Labour AGM: Councillors vote for more of the same

THE power table of ten Labour cabinet members running the Town Hall will remain unchanged, with all of Camden’s executive holding their places at last night’s group AGM. It is the second year in a row where that hasn’t been any change.

After internal votes, the three new applicants all failed to dislodge the existing line-up: Simon Pearson dropped out in a first round of voting. Ranjit Singh and Samata Khatoon progressed further but lost a vote-off to Jonathan Simpson and Richard Olszewski, the two cabinet members who had finished down the list in the initial ballot.

Cllr Simpson has been in this position before and come through – and is one of the longest servers as a result – but some supporters of the status quo were surprised to see Cllr Olszewski, sometimes talked about among like-minded councillors as a future council leader, in the scrap.

Cllr Olszewski, who recently made a public call for Jeremy Corbyn to resign as the leader of the Labour Party nationally over handling of the anti-semitism controversies, is effectively one of the lieutenants who council leader Georgia Gould trusts the most; she has after all regularly appointed him in the prime role of finance chief and was frantic-faced when party organisers botched their counting in Fortune Green at last year’s Town Hall elections. For a confused half hour or so, they thought the whole ward had been turned over to the Lib Dems.

He tweeted last night: “Big thank you to Camden Labour Group for re-electing me to the Cabinet. The perfect way to celebrate my 21st wedding anniversary.”

That sounds like unfortunate timing, but then you could also say that about all the Arsenal season ticket holders in the group or the mass of Camden Labour councillors who were surely – surely – itching to leave London for the day to help local election campaigns on polling day; presumably if they hadn’t chosen this day to hole themselves up for their AGM, they’d all be getting the last knockings of the vote out somewhere late into the evening.

This wasn’t an AGM bloodbath. Not like we used to see back in the day, particularly when people stood for specific roles in the cabinet, deepening the confrontations – and occasional grudges – between comrades. Instead, we will hear about the virtue of continuity, and there’s a strength in a unit which is able to hold firm. There was hardly a whole cast of challengers taking this on, after all, and you couldn’t blame them from writing this up as a vote of confidence from their colleagues. There will be some grrrring at such a suggestion in other quarters, particularly among those who maintain the whole AGM voting system is stacked against change.

The result, however, which did get people talking was Larraine Revah’s successful run for the deputy whip role. She successfully challenged Cllr Khatoon, who as you can see from above has had better nights in the group. Loyal to the leaders, present and previous, this has yet to translate into a cabinet promotion despite an ambition which can be traced back several years.

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