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London Labour and the London Directors

Yesterday, Labour members in London received an email from one Alan Olive, who has replaced the infamous Ken Clark as the party’s regional director in the capital.

Changes in such seemingly-distant positions are not to be brushed aside, despite the lack of coverage they receive in the mainstream press.

As you probably know Ken Clark the Regional Director for Labour in London retired on Friday.

I have been appointed as the new Regional Director and wanted to drop you a line to introduce myself. Although I have been in the Eastern region for some years now, and at Head Office prior to that, my employment with the Party started in West London working as an Organiser in Hillingdon and Hounslow. I first joined the Party in Twickenham when Toby Jessel was the Tory MP before having spells in Kingston and then Sutton.

It’s a welcome change for members to be informed of such developments – but we shouldn’t be as optimistic as Alan, who presumes we “probably” already knew about Ken Clark’s departure. A profile of Comrade Clark in the East London News was one piece among a very small pool of coverage of the development. The same article demonstrates quite how important such positions can be to local politics especially. Ken Clark did not write to his members say goodbye on his departure. (See update, below.)

Neither, for that matter, did Alan Olive, who comes to London from Labour’s Eastern region. The last that members in the east heard from Alan was on 11th June, when he wrote to announce the deadline for the Norwich North selection.

Aside from carrying on a good start on the communication work, Alan faces a key test: can he reunite the Labour party in Tower Hamlets, and pay members in the borough a little more respect? The chaos in Clark’s handling of the situation was brought home in how he (rightfully) announced Lutfur Rahman as the successful candidate in the mayoral selection race to TV cameras, only to then send out a flurry of emails describing Rahman as “an ex-Labour independent, who has declared himself a candidate”. Sorry Ken, but Rahman didn’t declare himself a candidate – you did.

I’m fairly optimistic – like Alan. But given the situation in Clacton he has just escaped, where his team have been accused of a “witch-hunt” in the unexplained expulsion of a CLP secretary, don’t expect everyone to be as chirpy as either of us.

Once we’re done with ridding the party of witch-hunts, let’s get back to the London Poor.

UPDATE 17/08, 12pm: It seems some members did indeed receive a ‘personal’ goodbye message from Ken Clark. Others, however, received Alan Olive’s salutation but nothing from Clark; further members report receiving neither message.

4 Comments

  1. Dave Green says:

    Ken Clark did write to members. I received an email on 8th August, which appears to have been sent from the Party’s member mailer system (i.e. the same source as Alan Olive’s email), saying that he was retiring.
    Check your spam box.

  2. Ed says:

    Yes, I got that sign-off from KC. Of course the ‘London Poor’ are the priority but you have to have some party discipline to deliver. As a Lambeth councillor I have seen our borough transformed from a basket-case to paragon, for example we now have the best children’s service in England when it was in special measures 10 years ago, after the Labour Group got a grip on the factionalism and extremisim that gave us a bad name for decades.

  3. Jenny Fisher says:

    In response to Ed: there is a thin line between exerting party discipline and extinguishing democracy. Over the last ten years of special measures, I’ve been to branch trigger ballots for Westminster candidate selection (Region deems membership clean), but a year or two later pretty much the same people in my branch have not been able to hold Borough candidate selection meetings (Region deems membership suspect again) – three times.
    One branch hasn’t been able to hold a free branch selection meeting since 1993. One of its sitting councillors wasn’t selected in 2002, joined the Lib-Dems and served two terms as a Lib-Dem councillor. Region re-admitted him to the Labour Party just before the second term expired, and selected him as a Labour candidate in the next election.
    Region re-selected one sitting councillor despite the report from her branch secretary stating, “I have never met this woman. I have no evidence that she has set foot in the ward she represents since she was elected or that she turns up at the surgeries she advertises. I have been branch secretary for three and a half years.” That councillor was not re-elected. Four years later, in the same ward, Region selected a candidate who, in the nine months she had been a party member, had not been to a single branch meeting. (She was not elected either.)
    In the face of these, and many similar examples, it is hard to believe the Region’s view that it is the paragon and the members are the basket cases.
    When Region does your selections, the relationship between ward councillors and branch members is destroyed, as councillors know they will be reselected not on the basis of whether they have represented their branch members and policies but on the basis of whether Region believes they have behaved.
    Members who have joined in the last ten years have never seen accountability of their local elected representatives in action and many now believe party membership is about applauding elected representatives rather than using party structures to engage with them critically. The remaining hacks struggle to keep meetings going, while newer members concentrate on socials and “campaigning” (knocking on the doors of “real people” to tell them their elected representatives are wonderful, but not being able to discuss any Labour Party policy as they haven’t been part of making it – and not wondering why the “real people” aren’t joining the Labour Party).
    It is no accident that Rushanara Ali, at the first GC she attended after being elected, began her report by saying how pleased she was to come to the GC and tell us about what she had been doing with the Labour Party.
    Glad to hear it’s a bed of roses in Lambeth.

  4. Alan Olive says:

    If London members who did not receive my email contact me I will ensure they are sent emails in future. alan_olive@labour.org.uk

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