A long-running dispute at Haringey Council over a large-scale private housing development, the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), has ended with the resignation of Labour’s highest-ranking female councillor, Claire Kober. Kober’s political lineage extends back to the New Labour years. The HDV is highly reminiscent of a Blair/Brown-era Public Private Partnership (PPP) deal, with the council selling off 1,400 homes to private developer Lendlease for £2 billion, who plan to build 6,400 new homes, the vast majority of which will be sold on the open market.
Residents, backed by the local Momentum group, among others, have long expressed concerns about the deal, highlighting the desperate need for social housing in the borough (the current waiting list sits at around 10,000) and pointing to similar deals throughout London, which have seen developers renege on their already meagre commitments to social housing. The council, however, has sought to reassure residents that a social housing quota will be met and that the £2 billion investment will be vitally important at a time when local council budgets are being continually slashed by central government.
The dispute is an incredibly complex one, which is very much specific to the borough of Haringey, but many are attempting to paint this as a simple case of the new Labour left, i.e. Momentum, waging an ideological war with a more centrist Labour council, without consideration for the views of local residents. This has been the latest in a number of incidents that have been seized upon by Labour’s political opponents — and even some within the party itself — to once again paint Momentum (and the wider Labour left) as carrying out some kind of clandestine takeover of the party.
Last month saw Momentum-backed candidates win a vote among the membership to take three of the new seats on Labour’s ruling council, the NEC, which will make it much easier to pass through the kind of changes to the party that Corbyn has described since his leadership bid. This, too, was held up as evidence of a takeover, but is this characterisation fair, or is what’s going on simply a natural shifting of policy and democratisation of a party, in line with the desires of its membership?