THERE’S still three weeks to go, but Georgia Gould is zeroing in on becoming the next leader of Camden Council with possible opponents shying away from forcing a contest at next month’s annual general meeting of the Labour group. Left-wingers who feel her promotion will lead to more of the same – politically, at least – are cautious about being lured into a showdown which past group votes suggest they do not have the numbers for.
A challenger could be put up to oppose a candidate described by internal sceptics as ‘the chosen one’, but either way Georgia would win. It’s perhaps unsurprising then, that she has talked this week of welcoming a challenger to make the process a contest rather than a coronation.
The tale backstage is that the only way that she could be prevented from succeeding Sarah Hayward would be if ‘one of her own side’ put themselves forward, but councillors once talked about as future leaders – Phil Jones, for example – are not biting. Two similar, Haywardite candidates ending up on the ballot paper, after all, would risk splitting the vote among a small electorate. And in that scenario, one of the councillors loyal to Jeremy Corbyn’s national leadership might find a new appetite to stand too. More likely is that Corbyn-supporting members will make an appeal to Georgia to be a warmer bridge-builder as the head of a group of competing views.
While the leadership non-contest looks sewn up, the group’s cabinet elections may not be so clear cut, however. Several backbenchers feel they have waited patiently for a turn but there is no natural turnover, as the existing executive members seek re-election each year. It’s not necessarily a left vs right thing, perhaps more the product of having such a large group and a cabinet which has largely had the same faces for seven years, and populated by councillors from southern wards.
Sarah’s move to the backbenchers should create one vacancy, but that’s not enough to accommodate everybody who feels they are ready for the step up. The likes of Richard Olszewski, Phil Rosenberg and Nadia Shah, currently the mayor of Camden, are understood to have told colleagues they want to stand for the cabinet, or are about too. There may be more to come too, and, needless to say, 14, or 15 names are unable fit into the ten slots available.