Happier days: Brendon Walsh and Steve Curran survey all they command
By lil’ red mole
Council leader Steve Curran and allies Katherine Dunne and Theo Dennison cleared the trigger ballot for councillor selection on 6 December. That means they automatically go through to represent Labour in Syon ward in the May 2018 council elections. Steve received 21 of the 35 votes from Syon ward Labour Party members at the meeting, with Katherine and Theo garnering slightly more.
This is despite the high level of dissatisfaction with many council actions. Just to mention a few issues:
- The farrago of the Church Street consultation
- The redevelopment of the Brentford Morrison’s site, which will replace the only supermarket in the locality with high-density housing
- Controversy over the large payout to former head of regeneration, Brendon Walsh, who went on to take on a role with Be Living, Brentford FC’s development partner for its new stadium and 900 home development at Lionel Road
An email to party members from Syon Labour the Tuesday before the vote also referenced:
“Ambitions for developments on local sites such as the former Acton Lodge site on London Road. This is Council owned and vacant for four years but now with a current application for 100% private housing from a firm now fronted by a recently departed Hounslow Council employee.
“The hiving off of Council-owned land for development where the level of council housing to be built will not exceed 40%, despite reserves of £170m and availability of low interest money to deliver 100% social rent properties.
“The readiness to build a Free School on Brent Lea Recreation Ground when other sites were available, only aborted following a strong, local community led campaign.”
Now, one can’t run a council in this economic climate without pissing some people off, but this is quite a list by any standards, and has ensured the council regular appearances in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column. Given these shenanigans, we don’t understand what the 20-odd (read that as you will) Syon ward members who extended the three sitting councillors their support were voting for. For anyone that did, please make full use of the comments section below: we’d love to know, because we’re totally at a loss.
Possibly it’s Theo’s surprising promise at the Brentford & Isleworth CLP earlier in the autumn to roll out a “radical socialist” plan for the council. What exactly this means is anyone’s guess. It may well be that this plan is no better developed than David Davis’ post Brexit impact assessments, but if it is, we’d be happy to offer Theo space to outline it.
One party veteran stated after the selection meeting that, had members been aware of the trigger ballot and its impact on councillor selection “numbers would have been nearer to 50 than 35”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Steve, Katherine and Theo would have been dislodged, though we’ll never know. The real question is, however, where were the other 150 or so members of Syon ward?
Gains by the left in Haringey at council selection meetings show that it is possible to win, but we are still some way from breaking the grip of the zombie politics of the Labour right in Hounslow.
Socialists in the local party – not just Momentum – had a good crack at putting forward an alternative to Curran et al. Clearly, it was insufficient, and we need to ask questions of how we mobilise. The significant increase in Hounslow party membership since 2015 indicates a groundswell of support for the alternative posed by the election of Jeremy Corbyn. The question is how one translates that passive support into active.
The right holds onto its positions through apathy. So long as apathy reigns, so will the right.