The new political make up of Labour’s National Executive Council has portended a radical shift in the application of power within the Party, as seen in last week’s unprecedented intervention in Haringey Council’s scheme to deliver housing through a private-public partnership.
The pressure of this decision ultimately led to the resignation of Haringey Council Leader Claire Kober this week, but in doing so, Kober wrote a blistering response to the NEC of her own party. In this letter, she writes that “Most NEC members know little about my borough of how our capital’s housing crisis manifests itself in Haringey. I suspect many don’t know about the 3,000 families in temporary accommodation or the 9000 families on the housing waiting list” and savaged that wing of her party by saying that “ideological dogma will do nothing to improve their lives”.
However, the dictating of policy by the NEC to local representatives has implications beyond the operation of local government. It also calls into question the role of devolved governments and the powers and programmes of city mayors like Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham. It has led to local government leaders branching out into the public sphere. A letter published last Sunday was signed by leaders of over 70 councils, from Manchester to Birmingham to many London boroughs, which roundly condemned the behaviour of the NEC as “dangerous and alarming”, “uncomradely and disrespectful” and “an affront to the basic principles of democracy”. Expect this one to run with more public backlash from parts of the Party as Momentum and Corbyn push for “more democracy in the Party” as a cover for control of all policy and decisions.
This big response from Labour local government and concomitant support for Claire Kober suggests that taking control of the party apparatus is one thing, but winning the hearts and minds of all members and factions of the Party is another. The Corbyn wing of the Labour Party are flexing their muscles for the first time in decades, but divided parties don’t win elections. Momentum and its supporters often seem to prefer being in opposition with their principles intact than in Government with centrists. The Tories are probably content with that too.