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The grotesque chaos of Claire Kober’s Haringey

The resignation of a council leader would normally be no biggie. I mean, I’m guessing entirely here, but presumably that happens in towns or cities across Britain several times a year, for one reason or another.

These things usually merit a run of front pages in the local press, and perhaps a short mention or two nationally. They are then swiftly forgotten, as just another ego-driven municipal hissy fit over a bypass or an over-budget leisure centre. All of that makes the events surrounding Claire Kober’s departure in Haringey simply extraordinarily.

On a charitable construal, perhaps her course of action was forced upon her, following the incursion of Labour’s National Executive Committee onto her home turf. But now she’s gone, there’s little point in mincing words. Kober had lost the confidence of both the majority of local residents and the majority of local Labour activists and members, including both of Haringey’s not particularly leftist Labour MPs.

Her leadership was over anyway, and she knew it. Had she the party’s best interests at heart, she could have opted to go with dignity, a carriage clock, a lucrative consultancy job, and the promise of an eventual OBE. Instead, she took the calculated decision to maximise the damage her resignation would inflict on Corbyn, timing the announcement to catch the lunchtime bulletins, while simultaneously launching a pop at Momentum on the front page of the Evening Standard.

Her deed was even reinforced by a round robin letter from 70 other Labour council chiefs, which a cynic would see as evidence of collusion rather than an entirely unaffected outpouring of love and affection for a fallen colleague. Thanks a bunch, comrades. It must take brass nerve to accuse Momentum of ‘factionalism’ after pulling a stunt like that.

Meanwhile, the barrage continues, with broadsides from Kober in the Financial Times and New Statesman. Expect more to come, with accusations of bullying and sexism likely to provide the Tories with a gift that keeps on giving in the run-up to London’s election in May.

Sure, any substantiated accusations against named individuals on this score should be investigated, with suitable sanctions to follow if the complaints are upheld. But, entirely predictably, there have not been any.

What we do know is that one high-profile Haringey Blairite has a track record of harassing senior Labour staffers, to the point where she was asked to leave a conference hotel on account of aggressive behaviour. That, somehow, gets left out of most accounts of these matters.

It is perfectly true – as Kober and her defenders endlessly reiterate – that Haringey shares with the entirety of London a housing crisis that will require radicalism and imagination to challenge.

But handing over entire council estates to a property developer, with no guarantee of replacement social housing to the thousands displaced, and only a chimerical future offer of ‘affordable rent’ beyond the means of most of them, is at best a deeply flawed response. Not least, it would not have flown with the voters.

To accuse opponents of HDV of ideological motivation is beyond risible. As someone who was in the trenches during the last round of Labour local government wars, what I see before me is a photographic negative rerun of the early 1980s, this time with Blairite holdouts playing the role of the headbangers.

One might even venture that their doctrine has been pickled into rigid dogma, a code, outdated, misplaced, irrelevant to real needs. It ends in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council – a Labour council – scuttling round a borough handing out eviction notices to its own tenants.

But quite rightly for a Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn refrains from attacking Labour councillors in such disgraceful sectarian terms.

In Haringey, the Labour Party’s own internal processes have done the job they are designed to do, replacing council candidates with those who refuse to listen to the electorate with those that will.

Hopefully this will be enough to avert major local level Lib Dem gains in the process. Watch for the result from Seven Sisters ward in Haringey on May 3. With any luck, it will be a Labour gain.


  1. Tom says:

    I agree with the general gist of this. But a slight issue with “the promise of an eventual OBE” – she already got one, in 2015.

  2. Steven Johnston says:

    Fingers crossed those Blairites do a better job than the anti-Trump Republicans!
    I mean, look what happened to their campaign to stop Trump?

  3. Steven Johnston says:

    “To accuse opponents of HDV of ideological motivation is beyond risible.”

    But it’s acceptable to accuse the supporters of HDV of this?

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      Read some of the usual diatribe written up as comment in the New Statesman.

      Typically what these so called moderates forget is that for years those of us on the left that have expressed concerns about the direction of travel with Blair and then Brown…… as it was self evident that they were using debt as the sole means of expanding the economy and privatising the public services we relied on, with the inevitable consequence that followed.

