Decision Week 2016

IT’S a big seven days for politics spotters in north London, with a series of intriguing questions to be resolved.

* Who will win the Camden Council leadership contest between Sally Gimson and Sarah Hayward?
* Who will be in the new cabinet at the Town Hall?
* Will Andrew Dismore defend the Barnet and Camden London Assembly seat?
* Who will be the next Mayor of London – and what will the results across the capital mean for Camden and beyond? 

This page will act as an update feed summarising the latest events as we go through the week, and as we get closer to the final City Hall showdown on Friday evening.

THURSDAY 3.10PM: Emergency proxy votes

YOU can only wonder what the scenes are like at Barnet Council. Amid the panic, they are dealing with reports that the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was among those turned away from a polling station. He can’t come back later because he is flying to the Netherlands today. Barnet has responded by saying those spurned at the polls earlier, can now apply for an emergency proxy vote (although only until 5pm), in case they can’t get back to the polling stations later today. Barnet, for the first time ever, surely, has been trending solidly on Twitter all day.

THURSDAY 9.35AM: Barnet botches it up

THERE always seems to be one local authority who can’t quite get things right on election day. Step forward, Barnet Council. There’s been a problem with the electoral lists getting to polling stations, and some voters have been told to come back later. At my own local polling station in East Finchley, the staff look pretty weary. One looked at his phone and told his colleague mournfully: We’re on the Daily Mail website now. Apparently, around 15 of the early bird voters at this polling station alone were told they would have to come back. Imagine if the result goes down to the wire after this.

WEDNESDAY 3.2oPM: Tulip says Ken Livingstone has run out of chances

IT was interesting to bump into Tulip Siddiq at the Town Hall as she registered new baby Azalea for a birth certificate chance, as it provided the opportunity to ask him what she feels about Ken Livingstone’s and the anti-semitism row of recent days. She said she has sympathy and agreed with decision to suspend the former mayor of London. She warns that it is an issue among constituents, especially those in Jewish areas where some traditional  Labour voters have indicated they won’t now vote at all tomorrow. “The Labour Party should’ve taken against him when he backed Lutfur (Rahman) in Tower Hamlets,” Ms Siddiq said. Similar concerns were raised by councillor Phil Rosenberg who described Ken Livingstone as a “serial offender”. The party is assessing where this may all leave Andrew Dismore’s chances in Barnet and Camden with Cllr Rosenberg insisting that the Jewish community has “no greater friend” than their candidate.

WEDNESDAY 10.00am: The morning after the AGM before

LABOUR councillors had a make-up pint in the Skinners last night. Theo Blackwell apparently resisted too much bragging after being the only candidate for cabinet who was backed for a job by all 39 members of the group. ‘He’ll think he should have gone for the leadership,’ suggests one councillor who sees the funny side. Even Theo, however, knows that the clean sweep is a little bit of a quirk of an outdated, fuzzy voting system. All members had to put down nine names from eleven candidates meaning, or their voting forms would be automatically voided. This meant some councillors felt forced to put down people they don’t actually feel that enamoured about to make sure their votes for the ones they did want to support were registered.

TUESDAY 9.47pm: Final line-up

LEADER: Sarah Hayward
CABINET: Pat Callaghan, Theo Blackwell, Abdul Hai, Angela Mason, Georgia Gould, Meric Apak, Phil Jones, Jonathan Simpson and Larraine Revah.

TUESDAY 9.40pm: Cabinet complete.

VOTES all counted. Jonathan Simpson is safe. Larraine Revah is the one who joins the cabinet to fill the space left by Sally Gimson’s departure. Oliver Lewis misses out.

TUESDAY 9.37pm: A message from the (still) leader

TUESDAY 9.32pm: Cabinet vote continues

DOUG Beattie is first to drop out of the cabinet race. Leaves Larraine Revah (current Mayor), Oliver Lewis and Jonathan Simpson vying for final two slots. The rest of the cabinet are back in, Pat Callaghan stays as deputy leader and it’s going to look very similar as it did before this meeting. Sarah can shuffle the portfolios, though.

TUESDAY 9.25pm: Ecstatic Haywardites celebrate

LADIES and gents, I give you young Cllr Beales’ take on the last hour. I think it’s called a gif, m’lud.

TUESDAY 9.18pm: Rivals slam divided Labour Party

TUESDAY 9.17pm: Rivals salute leadership winner

TUESDAY 9.15pm: Cabinet vote

COUNCILLORS now voting on the people they want to be in Sarah Hayward’s cabinet. There will be at least one change as Sally Gimson will step down from the executive after her run for the leadership.

TUESDAY 9.05pm: CONFIRMED: SARAH HAYWARD WINS CAMDEN COUNCIL LEADERSHIP CONTEST. She netted 24 votes to Sally Gimson’s 15. 

TUESDAY 9.03pm: Voting over, counting begins. Sarah team very confident.

TUESDAY 8.55pm: Final pitches

BOTH candidates have now delivered their final speeches, Sarah apparently with notes, Sally apparently without notes if that means anything, and they are taking questions – three drawn at random – from the group.

TUESDAY 8.37pm: Sarah’s up first

SO, contrary to the blogpost you may have read earlier today that Sally would go first with the speech and questions, they’ve actually had a toss of the coin and Sarah is on her feet first. Sally is not allowed to hear this bit.

