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enfield cabinet june 2018The newly appointed cabinet members at the end of May: All smiles, but five of them are now questioning the legitimacy of pre-elections selection processes

"Cabinet descends into civil war" was the headline that greeted me as I picked up the paper from the doormat this morning.  As it was a national paper (and the local paper is no longer delivered anyway), it was evidently referring to the latest discussions between Mr Hammond on one side and Messrs Gove and Johnson on the other about a subject which we'll just refer to as "B".  But my thoughts went immediately to the situation within Enfield Council's cabinet.  After all, when five members of the cabinet, including the deputy leader, write to their party's national executive committee demanding an investigation into the candidate selection processes which led to what some have termed a "coup" and the surprise appointment of a new leader, surely that looks rather like "civil war" too?

The latest news on the dispute within Enfield's ruling Labour Group was published today by the left-wing website The Skwawkbox, which carried the text of an email from the secretary of Enfield Southgate Constituency Labour Party to all members in the constituency confirming that the Labour Party's national executive committee have agreed to a request to investigate "the irregularities surrounding the Council candidate selection process in Enfield, which was overseen by Nesil Caliskan, now Council leader".

The allegations in the letter send to the national executive committee are so serious, and the list of signatories so impressive, that agreement to an investigation was inevitable.  The source of the letter text is again The Skwawkbox (NEC = National Executive Committee, CLP = Constituency Labour Party, LCF = Local Campaign Forum):

Dear Andy Kerr, Jim Kennedy, Jennie Formby

We are writing to add our voices to the calls for an NEC investigation into the Enfield candidate selection process and we would be grateful if you would add this item to the agenda of the forthcoming NEC investigations sub-committee and the full NEC.

We are senior Enfield councillors, ex councillors and party officers, reflecting views across Enfield Labour Party’s political spectrum, and we come from diverse backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities, including Turkish, Greek, Cypriot, Jewish, Muslim, Quaker, Irish, Black, Bengali, Somali, and Sri Lankan.

Four signatories were members of Enfield LCF throughout the selection process and three were observers at about 20 shortlisting and selection meetings across the borough. They joined the majority of LCF members in making Regional Officers aware of their concerns about the procedures, concerns that were either rejected or ignored. This is all a matter of record.

There is widespread anger amongst the membership and the public about the selection process, and in the Labour Group.

Two CLPs have passed motions by overwhelming majorities calling for an inquiry, citing compelling evidence that significant irregularities occurred at every stage of the selection process.

Enfield Southgate CLP voted by 46 for an NEC investigation, 2 against, and 4 abstentions. And Enfield North CLP voted 44 for a CLP/NEC investigation, 4 against, and 3 abstentions.

The Enfield Co-op party has also expressed its “dismay at the lack of diversity of the candidates selected”, and community associations representing Caribbean, Nigerian and Somali residents have written to the Regional Director and others expressing their outrage at the de-selection from their seats of all of the black councillors (6) who stood for reselection in 2018.

This growing scandal has already generated negative media coverage for the local party, and our fear is that it is already beginning to damage community relations and our electoral prospects.

Three of the signatories, all women, will be writing to you separately regarding incidents of intimidation.

We would therefore urge the NEC to intervene as a matter of urgency to restore confidence in the local party and the Council.

Kind regards

Abdul Abdullahi, Chair of Health Scrutiny 2015 -2018; Councillor 2014 -2018
Daniel Anderson, Deputy Leader of Enfield Council 2018 – present; Cabinet Member for Environment 2015 – 2018; Councillor 2014 – present; Councillor 1998 – 2002
Dinah Barry, Chair of the Labour Group 2018 – present; Associate Cabinet Member 2017 – present; Councillor 2014 – present
Yasemin Brett, Cabinet Member for Public Health 2018 – present; Cabinet Member for Communities 2010 – 2018, Councillor 1994 – present
Thushara Dassanayake, Secretary Enfield Southgate CLP 2016 – present
Achilleas Georgiou, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services 2018 – present; Deputy Leader 2010 – 2018; Councillor 1990 – present
Dino Lemonides, Cabinet Member for Housing 2018 – present; Cabinet Member for Finance 2016 – 2018; Councillor 2006 – present
Valerie Lestrade, Chair Enfield Southgate CLP 2016 – present
Maria McCaul, Secretary Enfield Nth CLP 2017 – present
Don McGowan, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Services 2010 – 2016; Chair of Enfield Health and Wellbeing Board 2011 – 2014; Councillor 2006 – 2018
Ahmet Oykener, Cabinet Member for Property and Assets 2018 – present; Cabinet Member Housing & Housing Regeneration 2010 – 2018, Councillor 2004 – present
Ayfer Orhan, Cabinet Member for Schools, Children Service, Protection 2010 – 2018; Councillor 1998 – present
Vicki Pite, Associate Cabinet Member 2015 – 2018; Councillor 2014 – present; Chair Enfield North CLP 2008 – 2014
Ruth Rosenthal, LCF delegate Enfield Co-operative Party 2015 – 2018
Alan Sitkin, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Business, Chair Sustainability Scrutiny Panel, Councillor 2010 – 2018

Kind regards and thanks for consideration of our concerns

So, if the investigations confirm that procedures were breached in order to allow takeover of the Labour Group by a group of people in cahoots with one another, what will that mean for the way the council is run for the next four years? 

Not being a Labour member, I'm not familiar with their rules and procedures, but I assume that Labour's NEC is able to discipline members, withdraw the whip, suspend them or even expell them.  However, it can't remove them from their elected roles as councillors and they would remain as councillors until 2022, unless some of them chose to resign, in which case there would be by-elections.  However, should the NEC suspend or expell the council leader, Nesil Caliskan, she could no longer be leader of the Labour Group and thus could not be council leader.  Those councillors remaining in the Labour Group would elect a new leader who, providing that Labour still had a majority in the council, would become council leader.  How would that affect the council's policies?  Hard to say, since we don't yet have much of an idea about how the Caliskan regime's policies differ from those of the former council under Doug Taylor.

The Skwawkbox's angle is that there has been a right-wing coup, the evidence being the supposed closeness of the people behind it to Enfield North MP Joan Ryan.  I'm not yet convinced -  it looks to me more a case of people looking after their own.  However, I think that The Skwawkbox has done a service by publishing several key letters which are undoubtedly genuine - follow the links below to read them.

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Darren Edgar posted a reply #3954 05 Jul 2018 10:06
No surprise that the nutters at Skwark are calling this a coup (whilst presumingly silent about their own leftie coups elsewhere, notably Islington and Haringey) but it definitely looks more to me like cosiness working the system without breaching any actual rules. Not a coup.