There are some press releases that take your breath away; some in a good way, some bad. The following falls into the former category.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Councillor Joshua Peck announces he won’t seek selection to be Labour Mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets and endorses John Biggs
Labour Group Leader Councillor Joshua Peck announced today (Sunday) that he would not be seeking the nomination of the local party to be its Mayoral candidate in the 2014 election, and would stand down as Labour Group Leader as soon as a candidate is selected in April.
Cllr Peck said he was standing down because he and his partner Laurence had just been approved to adopt a child and he would need to focus on this for the foreseeable future, leaving him unable to put in long hours as Leader of Group and a potential candidate for Mayor.
He said he was proud of his two years as Leader of the Labour Group, and listed campaigns to save Rushmead One Stop Shop from closure and to prevent deep cuts to the borough’s advice centres, as well as ensuring the expulsion of Labour councillors who had repeatedly broken the whip, amongst successes.
In doing so, he endorsed local GLA Member John Biggs as his preferred choice to be the Mayoral candidate, saying that he had the experience, the integrity and the record of public service to win the election and govern the borough for all of its residents.
He confirmed he would continue to serve as a backbench councillor for Bow West.
His full statement read:
“I won’t be seeking the Labour Party nomination to be its candidate for the Mayoral election in 2014 and will stand down as Group Leader as soon as a candidate has been selected by members.
“I have taken the decision for the best of reasons: my partner Laurence and I have just been approved to adopt a child and I need to be able to give that my full time and energy.
“I am immensely proud of what we’ve achieved as a Labour Group in my two years as Leader. From running campaigns that saved Rushmead One-Stop-Shop from closure and forced the Mayor to back-track on swingeing cuts to the Borough’s vital advice services, to hosting job skills training sessions, we have demonstrated time and again that even in opposition Labour makes a positive difference to people’s lives in Tower Hamlets.
“We have been able to make sure that people are aware of how Tower Hamlets is now run – a dysfunctional administration that seeks to serve its associates and cronies above others, divides our community with communitarian politics, and mismanages the council’s finances to the point where there is now a £44million black hole in the budget.
“I said when I was elected Leader in 2011 that there would be no place for councillors who believed that they could switch between parties for their own personal gain. I am pleased that the Party delivered on that promise, expelling councillors who had chosen to serve in an Independent Mayor’s cabinet rather than work with the party that got them elected. I hope that sends a clear message that, unless people have an abiding commitment to our party and our values, they shouldn’t consider trying to stand as a Labour Party candidate.
“It’s now time for us to focus on electing the very best candidate we can to win in 2014. I will be backing John Biggs, our GLA member, who I have known and worked alongside for over 15 years. He is by far the most experienced candidate, with a track record of delivering success for the party, for example in winning the Council back from the LIberal Democrats, in fighting the BNP and in a whole range of housing and transport campaigns. He also has a strong record of serving the people of our borough with total integrity and commitment, in a way that has built respect for him across our community. I am clear that he is the strongest candidate, which is why I will be supporting him.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me within and outside the Party for the last two years. The 26 councillors I have worked with are a talented, dedicated and determined group of people without whom our borough would be all the poorer. Council officers in Tower Hamlets do incredible things under enormous political pressure – I have huge respect for those of them who manage to resist that pressure and maintain their integrity. I know it’s not easy and I hope they know that it won’t always be like this.
“Labour is here to serve the residents of our borough as they face incredibly tough times. I look forward to supporting our chosen candidate as a backbench councillor and working hard to ensure that they are elected in 2014.”
Massive congratulations to Josh and Laurence. I’m told the adoption process, which has taken place outside Tower Hamlets, has happened relatively quickly and much faster than both thought. On that level, the timing in terms of local politics isn’t ideal. Josh has done a good job in difficult circumstances and I think he’ll probably enjoy a stint on the back benches, which will be an alien place for him (he joined Denise Jones’s cabinet immediately after being elected as a councillor in May 2006).
So where does this leave Labour? They have two major decisions to make in the next four months: who will be their mayoral candidate and who will lead the group.
As I wrote in my last post, the closing date for applications is February 22 and the local party membership will vote on a shortlist on April 4. About a month later, the Labour councillors will sit down to elect a new leader.
On the mayoral issue, while selection contests are always described at the outset as “healthy”, the reality is they rarely are. After the shambles and poison of last time, what a signal the party would be sending out if its leading figures, including potential candidates (John Biggs, Rachael Saunders, Helal Abbas, Motin uz-Zaman, David Edgar), were able to settle on one unifying figure before any contest. In that world, John Biggs could be the only choice, a man who is respected across all sides.
However, in the real world that’s not going to happen. Politics is about positioning for the next job, and selection contests are ideal arenas in which to raise one’s profile and tap on the door of power.
Clearly, the mayoral selection vote will have implications for the group leadership contest. If one of Cllrs Saunders, Abbas, uz-Zaman or Edgar were to win, it would be amazing if they then weren’t voted as group leader.
But what if John Biggs wins? He’s not a councillor so he couldn’t lead the group, but he could attend all its meetings as the overall boss leaving the council chamber work to nominated deputy/caretaker leader. He’d have a difficult decision to make at that stage, with his choice probably having to satisfy the Bengali/white/male/female paradigm.
Shiria Khatun has been unusually quiet recently…