is set up a Camden Citizen’s Forum representing every part of our community to discuss the future of our borough.
When researching my book on young people I asked a group of young Somali men in Kentish Town about their identity and they replied, first and foremost they are Camden. Before they are Londoners, British, Muslim or Somali – all identities they hold – they see themselves as from Camden. And I know exactly how they felt. Living in this borough means something. We are more together than we are alone. There is no reason why Camden can’t mean something to anyone looking to build an alternative society to the one that we are being handed by central government.
In doing so we have a powerful history to stand on going right back to our borough’s motto – not for oneself, but for all.
An open, inclusive political culture
I’m keen on talking to you about changing the way we do things – update old Town Hall meetings and procedures to strengthen good decision-making by measures such as the Citizen’s Forum.
If chosen as leader of Camden Labour, I will bring all my energy and commitment to Camden, and a promise to listen with compassion to all those who want a say in our future.
I would be privileged to be able to draw on all the knowledge and expertise we have in our Group and Holborn and St Pancras, and Hampstead and Kilburn Labour party. I hope that all those who have worked with me on difficult decisions around youth and adult social care services know that I have an open, inclusive and collaborative way of working. I want Camden Labour to show that difference of opinions doesn’t have to mean division, it can lead to better decision making. I think that being Labour in Camden should be exciting, fun, energising and, above all, impactful.
It is easy to feel pessimistic when you look at the challenges we face but I am deeply optimistic and enthusiastic about what we can achieve together.
I look forward to hearing your ideas over the coming weeks before I submit my formal nomination.
In the meantime I look forward to seeing you on the doorstep in Gospel Oak campaigning for the values we all believe in and working to get the brilliant Marcus Boyland elected.