TUESDAY 8.33pm: Full house

PHIL Rosenberg is the last councillor in, racing up the stairs to make the start of the meeting. By my reckoning, that could be all 39 Labour councillors here for this.

TUESDAY 8.25pm: Late night last night?

TUESDAY 8.20pm: Here comes the challenger 

SALLY Gimson, the social services chief who sparked the leadership contest arrives in Judd Street with fellow Highgate ward councillor Oliver Lewis. Labour councillors are gathering for a private meeting to decide who will lead the council, and who will sit on the cabinet.

TUESDAY 8.00pm: Labour councillors gather at the Town Hall

AND so it’s decision time for the Labour group, as they hold their first leadership contest since 2012. Sally v Sarah will finally be resolved in the next hour. Both sides have a level of confidence, but particularly Sarah’s.

TUESDAY 6.10pm: Angela to tweet more 

A REMINDER that it’s not just the council leadership being voted on tonight. Eleven candidates play for nine positions. In their pre-AGM applications, each has talked about taking the need to take the fight to the Tories, having been asked to identify the challenges ahead. They’ve also been asked to talk about the training they’d be willing to take if chosen tonight. Here, Angela Mason explains: “My colleague Georgia Gould who has done a fantastic job with youth services has promised to teach me Twitter!” Surely it’s not Georgia but the council leader, whose well-known tweet button prolificacy puts her way out in front of most London councillors with more than 27,000 tweets to her name, she needs to hook up. If she does that she’ll get a comms masterclass in how to give regular live full council updates, Arsenal hot-takes and satisfying public shaming of big firms with bad customer service.
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TUESDAY 4.10pm: Bring in the boxes

ICYMI: a post from last month explaining that it will be a delayed kick off tonight at Camden’s Labour AGM because some members want to be out campaigning for Sadiq Khan, two days before the public polls open on the London’s elections. Lots of mentions in passing, btw, of the fact that they are using industrial ballot boxes at the AGM tonight, to remove what seems to be an unsaid and unexplained general level of twitchiness about the actual process.

TUESDAY 3.50pm: Four more years?

THE final few hours before we get to answer the first question at the top of the ‘Decision Week’ page: the council leadership. While we wait, it might be interesting to mention a bit of crystal ball chit-chat picked up in recent weeks, and the talk among councillors who’ve been wondering how long Sarah Hayward will going on being leader if she does win against Sally Gimson this evening, and how big an AGM victory an incumbent needs to avoid accusations that their party lies divided behind them. Having won by only one vote in 2012, the challenge this evening is also being seen by some of the leader’s supporters as an opportunity to shake off that half the party wanted somebody else line. Many new faces will vote in a leadership contest for the first time, after all. A common view that I’ve come across, among people on both sides of the divide, is that if Sarah wins tonight, she could be inoculated against further challenges for at least four years on the basis that leadership challenges are rare in the year before boroughwide elections (next year), the year of boroughwide elections (2018), and in the year after them (2019). Such security may need a greater margin of victory this time around, however.

TUESDAY 11am: Sarah’s response to Sally’s manifesto

IN the game of poker ahead of today’s leadership contest, Sarah Hayward has sent her own message-to-all telling colleagues that “it troubles me when people say that we we’re not working in partnership – frankly, anyone who says that doesn’t really understand the depth and breadth of the work we are all doing”.

BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY 11am: Sally releases ‘manifesto for change’

AMONG other promises, Sally Gimson is now pledging to finally change the order of Camden’s broken full council meetings, but how will such a policy really go down with Labour councillors sitting comfortably on such a large ruling majority at the Town Hall? Do they really want more votes, and more interaction with the public?

SUNDAY 10.00am: Police ‘spying on Sian Berry since 2006’

SOME poor spooky types at Scotland Yard were apparently handed the less-than-plum task of tracking Green party mayoral candidate Sian Berry back in 2006 when she was trying to score a breakthrough for her party in the Kentish Town council by-election. It was more testy than most local polls, a three-way contest eventually won by the Lib Dems, but probably not much there to liven up the police’s files.

SATURDAY 7.15pm: Great turnouts

AS is the way, Saturday comes to an end with plenty of tweets through the day of canvassers by canvassers, liked and retweeted by canvassers, celebrating the ‘great turnouts’ ahead of the election. Has there ever been a rubbish turnout here tweet.

SATURDAY 10.50am: The rules

LABOUR councillors have had the rules of how the leadership contest will reach its climax next week outlined to them, and asked to submit questions that they want both Sarah and Sally to answer. Three questions will be drawn from the pot to be asked.

A memo to all reads: “In accordance to party convention and consistently with previous practice, the executive decided that at the AGM there is going to be time for a short presentation of the candidacies and some questions from members. The procedure is only for candidates for the role of leader (not for Cabinet or any other positions).

“In order to make the process fair, each candidate will give a 3 minute speech followed by 3 questions (they will be in the room one at a time so neither of them will know what the other said.

“The same set of questions should be asked to both – and they should not know in advance what questions will be asked.”

SATURDAY 8.20am: AGM cabinet contests

A RECAP on yesterday afternoon’s news as the pre-meeting papers were circulated. It’s leader or bust for Sally Gimson at the Labour AGM, as she’s not standing for the cabinet. The same goes for Sarah Hayward too, with the nine spots to be filled from eleven candidates as Doug Beattie, Oliver Lewis and Larraine Revah look to join the cabinet.

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