Labour divided over leadership

Complaints about selection process, but action against local party unlikely, reports James Cracknell

Enfield Council cabinet

Enfield Council’s cabinet, including leader Councillor Nesil Caliskan (fifth from right) (credit Enfield Council)

Complaints by Labour councillors in Enfield about the selection process during this year’s local election are unlikely to lead to disciplinary action being taken, the Dispatch understands.

Several sitting councillors were deselected prior to May’s election, in what some in the local party claim was a co-ordinated move to enable Councillor Nesil Caliskan to become the new leader.

Just two weeks after former leader Councillor Doug Taylor won an increased majority on the council, a leadership ballot was held that resulted in Cllr Taylor being ousted and Cllr Caliskan taking his place.

Several councillors – including some who continue to serve in the council’s cabinet – made complaints to the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and called for an investigation into the selection process amid claims that “significant irregularities” had occurred.

A leaked letter also showed that some members were upset at the number of sitting black councillors who had been deselected.

However, the Dispatch has been told that Labour’s NEC is not currently conducting a formal investigation into the selection process. While it is unlikely any disciplinary action will be taken over the matter, the party has not denied the possibility that rules were broken.

In an email to party members Cllr Caliskan defended the selection process, saying all candidates were “interviewed by completely independent panels comprised of three Labour members from outside Enfield”. The council leader declined to comment further for this article.

Councillor Joanna Laban, the Tory group leader, said: “People deserve to know the truth and for any necessary action to be taken.”

The ongoing row over the circumstances that led to the change at the helm of the council last May has also been cited as a contributory factor in last month’s vote of no confidence against Enfield North MP Joan Ryan, with constituency party members claiming the Labour MP played a role in the ousting of Cllr Taylor.

The no confidence motion was agreed in a narrow vote of 95 to 92. It stated that members believed Joan had “publicly undermined the Labour Party in a manner that did not seek a constructive way forward”.

Much of the anger against Joan stems from the 2017 General Election, when the Enfield North MP openly disparaged the Labour Party’s leadership and claimed voters have “more confidence in Theresa May as prime minister than they would have in Jeremy Corbyn”.

In response to the vote, Ms Ryan pointed to the ongoing anti-Semitism row in the party and manoeuvres being made by “hard left” activists, citing her position as chair of the Labour Friends of Israel group as a decisive factor.

She said: “This was about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and those of us who have stood by the Jewish community and said ‘enough is enough’. I will continue to speak out against anti-Semitism, against the campaign to demonise and delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state, and for a Labour Party which is true to its values of anti-racism, respect and decency.”