Following the local elections in May the London Borough of Enfield remained Labour but changed Leader, this week we turn our focus to the Borough exploring what’s changed and what this means for you.
Enfield Council’s first female Leader, elected by a slim margin in May of this year, has not had much of a honeymoon period. In the space of three months, Councillor Caliskan and her new administration have been the subject of accusations of cronyism, nepotism, selection rigging and even what amounted to an ethnic purge of the Labour Group’s black councillors. The Labour Group’s internal affairs have featured in the Sunday Times and in no less than 18 posts on the influential left wing blog “Skwawkbox”, Corbynism’s answer to Breitbart.
Councillor Caliskan was first elected in a by-election in 2015 and defeated long serving council Leader Councillor Doug Taylor by 24 votes to 22 after 3 years as a backbencher representing Jubilee ward. Before becoming leader, Councillor Caliskan chaired the local party’s campaign forum (LCF) and was instrumental in the selection process in the run up to May’s elections. Up to a dozen councillors were deselected in this process; all 6 sitting black councillors were deselected in favour of Turkish or Kurdish Alevi candidates, prompting black former councillor Don McGowan to tell press that it had amounted “to a coup by one ethnic group against another”. The Sunday Times highlighted the large number of Turkish, Turkish Cypriot and Kurdish councillors in the newly re-elected Labour Group who are related to one another, with Councillor Caliskan having appointed her mother as Cabinet Member for the Environment.
A number of questions were also raised about the legitimacy of the selections and Caliskan’s role in them, prompting an open letter to the Labour Party’s governing NEC calling for an investigation. The letter was signed by members from across party divides, including the Deputy Leader of the council, Councillor Daniel Anderson, and several cabinet members. Councillor Anderson and Councillor Caliskan occupy a similar ideological niche on the right of the party and are both allies of Enfield North MP and Chair of Labour Friends of Israel Joan Ryan, making Councillor Anderson’s signing of this letter particularly noteworthy.The Labour Party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, said she felt there was “compelling evidence that significant irregularities occurred at every stage of the [councillor] selection process” and has opened an investigation which is ongoing.
Exploring more widely there is huge opportunity in the Borough – Councillor Caliskan struck a positive note recently when she announced in July that the Council would take sole responsibility for the 10,000 home Meridian Water development, telling the press that the role being adopted by the Council in the project’s delivery was “genuinely new for a local authority”. Meridian Water is a £6 billion scheme planned for Edmonton which has suffered in recent years with two development partners dropping out. The revised plan, once approved by the Mayor of London, will see the Council work with multiple partners instead of one master-developer on different parts of the site and they will retain ownership of the land instead of selling it off.
To find out more about the Borough please contact our Director of London – Jo Bradford.