A major political storm is brewing in London, with infighting between Labour moderates and supporters of Momentum breaking out over the intervention of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in the proposed Haringey Development Vehicle scheme.
What is the HDV?
Haringey Borough Council, headed by long-time Council leader Claire Kober, had begun the transfer £2bn of public assets to private firm Lendlease, as part of a 25-year project aimed at delivering up to 6,400 homes to rebuild existing estates and provide new homes to reduce the 9,000 household waiting list for council homes.
The project has come under fire for criticism from campaigners, who are sceptical over the promises made to council tenants guaranteeing them a new home post-regeneration, and the wider community have expressed their anger that the sale of council property will generate large profits for private firms at the taxpayer’s expense.
Labour’s NEC intervened to pause the project after 22 councillors wrote to the committee requesting outside assistance. However, this has led the Labour leaders in 15 other London boroughs to publish a letter criticising the ‘dangerous and alarming’ intervention in local democracy, whilst also prompting Kober’s decision to stand down at the local elections in May.
Kober’s accusations of sexism and bullying from Momentum members is threatening to cast an unwelcome shadow over the party. However activists are quick to point out that the HDV has been opposed by members from all wings of the party, including North London MPs David Lammy and Catherine West.
Kober has said that she wants her successor to be of an ‘open mind’ when making a decision on the future of the HDV, however with Momentum’s success in de-selecting moderate and centre-left candidates in Haringey – including six of the current ten Cabinet members – the scheme is likely to be scrapped.
Where is the Mayor?
Amid all this infighting – coming just four months prior to the London local elections – there has been near total silence from the most senior Labour politician in the capital. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s only contribution thus far has been to praise Kober for the ‘excellent job she has done’ as Leader since 2008.
The NEC intervention into London local politics is a watershed moment. The Corbynista faction has set its ‘command and control’ stall out clearly and unequivocally – Labour controlled councils are now expected to run their authorities as the central party would wish them to be.
The absence of any comment from London’s most senior elected politician may be politically expedient in the short-term, but in the long-term, Londoners may start to wonder who is really in charge of their city.