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HDV | The Tottenham-10: a Cabinet Member defends “Whip team” action

THE Tottenham-10 Haringey Council Cabinet Member defends Whip team action against the 10 Labour Call-In Councillors:

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On Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 1:22 AM, charley allan

[ Mr Allan's email to Cllr. Arthur is now removed; in it, he questioned the disciplinary action – whipping – in connection with the 10 Labour Councillors who Called-In the Cabinet Decision to go ahead with the HDV]  

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On Mon, 3 Apr 2017 at 8:52, Jason Arthur

[ personal email address redacted ]  wrote:

Hi Charley,

Don't worry - I intend to stay well clear of Richard Burgon's weight (!).  Apologies for the length of the reply but I thought it would be worth giving you a considered response. I haven't had any in-depth conversations with anyone from the Whips Office about this but here is my understanding of events. 

It is critical to separate opinions on the HDV itself with whether appropriate processes have been followed by the Cabinet and the broader Labour Group.

All Cabinet decisions are taken with the support of the majority of the Labour Group. As Joe Goldberg mentioned at the last GC meeting, there are some decisions which are uncontroversial and therefore do not require a debate and/or vote at Group. However, that obviously doesn't apply to the HDV. After a long debate, a clear majority of the Labour Group voted in favour of progressing with the HDV process. The motion, proposed by Cllr Lorna Reith, incorporated commitments on right of return, tenant terms, consultation with residents, etc. - addressing many of the key concerns raised by the Housing Scrutiny Panel.

Haringey Labour Group works on the principle of collective responsibility. It's absolutely fine to have robust debate internally, but once a vote has been taken, all members of the Labour Group are expected to support the decision publicly. This is how Labour Groups work across the country. If this principle was not in place, there would be no point in having Labour Group votes on anything.

Given that there was a Labour Group vote on the HDV, the Labour Group's code of conduct would expect members to accept and respect the decision and not call-in a decision of the Cabinet based on official Group policy. Many of the councillors who are being investigated by the Whips Office had broken this principle in the past. Some had done it on at least two prior occasions and had been warned by the Whips that another call-in would lead to individual disciplinary action.

I have no idea whether any of the councillors will be suspended or not (I don't think it's appropriate for me to speculate), and agree - wholeheartedly - that we should all be trying to build party unity. However, the Whips Office have to follow Labour Party disciplinary procedures and from what I can see, they are following them appropriately.

In terms of the model emergency motion, I really don't think the ward can or should take it (Steve/Emma, can you help?). If the motion was agreed, it would require the Whips Office to ignore disciplinary procedures they are tasked with overseeing. It's also inappropriate for a branch or the GC to micro-manage the Whips Office in this way.

So all in all, a regrettable state of affairs, but the actions of the Whips, the Labour Group and GCs must support the Group to maintain collective responsibility once Group policy on an issue is clear.

Best wishes,

Jason

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[ The Hornsey Ward Councillor who is Haringey Labour Group's Chief Whip is also a Consultant for Terrapin Communications Ltd. That PR company's client's include LendLease (successful bidder for the HDV) and included CoPlan Estates (Hornsey Town Hall) ]

Tags: Call-in, Cllr Arthur, Cllr Jogee, Comrades, HDV, Haringey Development Vehicle, Uncomradely, Whip team, collective responsibility, discipline, More…punish, punishment, selection, signatory, suspension

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Replies to This Discussion

Clive, I’ve asked you several times (on Twitter and here) to take the emails down but so far you have refused. They are private emails between branch committee members and publishing them without any context or even attempt to establish their authenticity is shoddy and reckless – and a prime example of, dare I say, “yellow journalism”. Just because something may be interesting to members of the public doesn’t make publishing it in the public interest. There’s absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing, or even the suggestion of wrongdoing, so I’d be interested to hear how you think it’s in the public interest to have our privacy violated in this way. And just to be clear, I was not trying to insult you – just pointing out that these kinds of dirty tricks make us all look bad, put people off politics and are in fact utterly counter-productive. As my leaked email makes clear, I am personally sympathetic to the cause, but will now think twice before joining forces with campaigners who seem to have such low personal and political standards. Sad!

