Catch-up post: You Can’t Say That

WHO says anybody with even a vaguely left-wing thought can’t burst through Labour’s council election candidate selection process? Gail McAnena-Wood and Rebecca Shirazi did so in Frognal. Admittedly, the party was still looking for a third person to stand in the ward by the end of their selection meeting last month and this is the safest Conservative patch you’ll find in the borough, but you conspiracy theorists out there get so consumed by details. As you all know, this being the most favourable place to stand for the council if you are wearing a blue rosette did mean some mild jostling among the Tories once Councillor Siobhan Baillie announced she wouldn’t be standing for re-election there in May. The backstage tipsters had it right all along, however, and @Henry4Highgate became @Henry4FrogFitz, having also previously been @Henry4NTyneside. There are no rules in the local Conservative party against all-male slates so Henry Newman takes his place on the ballot paper alongside Andrew Parkinson and Councillor Gio Spinella. The numbers suggest he can already start dreaming about nights sat on scrutiny committees and licensing panels.

BEING a member of a political party is not the cheapest extracurricular activity. From the moment you agree to pay subs there will be requests for even more cash as a forever list of donation requests comes in, alongside a stream of invitations to buy into fundraising events where guest speakers talk about their own inspirational work and occasionally the party. It wasn’t, however, just the £20+ tickets which kept some Labour card-carriers away from a dinner last month as local member Trevor Phillips served up, for anybody who had bought one, another dose of you can’t sat thatisms. Boycott would be too strong a word – you can’t say boycott for fear offending someone these days etc – but the whispered irritation from one or two crosspatches was that they “wouldn’t cross the road to hear Trevor Phillips speak”. Interesting and challenging say some of the members who did go to the meal booked at Andy’s Taverna, the rebels reminded friends of, among other things, a picture in the Daily Mail – the obvious forum to discuss sensitive issues about racial division, natch – of Mr Phillips, hand theatrically clasped over his mouth, next to a list of things we are not allowed to say, such as… well, the list is below. These are the kind of thing that could get you looked at by ‘compliance’ – i.e. Labour’s now infamous suspensions team – said members who made themselves deliberately absent from his talk.

IT turns out the first person to be appointed to the Town Hall’s new role of director resident safety, a £100,000-a-year job set up by council leader Georgia Gould in the wake of the Chalcots crisis, is a former Labour councillor. Oi, don’t start up with those conspiracy theories again at the back, for Keith Scott’s time as an elected local politician in Greenwich was so long ago it almost slipped his mind. He told the CNJ‘s William McLennan last week: “I’ve almost forgotten I was a councillor”, but added: “I understand about working as a servant of the people, which councillors are. I found that that was really rewarding.”

NOBODY expects Labour to be punished for its habit of triggering by-elections in Gospel Oak ward when residents vote again on Thursday. Jenny Mulholland is expected to add a ‘Cllr’ prefix to her name once the voting is all done and counted. Her opponents insist it’s still all to play for, as they must, and if nothing else Tory Marx de Morais’s leaflet strategy has provided us with a window into the Conservation campaign nerve centre and a new thought process on how election budgets can be used….

Jill Fraser stands for the Lib Dems, Maxine Spencer for the English Democrats.

CATHERINE McQueen, a Conservative council election candidate who the New Journal featured earlier this year when it revealed we wrote about how the former ‘Bond girl’ and model was moving into politics, is sticking with the task of trying to win Camden Town with Primrose Hill ward despite being surprised by the media coverage. It was a bit of a local scoop for the paper at the time but when the national papers lifted the story, several tabloids decided it would be better to illustrate her concerns about drug dealing in NW1 with not just one but a gallery of 15 year old pictures of her days in front of the camera. “It was a complete shock,” she said, quotes which come slightly ironically from the Scottish edition of The Sun. “I have been out of the whole thing for so many years that, in a way, I almost forgot about it. To me it’s in the past, but obviously not. It was a complete shock. Dragging up pictures of me in my underwear and ignoring other stuff, and you think, ‘What’s the point? You want to be taken seriously for what you do.”

HAMPSTEAD and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has often talked about keeping her political life in our area separate from the choices made by her aunt, Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Judge me on my own record was the theme of selection and election campaigns whenever controversies from her famous relative’s rule arose. The plight of the Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar into Bangladesh, however, led the MP to give a speech directly calling on the UK to help. She talked of how her mother, Sheikh Rehana, had been to the crisis zone in Cox’s Bazar and heard stories of unimaginable horrors. “She [Sheikh Rehana] spoke about a woman whose baby was ripped from her bosom and thrown into a fire by military personnel,” Ms Siddiq told the Commons. “Another woman told her how a toddler was snatched away from its parents, put on the ground and stamped to death by the military.” She had hardly sat down from her speech, however, before texts and whatsapps to the blogphone were railing about her not being able to have it both ways on Bangladesh.

CAMDEN Mayor Richard Cotton had the right colours on –red and white– when he visited Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium last week for an event celebrating the achievements of those who came through the care system. The cumbersome Gooner mascot Gunnersaurus was in for a shock, however, when he looked in to find our first citizen wearing a Spurs pin badge. The big green Dino kept smiling politely…

Pic: Leila Roy

GRUMBLEBUMS from the Labour Party have apparently been savaging the pesky New Journal on the private walls of Facebook, and when it was suggested that the community might miss a local paper if it was no longer there, the most irritated asserted that it hasn’t been a quality product for ten years. About the time that the CNJ was asking questions of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition which ran Camden Council then… I can kinda see why they liked it then. Messengers say some fair criticism – nobody is saying the paper is perfect – is lost in tempestuous language on the board. Now, we could get all defensive and list the hospital services saved, the living wage won for dinner ladies, the fight to protect a working fire service, the pursuing of ministers and so on but maybe it’s best to simply send you towards a Twitter thread that has been shared by, among others the Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq and council leader Georgia Gould, and written by Chicago Tribune journalist Kim Janssen, an ex-CNJer who older readers may remember. He gives you a take on the office during his time, its curiosity, some frustration, some silliness – but also some of the paper’s basic ideals.

FINALLY, you can’t help but look east and wonder what on earth is going on in Haringey. You think may think it gets tetchy in Camden sometimes but over there a council leader who has come through the 2011 riots and Tottenham Hotspur’s hardball threat to move to Stratford if it couldn’t crack a deal for a new stadium in White Hart Lane, is apparently at risk of being toppled by her own party over the council’s property deal with LendLease, and the *thunderclap* Haringey Development Vehicle. The plot talk, big enough for the Evening Standard to run twice, is being characterised by some of Claire Kober’s supporters as a simply an attempt by Momentum to displace a moderate council leader ahead of May’s borough elections. From afar, you wonder if that can really be the whole story when someone like Tottenham MP David Lammy has written to the leader in as bald terms as telling her the council has appeared ‘out of touch’ on the issue. The scheme has its supporters, but a coalition of opposition has been stitched together somewhere along the line too and its not just the Jezza fan club. Camden, you may have noticed, swiftly ruled out a similar LendLease-style arrangement earlier in the summer, with Georgia Gould tiptoeing carefully to make sure it didn’t look like she was suggesting Haringey had been wrong to embark on the project. The crunch in Haringey was ramped up another notch today with a letter from Labour councillor Stuart McNamara to Ms Kober telling her that he would not re-stand in protest.  “Your Thatcheresque ‘I have no reverse gear’ isn’t a sign of strength of leadership but an abysmal flaw whereby you see compromise as weakness,” was among the uncompromising text of a widely-shared letter. As I said, you may think it gets tetchy in Camden sometimes…


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