HARINGEY Council leader Claire Kober is holding firm as her colleagues depart or get deselected around her in what has been characterised, often on the pages of the Evening Standard, as a Momentum plot – or a purge of the Blairites.
Some people fairly say the casual labelling within Labour’s internal disputes is unfair and indiscriminately applied. More than that, surely there should be a more up to date way of summing up a politician’s views – left, right or central – beyond whether or not they like or dislike a prime minister who left Downing Street eleven years ago.
It was, however, as if Cllr Kober wanted to reclaim the label – Blairite – when she almost pointedly referred to her own approval of TB during a speech at the Local Government Dinner in Mansion House this week. She didn’t mention his name, but quoted him: “A man I greatly admire once said, we are at our best when at our boldest” – that’s Tony Blair circa 2002.
In fact, the revolters in Haringey, those Corbyn lovers or HDV haters, or both, may see her entire speech as a verbal v-sign to their attempts to change the make up of the council in that borough. It set out what she sees as the importance of strong leadership and warned of people who did not have an “inclusive vision”, decoded by some of her own supporters this week as… them lot over there can talk the talk but won’t be able to walk the walk.
“Strong leaders manage by facing the future,” she said, i.e I’ve come up with a pragmatic way of finding everyone in Haringey somewhere warm and safe to live, at a time when local authorities are starved of money. “They frame its challenges and manage outwards, commanding the confidence of broad coalitions by defining, determine and delivering an inclusive vision. They stabilise. Weak leadership does the opposite. They see everything through the prism of internal political management.”
Cllr Kober must be aware that the jostling has already begun among potential successors who think she can be challenged at the group’s AGM later this year, regardless of whether she captains a record victory for Labour in Haringey at the local council elections in May. Her chatty rivals inside the party are already saying Jeremy Corbyn would take that the credit for that, not her. They insist speeches like this are a parting shot, but from afar they also sound like she won’t relinquish control without a fight. Either way, it all makes Camden Labour’s internal disagreements look a little timid.