Charley, 

I am not aware that OpinioN8 is a LibDem blog, as you have claimed, any more than HarringayOnLine is a Libdem blog.

I would not reproduce emails about personal matters, but that’s not the content here. I continue to believe that the political content here is of genuine public interest, directly because of the *immoral* treatment of the Tottenham-10 and indirectly, because of the wide, legitimate concern about the HDV itself. 

To which cause are you personally sympathetic? Is it concern over the treatment of the Tottenham-10 or is it sympathy with the opposition to the HDV?

I remain disappointed with the continued name-calling. And I’m sorry you haven’t accepted my volunteered apology for (briefly) publishing your email address and instead, used my apology as an excuse to take another shot.

Please note that I do not possess your model emergency motion.

It is true that I’ve published the texts without context. Many residents are already aware of the background in terms of the Call-in and HDV. Are you able to provide any useful context beyond what is already in the public domain?

As to their authenticity, I think this is something you’ve helped with, when you said they are between “branch committee members”

I’m not clear on what you believe is a “dirty trick”. I can assure you that I did not come by the exchange as a result of any hacking into anyone’s server, nor into anyone’s email account. 

I agree with your suggestion that, this [the treatment of the Tottenham-10] is only going to end badly. You’re correct about wrongdoing: I don’t hint or suggest that you’ve done that. 

However, I do not think the Tottenham-10 should be criticised and still less, punished for mounting a Call-In. This is something that is provided for in the Council’s Constitution. Any five Councillors can mount a Call-In. What has happened to our democracy?

I suspect you share my concerns and—far from your exchange with the Cabinet Member being any kind of “smoking gun”—your apparent concerns do you credit. 

I’m not persuaded by your claim that you were (ever) thinking of “joining forces” with “campaigners”, whether or not they have standards of which you approve. I don’t see your active support for the HDV: but is it tacit support?

I’m not sure you yet grasp the nature of HDV and the threat it poses. I note you don’t comment on the alleged merits of the HDV. Are you prepared to discuss them? 

Opposition to this high-risk proposal crosses the political spectrum. It was a former Labour Cabinet Member and current Councillor who said—in a public Scrutiny meeting—that the HDV could bankrupt our Council. That took political courage and I respect that. Charley, please reflect on that.

Clive, I’m not talking about this website, I’m talking about your blog on this site. You’re a Lib Dem councillor, therefore your unedited postings here constitute a Lib Dem blog.

Cllr Arthur is not involved in this disciplinary process and of course neither am I. He was giving his private opinion to fellow branch members – and for you to publish our emails in full without any context or attempt at justification is reckless and unethical. At first glance it looks like I leaked them! And why include my email at all?

It’s obvious from my email where my sympathies lie, but in case you need further proof, I’ve moved resolutions against the HDV, I’ve protested against it, I’ve even written about it – and all you’ve done by publishing these private emails is make opponents of the plan look like desperate grubby idiots. Seriously, whether you hacked the emails yourself or whether they were leaked to you, it doesn’t matter. You made the choice to publish them (inexplicably, with full personal email addresses) without explaining what they were, how you got them, what the significance was – nothing! Just a click-bait headline and no substance – that’s yellow journalism.

Without wrongdoing, there’s no public interest in invading our privacy like this. You’re just trying to smear our reputations by publishing out-of-context emails – that’s dirty politics. Highgate deserves better than this.

Charley, many thanks for the link to your article that I have now read. Insofar as it is critical of the HDV, it is excellent and I hope you won't take offence at that!

I think we take a similar view of the HDV.

Opposition to this high-risk proposal crosses the political spectrum: even the Tottenham Tories oppose this immoral scheme! However, I don't mean to include our current right-wing-Conservative local Administration … that happens to say "Labour" on the tin.

