It begins in West Hampstead

TONIGHT we learn who will take those two cabinet slots at the Town Hall and then it’s the full council meeting – a chance for Theo Blackwell to say goodbye to us all, possibly with a contribution which doesn’t magic into an offloading of grievances about the Camden New Journal, as we witnessed at cabinet last week. Or possibly not.

As councillors sit down for three hours of undiluted, high quality debate in the council chamber, the election-selection intrigue will continue three miles up the road where Labour members in West Hampstead will begin the party’s ward-by-ward selection meetings by choosing three candidates to stand at next May’s local elections.

What a place to start, a ward where Labour gained three seats in 2012 but have since seen their winning candidates Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde announce they will not seek re-election, and Angela Pober quit the party. This makes it a place of high interest – even if the final list of potential candidates is small – as the people selected at a meeting to be held at West Hampstead Library tonight will have a good chance of converting into councillors.

The party rules says at least one of the three candidates on the ballot paper must be a woman, so it’s said to be a pick from either Nazma Rahman, who works at the Royal Free and has lived in West Hampstead for a long time, or Momota Khatoon, sister of Somers Town councillor Samata Khatoon. Georgie Robertson, the enthusiastic Corbynista recently teased by the Daily Mail (who else?) for being Kathy Lette and Geoffrey Robertson QC’s daughter or something like that, is on the overall candidates list published on the last post and was tipped run in West Hampstead, but is apparently now running elsewhere

Of the men, it’s possibly two from three. Peter Taheri is going for it. He is the local party chairman who acted as MP Tulip Siddiq’s agent at the general election – and is barrister who has said nice things about Jeremy Corbyn in the past, which would presumably mean he has the support of those left-wingers we keep talking about. Note: it was interesting that the first critic on the last post, essentially one in which the left caucus’s concerns about the process were aired, was from a… left-winger. Yup.

More moderate councillors I have spoken to say they like the look of Shiva Tiwari, an investment manager who lives in the ward. In between the lines runs Sorin Floti (pictured right), aiming, I think, to be the first Romanian councillor in Camden, after quitting the world of finance to do a masters in social policy. He volunteers for an organisation which helps migrants integrate here and mentors young people through the Prince’s Trust.

Tomorrow night we turn to Fortune Green and the first test of the new system of allowing members to automatically reselect sitting councillors if they wish. Richard Olszewski, a cabinet heavyweight-to-be with the impending departure of Cllr Blackwell and Phil Jones, and Lorna Russell wait to learn whether they get a pass. Cllr Russell seems to be the only woman standing for the ward, which would mean she could also be auto-selected under Labour’s proactive rule of having at least one woman stand in every ward.

Either way, one slot remains, as the other councillor in the ward is Lib Dem Flick Rea. It would be a brave newbie to stand in the way of big Phil Turner, the former council leader whose tune that he is only puts his name on the ballot paper these days to make up the numbers and doesn’t actually want to win is becoming less believable as each election passes. Paper candidates are running out of options.

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