SUE Vincent, the former deputy leader of the council, has shaken things right up this afternoon by announcing she will join the race for those two open spots on the Town Hall cabinet.
It’s a move which seems like a very pointed test of new leader council leader Georgia Gould’s invitation to create a broad church executive. Cllr Gould is, after all, understood to be aware that her pledge of collective working may look a little hollow if her new team looks very much like the last team.
With an internal vote due on Monday to find replacements for the outgoing Theo Blackwell and Phil Jones, Cllr Vincent’s pitch is the emergence of a candidate from the left caucus in the group. While two of her competitors in this contest, Danny Beales and Adam Harrison once signed a letter calling for Jeremy Corbyn to step down as the party’s national leader, Cllr Vincent did the opposite. The fourth candidate is Oliver Lewis, an inbetweener who is reserved about Corbyn’s leadership, although was encouraged by his general election performance and manifesto promises.
Truth be told, left-wingers were in a bit of spot here, under pressure as they were to field someone even though they have rarely had the numbers within the group to get what they want in recent times. While Corbyn seized and held onto the leadership nationally, the local council group’s key positions have been held by people who preferred Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper or Owen Smith’s offer. The Left often say Meric Apak and Angela Mason are the exceptions that prove the rule, rather than any genuine Corbynista stake in Camden’s higher ranks.
After feeling frozen out for several years, Cllr Gould had essentially said ‘come on then’ and asked them to put somebody forward. If they hadn’t it would’ve looked a little defeatist in this game of ‘put up or shut up’. Cynics say: Of course she asked them to stand when the formbook suggests they would lose. Nevertheless, they’ve now called the leader’s bluff. So the pro-Corbyn councillors will get to see what substance lies in her talk of a more varied cabinet. In turn, Cllr Gould will get to see whether those who could loosely be described as Haywardites are willing to sign up to the idea of sharing the top table. Not everybody is so enamoured with that idea, by several accounts.
There’s more – and it’s big. As Sue announced her intentions to group today, her email to group was not one pitched with promises to deck the halls with red flags and murals of Corbyn.
No – she has opened it up as a challenge to a list of candidates which is so far all-male.
“As you know, we have enormous talents in the group from a wide range of people from different backgrounds, experience and expertise,” she said in a lively message. “It is really important that we are seen to reflect the broad array of people from our communities; that the process is inclusive – and that process includes women! Is this Camden in the 21st Century? I hope other women in the group will put themselves forward, please – even if you believe it may already be a done deal.”