FROM maternity leave, Maryam Eslamdoust, the mayor of Camden, has sent an angry email to all Labour councillors in Camden about how upset she is that at least one of them had apparently raged to the Hampstead and Highgate Express newspaper about the cost of her inauguration ceremony in May.
The Ham revealed this week that the occasion cost around £11,000 – up £4,000 from previous years; the council in response says new decor for the converted Crowndale Centre will be used again and so the figures are a little skewed, but it has nonetheless sparked a debate. How many [insert spending priority] could the council have bought with that? etc etc
For transparency: the local press (me included) were fed at this event. So were some of the politicians cross about the cost.
Anyway, while councillors from other parties were named in their criticism of the spending – Oliver Cooper, Flick Rea and Sian Berry – a Labour councillor who also added their thoughts declined to be identified in the Ham. And they wielded the sharpest dagger for the Mayor.
“Clearly socialism starts at home and socialists have very expensive tastes”, was the quote.
So although on the face of it, this is a story about council spending and what has been described as a wedding reception style event, it is also another left-right scrap inside Camden’s ruling Labour group.
After all, it’s hardly breaking news to suggest Cllr Eslamdoust, an ardent supporter of the party’s national leadership, and her husband Thomas Gardiner, also a councillor in Kilburn, have enemies within the group amid years of accusation and counter-accusation backstage between the two wings of the party.
This evening, Cllr Eslamodoust, whose day job is in Labour’s head office, said she was the victim of ‘misogynistic bullying’ and asks them to ‘control their aggression’.
The text of her leaked email reads:
Dear Labour Group
I’m writing to you to flag some deeply unpleasant bullying by some individuals from the Labour Group who have briefed a very hostile and misogynistic article against me in the Ham & High.
I genuinely feel very sad and upset that some from my own Group feel such hostility against me and have shown such disrespect towards me especially since my election as mayor.
They have displayed this by making efforts to brief multiple false stories on me in the local press, spreading nasty rumours about me, turning up to the mayor making reception in sloppy clothing which would not have been appropriate in an ordinary council meeting let alone the annual meeting of the council and finally succeeded in briefing a nasty and skewed article against me in an attempt to generate a public pile on.
The people who briefed this story and provided cowardly unattributed quotes are fully aware that I do not set the mayor’s budget. They are also fully aware that the additional costs incurred at this year’s mayor making are as a result of the town hall’s temporary relocation – a project which Labour Group members are aware I always had reservations about. Some of these costs were one off costs as events officers wanted to use the mayor making to lay the ground to use Crowndale for future events which will gain income for the council. If Group members had any real concerns about any of this then they could quite easily have asked me or officers rather than engaging in public hit pieces. For what it is worth, I spent much of my year as deputy mayor going to events on the bus whilst heavily pregnant, rather than incur expensive transport costs for the council.
I am currently on maternity leave and feel doubly hurt that individuals from my own Group would use this period in my life as an opportunity to publicly bully me for matters outside of my control because it suits their political agenda. If you are struggling to understand why it is misogynistic to try to publicly humiliate a woman while she is recovering shortly after she has given birth, then please do get in touch and I will try to explain.
To my recollection, no other mayor has been subjected to this level of ostracism and hostility.
The bottom line is that this misogynistic bullying cannot be shrugged off. The Group members engaged in this horrendous bullying should think long and hard about the impact of their abusive behaviour on the council as a whole, on our Party, on the Labour Group and on me as individual.
To be clear I don’t hold any ill will towards the individuals engaging in this bullying behaviour towards me, this incident is unfortunately a sad display of the bullying culture in our Group which has long persisted. I merely ask that the individuals engaged in the bullying reflect on their behaviour and take appropriate actions to control their aggression.
Camden politics has long been cut throat, rife with bullying and it is a difficult truth for us a Group that much of this behaviour comes from people in senior positions of power who should be focusing on their duties on the council, not on petty political games.
I will be focusing on doing the best for Camden in my duties as mayor. I hope that others can do the same from now on.