Former Haringey Labour chairman quits

Former Labour chair slams ‘vindictive’ councillors as he quits party

Cllr James Chiriyankandath

By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A former chairman of Haringey Labour has quit the party and slammed the “vindictive opposition” of a group of Labour councillors toward former leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor.

Cllr Dr James Chiriyankandath claimed councillors whose leadership bid was defeated by Cllr Ejiofor in 2018 opposed all that his administration sought to do – even maintaining their “obstructively obsessive focus on removing him” during the “unprecedented crisis” of the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Cllr Chiriyankandath, who chaired the Labour group for more than three years, claimed to be in “no doubt” that the new council leadership is “incapable of running the borough in the best interests of its people.”

Responding to the claims, council and Labour group leader Cllr Peray Ahmet said she wanted to be judged on her record in office and hoped people would give her the opportunity to deliver on the group’s manifesto commitments.

In a resignation statement issued on Friday – a day after Cllr Ahmet was elected new council leader – Cllr Chiriyankandath, who represents Bounds Green, said: “In the last three years the leadership of Haringey Council under Cllr Joe Ejiofor succeeded, in very substantial measure, in delivering the manifesto Labour we’re elected on in 2018. They did their best to make this borough a better place to live.

“However, I do not believe that the incoming leadership is similarly committed to the socialist spirit of the manifesto that was co-produced with party members.

“Since serving as the first chair of the Labour group in this council, I have witnessed up close the vindictive opposition of disappointed supporters of the main aspirants to the group leadership who had been defeated in 2018, to all that Cllr Ejiofor, the only Black council leader in London, and his cabinet sought to do.

“They finally succeeded in displacing him a fortnight ago by a margin of one vote (two councillors having been suspended from the group). Remarkably, they maintained their obstructively obsessive focus on removing him during the unprecedented crisis of the pandemic lockdowns even as the council administration and officers were striving to protect residents from the dreadful impact of Covid-19.

“It leaves me in no doubt that they are incapable of running the borough in the best interests of its people or of the effort needed to continue to help our more vulnerable residents.

“Over the years I have greatly appreciated the comradeship and commitment of many Labour Party members in Haringey and so it is with deep regret that I am leaving the Labour group to sit as an independent for the remaining months of this council’s term of office.”

In response to the statement, council and Labour group leader Cllr Peray Ahmet said: “I am eager for my leadership to be judged on my record in office, which is why I am disappointed that Cllr Chiriyankandath tendered his resignation on my first day as leader of Haringey Council.

“Over the last few days, I have been addressing urgent issues across the borough including community safety, violent crime, and the ongoing flood in Wood Green High Road; matters of huge immediate importance to residents.

“I hope that residents, Labour party members and colleagues will give me the opportunity to demonstrate how we will deliver the manifesto commitments on which we were elected.”