Thursday, 1 February 2018

Famous Victory for People Power over the Privateers – No Social Cleansing in Haringey

The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a £2 billion public/private housing deal between Haringey Council in north London, and construction company Lendlease, is all but dead in the water. Claire Kober the Labour leader of the council, has said that she will not stand for re-election in May’s local government elections. Kober has been the key driver of this property deal, which would have bulldozed thousands of social housing properties, and be replaced with high cost homes for sale or private rental.

Kober has said all existing social housing tenants will be offered homes in the new developments, but similar schemes in other parts of London have promised this, but the homes have failed to materialise. Residents in Haringey have not been prepared to take Kober at her word, and a huge resistance campaign to oppose the deal which was cooked up on a Lendlease owned yacht at the Cannes property development fair in southern France, was formed.

It is highly unlikely that Kober would have still been leader of the Labour Group of councillors after this May’s elections as many of the councillors who supported this deal, and Kober as leader, have been replaced with candidates who oppose HDV. She claims in an apparently open resignation letter, although I’ve been unable to find the full text, to having become ‘disillusioned’ with sexism and bullying, by unidentified people in the Labour party. She has yet to provide any evidence of this though.

If this is true, then of course it should be condemned, but I have to say that it has the look of Kober trying to play the victim in all of this, rather like white racists will often claim that they are discriminated against. I live in Haringey, and have been around local politics for quite a few years now, and I can tell you that Kober is no shrinking violet, who has run the council in an autocratic way. If she has evidence of her being abused then let’s see it.

The mainstream media have tried to make this into a story of a Momentum take-over of the local Labour party. I know that the Labour party has attracted a lot of new members locally, but it has been the policy of HDV that has been unpopular with local people generally. These stories are just ‘red scare’ propaganda. It is totally untrue that this is to do with anything other than the HDV policy itself.

The Labour party NEC, now with a left majority, did suggest some mediation on this issue, between the different factions in Haringey Labour party, but Kober turned this offer down, for as yet unspecified reasons. She has shown no attempt to compromise on this issue, or even listen to anyone who disagrees with her on HDV, preferring to try and railroad it through with the support of only members of her inner sanctum in the Cabinet.

The NEC has been criticised for interfering in local decisions, and I don’t know what the Labour party rules on this are, but I seem to remember Neil Kinnock interfering in local decisions in the 1980s, in Liverpool. Pot and kettle, and all that. 

Kober has support from some MPs and council leaders on the right of the Labour party, which does demonsrate that the Labour party still has some way to go before it is totally transformed into a proper social democratic party. Rumours are circulating that Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, is set to offer Kober a job in charge of housing, London wide.  

The Stop HDV campaign, is supported by the Greens, like me, and Lib Dems locally, as well as resident’s groups and trade unions and many locally in the Labour party who are not Momentum members. Haringey’s two Labour MPs are also against HDV. It hardly sounds like a bunch of Bolsheviks does it?

We are still waiting for a ruling from the Judicial Review, in the High Court, brought and crowdfunded for by local resident Gordon Peters, into the legality of the HDV scheme. What in the end though has stopped this development going ahead is politics. A community campaign that spread into the local Labour party, has forced a change of plan. It is a powerful example of what politics can achieve after all of the despair of recent years; the neo-liberal juggernaut has been brought to a shuddering halt in Haringey.

No formal decision has been taken to end interest in HDV or to try and renegotiate it yet, but there is a meeting next week that will probably take a decision to at least put it on hold. Stop HDV have called a demonstration and lobby outside Wood Green civic centre on the evening of the meeting, 7 February. I don’t think there is enough time, even if there was the will, to get this through now before the elections in May anyway, so I expect the demonstrators will be celebrating.   


  1. Thanks Mike. Kober seems pretty autocratic so her claims of being bullyed won't wash, especially without evidence.

  2. Claire Kober seemed to have little interest in what local people wanted, so it's good that she has resigned. HDV should be rejected outright, and I hope it eventually will be.