      Was I on my own in thinking the way I did then, no, 5 million Labour voters deserted the party because they saw no value in the party any longer, and nice moderate people like you Steven just sat back and allowed that situation to go on, just like you would today. Whether through ignorance or the false belief in private enterprise it doesn’t really matter the outcomes were, and are the same.

      Those that attack Momentum also forget that we have grown as a party, we now stand around 700,000 members compared to 200,000 odd under Blair, they joined because they want change, that is what they are campaigning for, you have every right to voice your opinion, but when you are in a minority, then that is a fact of life you have to live with, just as Jeremy Corbyn did for over thirty years on the back benches.

      1. Steven Johnston says:

        If you did attack Blair and then Brown then fair enough, that is your right to do so.

        But don’t cry foul when others attack Corbyn. He after all supported Tony Benn in the 1988 leadership challenge, so perhaps he didn’t just sit back for all those 30 years on the back benches.

        “Read some of the usual diatribe written up as comment in the New Statesman.”

        The same could said of the diatribe found on the Momentum website that praises Corbyn to the skies.

  4. Steven Johnston says:

    The grotesque chaos of the great men of history theory.

    The election of a Labour party would normally be no biggie. As the left reject the cult of personality & the great men make history theory. If all men & women are created equal then the labour leader is nothing special, just there to express the wishes of the people.

    Though witness the carnival around the latest leader. To criticise him is treasonous!
    As for all the merchandise bearing his name and fissog, I’d sure like to follow the money and see where that goes.

  5. Tony says:

    Great to see this website up and running again.

    The New Statesman magazine is not what it was. It is barely worth reading these days.

  6. Steven Johnston says:

    “With amazing creativity in the toughest of times, we are seeing the first shoots of the renaissance of local government for the many, not the few – the rebirth of municipal socialism,” Corbyn is to say.

    they call it municipal socialism, but back in the 1930’s they had a different term for it.

  7. Richard MacKinnon says:

    I have read this article a few times now and find it disturbing, for a number of reasons, first, in the way it singles out one person and the way she chose to resign as the leader of Haringey Council. There is a vindictive and sarcastic tone to this piece, I find it unnecessary, edging upon disturbing.
    Jon Lansman states, “Her leadership was over anyway, and she knew it. Had she the party’s best interests at heart, she could have opted to go with dignity, a carriage clock, a lucrative consultancy job…….”.
    Claire Kober made the decision to resign, the timing, this years council elections. She has lost the support of her fellow councillors, time to call it a day. What is unusual about that? It happens in local politics all the time, with every party.
    What is unusual about her resignation is that she cites bullying as part of her decision. She mentions in particular the intervention of Labour’s NEC, If this is true it must be a concern to anyone that calls themselves a democrat. Why?
    Two reasons.
    Before I explain them, I am no expert on this Haringey Development Project. I know it is a multi billion pound, 25 year project. I know all cities face the same problems when regeneration is on the agenda. It is natural that the old communities, their local councillors and the city planners will have differences of opinions where real and vested interests will require to be resolved. That is obvious and should be accepted by all sides to enable the process to progress as amicably as is possible. The opposite seems to be the case in Haringey.
    The first concern for me is the source of the bullying, which is, the main UK opposition party’s national executive council. If Claire Kober has been bullied by Labour’s NEC and they have intervened in this process then that is wrong. What possible part has Labour’s NEC got to play in a local issue such as this?
    The second concern is, I don’t like a bully.
    It doesn’t seem to bother Jon Lansman. He seems to find some kind of smug self satisfaction in the idea . “On a charitable construal, perhaps her course of action was forced upon her, following the incursion of Labour’s National Executive Committee onto her home turf”.
    People should ask themselves that basic question; was Labour’s NEC right to intervene in a local democratic decision?
    There is another point I take issue with in this article and I would like to highlight it.
    Jon Lansman claims “As someone who was in the trenches during the last round of Labour local government wars, what I see before me is…….” Jon Lansman has never been in the trenches. Claire Kober has been, but Jon Lansman, has never been a ‘soldier’.
    Jon Lansman is a puppet master. Jon Lansman’s position in the Labour party is difficult to explain. Many have tried, including vague attempts by Lansman himself.
    Jon Lansman is not a soldier, he is as far as is possible a behind the lines general. Indeed it is more complicated than that, his unexplained role within the party, and the relationship he has with the other generals of the Labour army through his private cadre Momentum, makes Lansman a difficult figure to pin down. That is how he likes to be seen. He would no doubt call himself a strategist. I see him more as an agent provocateur.
    And there lies a danger. The problem with spies down the ages is you are never quite sure which side they are working for.

