The music didn’t stop

Saxy music at the London Irish Centre

THE annual mayoral civic function in Camden is a bit like a wedding reception: a decent spread, some squiffy rum punch, people you haven’t seen for years pop up like ghosts from the past and everybody smiles sweetly at each other for whoever’s special day it is.

Sort of sweetly.

At the London Irish Centre on Thursday night, you could still see where the fault lines are drawn in Camden’s Labour Party by the demarcation across the round dining tables.

All the left-wingers together; all the centrists together; all the ones who are not quite sure what they think sitting in the middle together – with a good view of the stage at least. The Lib Dem table. The Tory table, almost – there wasn’t enough of them there to fill a whole one. And now the Green table.

Lib Dem Luisa Porritt chats with the Greens

So, after the niche defection drama of the past fortnight, there were naturally some glances across the room to see whether this year’s deputy mayor Lorna Russell would make a grand entrance – so soon after quitting the ruling Labour group at the Town Hall.

Sabrina Francis is fund-raising for Gingerbread

Don’t worry, there wasn’t an EastEnders moment with glasses flying. The music didn’t stop. Certainly, nobody wanted to ruin Sabrina Francis’s evening; she has waited long enough to be the mayor of Camden and has some important fundraising to do (see this week’s New Journal).

Sue Vincent and Lorna Russell

The new Green councillor had a few gulps on her drink but then found more than enough old comrades racing forward for a hug – this being the first occasion they had seen her since her side-switching.

Everybody knows which of the Labour councillors want her to be removed from the deputy role – the legals seem to all be in Cllr Russell’s favour – but there are enough of the old left caucus who sympathise and were happy to give her a cuddle.

Former council leader Sarah Hayward compares notes with current Town Hall chief Georgia Gould and, below, ex-councillor Maeve McCormack joins the party

Most of them will not be Labour councillors themselves after next May’s Town Hall elections: “the left”, as they are broadly labelled, are mostly stepping down of their own free will, frustrated by the lack of opportunities in the group structure.

Those who want to stay on are said to face a tussle in the reselection contests that are ahead. More of that to come, but the line being repeated over the pineapple punch is that Camden will be turning from a one-party state into a one-faction state.

Not so, say the group’s victors, of course.

For them, Labour has simply moved on from its Corbynista years and is upwardly mobile – and that big wins at those local elections next year will show the public agree they were right all along.

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