The LibDems are not, as you claim, busy using the HDV to undermine Labour's local support. As a Member of the Opposition I have anyway a duty to the public to challenge what I see as a poor policy. However, I am busy criticising the HDV, because it is both high-risk and an immoral policy and it would probably mark the beginning of the end of Council housing in our Borough. Any effect on Labour's "local support" would be merely a side-product of that opposition. It is not the motivation.

By impugning motives of Liberal Democrats, you use a similar device as the Council Leader. Because Cllr. Kober is unable to sustain a defence of the HDV on its own merits, she told BBC Radio London that the opposition (meaning Momentum) was "ideological". Thus, the motivation is criticised, rather than the arguments; alternatively, the messenger is attacked, rather than the message.

In order to dismember the case put forward by current Cllr. Arthur—as to who and why the Tottenham-10 should be punished for mounting a Cabinet Decision Call-In—I could not do better than former Labour Councillor Alan Stanton. I think that Dr. Stanton set out how Cllr. Arthur—despite not being in the Whips Team and who is not one of the "interviewers" —is involved in the disciplinary process.

On a more positive note, I think there's a real chance of halting this reckless and irresponsible "Vehicle". Can I invite you to consider these practical avenues:

  1. Judicial Review  please consider contributing to the legal challenge organised by Gordon Peters (even though he is of a different Party from each of us).
  2. Borough's Auditor  has already received expressions of concern about the threat that HDV poses to our Borough's finances (Audit Plan; contacts on page two)

Haringey deserves better than the HDV.

Clive, I’m sure you’re sincere in your opposition to the HDV, however it’s worth remembering that the only reason our council finds itself in this financial crisis is because of your party’s support in power for crippling “austerity” and robbing Labour councils of vital funds.

That aside, you miss the point here entirely and just keep trying to change the subject. This is not about the HDV, it’s about you invading my privacy. How would you like it if I started publishing your private emails without your consent? Publishers have clear responsibilities in cases like this – and privacy should only be invaded in certain circumstances, such as exposing wrongdoing.

I really can’t believe you don’t get this. Publishing another party’s hacked or leaked internal emails in full, without any context, is dirty politics – not to mention poor journalism. What makes it worse is how little justification you have for doing so. You admit there’s no wrongdoing or even the suggestion of wrongdoing, so where’s the public interest? If there was anything important you wanted to reveal, you could’ve quoted the relevant parts and explained your reasons for doing so – but you didn’t, you just slapped the full emails online on a whim without any context or explanation. This is lazy and unethical – and a prime example of why people don’t trust politicians any more. Please show some integrity and take the emails down!

Charley I was wondering how long it would be before your personal attacks would broaden and used as a excuse to make a general attack on the Liberal Democrat Party. Very well.

Clive, it’s a bit rich for a Lib Dem councillor to attack Haringey for taking this drastic action without mentioning that your party is responsible for slashing the council’s budget in the first place. People still remember how eagerly the Lib Dems sold out their voters for a small slice of power.

On the emails, I’m glad you’ve finally conceded you were wrong to invade my privacy – though it took you a full two weeks (and no hint of apology). However, the way you’ve edited this now makes it superficially look even more like I leaked it to you! If you still refuse to take this down, at least have the decency to make it clear how you got your hands on these emails.

Invasion of Privacy?
Charley, please accept that Clive Carter did not "invade" Cllr Jason Arthur's "privacy", any more than Dorothy invaded the privacy of the Wizard of Oz by looking behind the curtain. What actually happened was that a little light and fresh air was shed on the thoughts and actions of a Haringey councillor.

Apologies Needed?
You talk about this being "dirty politics". But if you really object to that, please consider the way the ten councillors who signed the Call-In on the HDV (Homes Destruction Viciousness) are being treated. Frankly, they're the ones who deserve a sincere and genuine apology.