    1. Steven Johnston says:

      Well he did hail his election to the NEC as victory for “21st century socialism”. Whatever that means!

  8. Verity says:

    I know little of the dominant Haringey Labour councillors view. I must admit I tend to direct my attention away from London matters and concentrate on non – London matters given that this is Labour’s biggest medium and long term problems.

    But my understanding is that the ‘Haringey’ project is at a minimum very controversial. Very controversial within the Labour Group of Councillors itself; controversial within the supporting Labour Party; controversial within the community; not supported by the connected Labour MPs. This controversy is a central current concern about the balance or risks and rewards between the public and private sectors. In addition it is clear that ‘gung ho’ modernisers have in the past been a bit too keen on ‘modernisation’ and less keen on the securing the Labour and public support for magical ‘non – class – based’ solutions to society projects.

    The NEC has no remit to intervene in the democratically diven process which presumably led to this. But what the NEC has the opportunity to do is to seek a pause and some for reflection by all, on the wisdom of pursuing these ambitions when various ‘factions’ are in such dispute with each other. The NEC has a detached ‘disputes resolution’ responsibility at a time when major internal controversy is at stake on a topical major issue with such long lasting implications combined with a track record by modernisers of modernisation adrenalin. PFI itself was of course such a ‘magic’, ‘non class – based’ resolutions driven by vanity and adrenalin. I congratulate the NEC on seeking a detached rethink and the opportunity for clearing – up some areas of dispute if that could be achieved. If only they had done so in the past.

    This argument of course should be separated from any suspicion that anyone holds of an individual’s (i.e) Lansman preference for a change of direction in Haringey’s initiative. Anyone is entitled to have doubts about the ‘modernisation’ agenda whilst still adopting the cautious wish for local resolution with national moderation amongst parties.

    1. Steven Johnston says:

      But re “The great men of history” theory, do the hard left still reject it?

  9. Steven Johnston says:

    “Instead, she took the calculated decision to maximise the damage her resignation would inflict on Corbyn”

    Now we are getting the reason for all the ire. This is unforgivable! But if Lansman can see through it then surely the rest of the voters can too?

    1. Steven Johnston says:

      Now there even is a Labour against Labour against the witchhunt!

      I’m not making this up…

      …where will it end? Very Stalinesque, with everyone denouncing everyone.

  10. Verity says:

    Since LeftFutures has been dormant for a considerable and excessive period of time, it has to said that it really contrasts so appalling badly with the new look, comprehensive and interesting coverage on the Progress site.

    Is this LeftFutures trying to complete with the CPLD/Grassroots site for the place as yesterday’s naff site of the year.

    Is it perhaps time to cross it off my bookmarks list? I ask … Well since it takes no time at all to read, I probably don’t need to do it.

    1. Verity says:

      Apologies, there is still several levels of degeneration required to match the site of the Labour Representation Committee or the absence of meaningful discussion on Mementum’s regular new look sites.

      Although we could note that the LRC now seems to have adopted a Special General Meeting every year as replacement to its AGM every year in order to observe how bad its communication and debating channels are. I suppose we could gain comfort from the Momentum rallies which act as a (deteriorating) replacement for political discussion, education and learning.

      It used to be possible to blame levels of funding for Progress or the Fabian site, but now it looks much more like energy and the desire for meaningful debating capacity on the Left. the new found energy and enthusiasm and training in Labour First is also a real inspiration for some.

      Take comfort from the fact that my own tiny and poorly resourced CLP will no councillors at all and outside London is attempting to surpass the contribution levels on these sites despite the fact that it has no one all who understands the development possibilities.

      1. Richard MacKinnon says:

        I think the reason we don’t get many articles on Left Futures is it gives non believers the chance to lift the Momentum stone to see what lives underneath.
        What are the names of Momentum’s regular new look sites? I going for a look.

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