When we were elected in Crouch End it was as the first Labour councillors in the ward since 2002. And in the two years since our election we’ve seen: Hornsey Town Hall open again with progress made towards finding a … Continue reading
Around 200 people attended this week’s launch of Haringey Momentum. They were mostly male, mostly white, but quite an age range, from students to pensioners and all inbetween. Listening to the contributions from the floor, I got a sense that one or two present were looking for an 80s style fight, but it felt that most were genuinely people who had been engaged by Jeremy’s victory, in a good way, and were concerned only with getting rid of the Tories.
The speakers were all keen to stress that Momentum was not planning to be divisive. In his opening comments, Haringey UNISON Secretary Gerard McGrath said “I know some of you won’t be happy to hear this, but we have to work with all sections within Labour”. Also Jon Lansman, the man credited with forming Momentum, was quick to dismiss any talk of deselection – answering a young guy who railed against those MPs who dared to disagree with Corbyn, Lansman said “deselection would always be a matter for the local party”. Which I realise is a little open-ended, but the whole thrust of the discussion suggested the top table genuinely don’t want to get embroiled in the kind of internal party politics that kept Labour out of power for so long in the 80s.
Two of the guest speakers, Martha Osamor (new MP Kate’s mum) and Cllr Emine Ibrahim, gave moving speeches about how in the 80s Cllr Corbyn had helped make Haringey a safe borough for ethnic minorities. Sam Tarry, political officer for the Transport Salaried Staff Association, spoke passionately about engaging people in exciting campaigns, while Lansman, once Tony Benn’s fixer, seemed almost circumspect considering the excitement generated around his new organisation.
I was reminded a little of Ed Miliband in the early days of his leadership – the hope and passion around his victory suddenly replaced by a more sombre mood, an understanding that every word spoken was now being analysed for meaning, nuance or lines of attack from those within the party still annoyed that their own candidate had been defeated.
This feeling was to some extent mirrored in the meeting, which began with a passion and raw energy that gradually wilted as the night wore on. The chair asked for questions after each speaker but for ages he didn’t get any, just people getting up explaining how bad things were in their specific worlds (Junior Doctors, TU Health & Safety Awareness Teaching, Student Cuts etc) followed by a desperate call for everyone in the room to join them at their demos/ solidarity marches. Eventually, about three quarters of the way in, one man said, “this is all very well, but what do we do now?” He also asked rather pointedly “what’s the plan, are we all going to go on all these demos and marches?” Another man said: “I haven’t disagreed with a word of what’s been said tonight, but what happens next?”
This is both a strength and a weakness of Momentum. At one point someone asked Jon for a specific answer to a policy question to which he responded “I genuinely don’t know, that’s partly why we’re here now.” Which is great: come 2020 we’ll be needing to completely rebuild the welfare state, the NHS, local government and other areas being dismantled by the Tories, we can’t possibly know at this point what all the solutions are, and this suggests the leadership are open to new ideas.
However, there was no sense of how this opening up is to take place. It’s already happening up and down the country, in Hornsey & Wood Green for instance the CLP has taken the lead and is launching great initiatives across the borough, ward by ward. So why Momentum? Sure enough, when the question was asked “What is Momentum for?”, there wasn’t a satisfactory answer.
It feels to me like an attempt by those at the top to plug in directly to the membership and bypass the machinery of the party, at least until they can win back control. That would be an awful misreading of the situation, feeding in to the myth perpetuated by the leadership election that Labour is a party of two distinct wings, rather than a broad spectrum running from far left to centre right. If Momentum isn’t even looking to win over the sizeable constituency on the left who didn’t vote for Jeremy, how can they hope to build the kind of consensus that the SNP have managed across Scotland?
(Of course this is a two way journey, and those on the right of the party, especially those still involved in undermining the leadership, need to ask themselves how they would prefer to be seen by the membership – as an enemy with a grudge, or a critical friend prepared to meet their party opponents somewhere along the spectrum?)
For me the low point of the evening came when a man prefaced his speech (again, not a question) “I’m not really interested in Labour, I’m a Trade Union man, Labour said they would eradicate poverty and look what happened.”