The only other person in this email whistle-blowing saga who should  apologise is Cllr Jason Arthur. He could start by acknowledging that he got something wrong. Then tell us what he's learned and how he intends to do better. He's a local *councillor*, for heaven sake!  And currently a so-called "cabinet member".  A title which may be a puffed-up piece of nonsense, but it does carry a substantial salary and very real power and influence. He's in a privileged position and should be accountable.

A Considered Response?
At the beginning of his email to you - as the volunteer chair of his ward branch Labour Party - Jason Arthur wrote that he was giving you a "considered response" and his "understanding of events".  Even though it's clear that his consideration and understanding didn't extend beyond a grossly one-sided version of the debates about the HDV.   Nor beyond a Janet-and-John model of how decision-making and Party group discipline works.

He asserts: "This is how Labour Groups work across the country". I sincerely hope that's inaccurate. My Party membership card has the words "democratic socialist". Perhaps Cllr Arthur needs to reread some of the books on his shelves about socialism, deliberative democracy, freedom of information and freedom of speech.

Practically every further statement in his email to you can be challenged. Unfortunately there's no hint of a trace of 'on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-hand' from Cllr Arthur.

Fresh Air and Sunshine
Let me again breach the precious guarded secrecy of the Haringey Labour Group to explain what's really going on.
In summary, a bunch of people join this Group. They are sat down in a room. There they're shown some incomplete and vague outlines of what the people in charge want them to know and think. Maybe they listen and look. Perhaps discuss it among themselves. Or maybe play Candy Crush on their mobiles. Or doze off.

The people putting out this generally vague but often upbeat stuff are raised above the ordinary councillors. They know that most of what's being shown is illusory. But it keeps the system going. Every so often somebody might come in from outside and say: "Hey everyone. You've got things wrong!"  They are ignored. If they persist, they're called uncomradely. 

Before you get worried, I can assure you there's absolutely nothing new in my 100% accurate factual description of Koberville. It's been public knowledge for quite a while. And made into a book. There's even a video in which the story was narrated by Orson Welles.  http://bit.ly/2pASE87

This possible disciplinary action has made it into the Local Government Chronicle which sounds quite authoritative, though as I don't move in those circles it might not be.

The LGC article has been reproduced in full on STOP HDV which sounds a bit more local

STOP HDV also contains a long letter to Haringey's auditors, suggesting they take a long hard look at the HDV

THE reference in the Local Government Chronicle to this sorry episode demonstrates the wide public interest in the subject.

Although the author referred to this website (OpinioN8) and mentioned me, I had no foreknowledge of the article. I think it helpful that the way in which the local Labour-run Council conducts it's business has been brought to a wider audience.

I confess I was angered about 18 month ago when a fellow, duly-elected Councillor—albeit from a competing Party—(Gideon Bull) was criticised, disciplined and then suspended.

Why? For speaking from the heart and speaking up in a public meeting, where he expressed concern about the proposed closure of Day Care centres. I had sat nearby and heard him speak. One didn't even necessarily have to agree with a single word he said, in order to be deeply offended by his subsequent treatment. N.B. Voltaire missattribution.

The “Tottenham-10” comprise a fifth of the Labour Council Group, but Gideon was just one person and was able to be picked-off by the then Chief Whip. Broadly similar action had earlier been taken against long-serving Labour Councillor Alan Stanton, who was suspended from his Group for the last 12 months of his 16 years on the Council. Alan is freer to speak out now, of course.

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The chronic, ingrained culture of bullying and intimidation needs to stop if our Borough is to be better governed and better decisions come forth.

The biggest and riskiest decision the Council will ever take—the HDV—is being ruthlessly and recklessly rammed through, on a timetable, against all advice, not least by the Council's own cross-party Scrutiny Committee. By the time the full effects of HDV manifest themselves for all to see, the small number of promoters are likely to be long gone. Others will suffer the consequences be left to pick up the pieces.

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