I could have reminded him it was the Unions who tried to block the Race Relations Act, fearing that black workers would take white mens’ jobs – it took Harold Wilson’s Labour Party to force that act through. I could have pointed him in the direction of survey after survey of child poverty, showing a decrease from 1997 to 2010 and a rise again since. But what really bothered me was the proud way he said he was not really interested in Labour, like we are the real enemy. I thought, why are you here then? Momentum seems to understand it was Labour’s internal battles that kept Thatcher in power for so long, but they need to make sure everyone else gets that message.
Stephen Bush wrote a very good piece about Momentum in the NS, but he only half answers the headline question – should Labour MPs be scared of Momentum? My answer is, they don’t need to be, but they’ve got just under a year to develop a strategy for working with Momentum, rather than sniping from the sidelines. It is something new, it’s not yet a super confident Militant-style movement already holding the levers of power, and until that happens its leaders will be receptive to anyone from outside the Corbyn core who reaches out to them.
No one needs to pretend they agree on everything, but now that the Tories have effectively decided to give up on the state, surely we can all unite to make people aware that Labour is the only major party prepared to be the custodians of our public services.
“We’ve been running Indish in Crouch End for 18 years and are very proud to be part of the community. Local businesses, especially the independents, are important for this community to continue to stay vibrant, and to this end we give our support to Jason, Natan and Lourdes to make sure Crouch End carries on being the exciting cultural hub of this borough” Melanie and Kasha, Indish, Crouch End
“Jason Arthur, Natan Doron and Lourdes Keever represent the best of Crouch End, its vitality and diversity, creativity and passion for social justice. They will make superb councillors committed to representing the best interests of our community on Haringey council.” Linda Grant, novelist, journalist, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, Crouch End resident
“I recently ran the London Marathon raising money and support for Shelter, because I care about helping those less fortunate than myself. Crouch End needs politicians who feel the same. That’s why I’m supporting Jason, Natan and Lourdes to make Crouch End Labour again.” Tad MacDonald, Musician, Crouch End resident for 26 years
“I’ve lived in Crouch End for almost 50 years. I know that Jason, Natan and Lourdes are hardworking local people and I think they would make excellent councillors for Crouch End.” Doreen Jones, retired, Crouch End resident for 48 years
These are just four of the many people in Crouch End who are getting behind Jason, Natan and Lourdes’ positive vision for Crouch End. You can join them by using all three of your votes in the council elections for Labour tomorrow.
Jason, Natan and Lourdes have been out talking to residents for over a year now. One thing that has come up is that family budgets are being squeezed. The monthly pay packet isn’t going as far as it once did. That’s why as one of our key manifesto pledges in Crouch End and Haringey, Labour is freezing council tax for another four years.
There are five days to go until the local elections. We’ll be unveiling more about our positive vision for Crouch End and Haringey in the coming days. So stay tuned and look out for Jason, Natan and Lourdes campaigning in Crouch End this weekend.
Ed Miliband has pledged that a Labour government will take action to make the private rented sector more affordable and secure. We know this matters to the people of Crouch End. You need only walk down Park Road or Ferme Park Road and see the endless to let signs as more homes become unaffordable for people living in Crouch End.
In 2001 31% of people living in Crouch End were living in home rented from private landlords. By 2011 this figure had gone up to 37.3%. The private rented sector in London has become more and more expensive during a period in which real wages are stagnating. This is just one part of what Ed Miliband calls the cost of living crisis.
Labour’s plans include banning letting agents from charging tenants any fees, bringing in three year tenancies as the standard in the private rented sector and guaranteeing predictable rents to limit excessive rises to stop tenants being ripped off.
One of the reasons that renting is becoming increasingly unaffordable is because not enough homes are built in England. That’s why Haringey Labour’s manifesto is pledging to building 1,000 new affordable homes including 250 council homes. But that’s not all. Haringey Labour’s positive vision for the borough includes improving existing council homes despite huge Lib Dem and Conservative central government cuts to the council budget. Haringey Labour also intends to do more to support tenants who suffer under rogue landlords by setting up a landlords’ register. Finally Haringey Labour will make sure that new housing schemes provide jobs and apprenticeships for local people.
This is all part of Haringey Labour’s vision to ease the cost of living and improve life in this borough. We can make a positive difference to the people of Crouch End with our plans for the local council and Labour’s plans for national government.
Ed Miliband launched Labour’s local and European election campaign yesterday. This video accompanies that launch. Ed Miliband has created a contract with Britain setting out how Labour will tackle the cost of living crisis. You can see it here: http://www.labour.org.uk/my-contract-with-you