Keith is a Conservative superstar1 and fancies himself. He was re-elected a GLA Member in May, 2021 but it was a joyless victory. Sadiq Khan’s London Labour are tightening their grip and that’s the kiss of death for Keith who wants to be a mover-and-shaker. Keith now has his sights on Havering. The Havering Conservative Leadership election, 2022, could be blood-thirsty.
Political ironies pile up. Damian is vacating his seat in Squirrels Heath and moving to Havering-Atte-Bower. And who steps into Squirrels Heath ward? Keith!
Damian shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s politically adroit and built a coalition in 2018 out of nothing. For four years he’s used Special Responsibility Allowances2 for the only electorate that matters: Conservative councillors. But that was then. What can Keith offer?
It takes a very brave Leader to re-jig allowances when it’s going to cost councillors money. Neither are going to do that. So the election depends on other things. And what might they be?
Damian has amiable contempt for his colleagues, which he conceals badly. The Bob Perry revelations about possible gerrymandering showed Damian’s unpleasant side. He’s also keen on councillors pulling their weight when it comes to campaigning. This is unpopular with elderly Conservatives who want a quiet life. Perhaps Keith will be more understanding?
This is predicated on the Conservatives forming an administration in 2022, which is far from certain. Keith could find himself rejected by Squirrels Heath’s voters and nursing even more thwarted ambitions.
1 Keith was a Havering councillor 1990-5; a Redbridge councillor 2003-18 (Leader 2009-14); GLA member 2016-present. He was re-elected in 2021 with a majority of 15,327. On 9th May 2022 Damian survived a leadership challenge by one vote but not by Keith but by stalking horse Robert Benham.
2 2020 Members Allowances final.pdf (havering.gov.uk) For the allowances of individual councillors see Havering Members Allowances 2018-19 summary This is slightly out of date but gives a reasonable idea.
Damian White wept when he saw the results. Havering produced rock solid Conservative majorities whilst he struggles with a minority administration. A short political history lesson will explain why he’s suffering.
Fifty years ago, Jack Moultrie was the Conservative Leader of Havering Council who was dismissive of an Upminster housewife. Tragic error! That woman was the late, great Louise Sinclair. She despised the Romford-centric policies Jack embraced. He offered scraps from the table. She wanted more, much more.
Her formidable talents as an organiser and networker turbocharged the Residents’ Association (RA) movement. They fought and won elections in Upminster and Cranham. When Roger Ramsey was Leader in the 1980s, Upminster was nearly a Conservative no-go area. By 1990 it was. That feud shaped Havering’s politics so there would more-or-less be minority administrations. The RAs moved out of their heartlands taking over most of Hornchurch and south Havering.
To keep power, Damian has to do deals with RAs in one way or another.
Meanwhile the GLA election. ‘Tribal’ Conservative voters ignored the Gallows Corner disaster. Notwithstanding pre-election promises, I’m not holding my breath on that one. Shaun Bailey trounced Sadik Khan 51%-29%. His FaceBook campaign suggested there was lawlessness raging from Cranham to Heathrow. His grip on local government finance is strictly Ladybird and doesn’t inspire confidence. Another reason for Damian to weep.
Louise Sinclair changed Havering’s politics in the 1980s. She knew Jack Moultrie’s plan to turn Romford into central London was ridiculous. Louise knew what local politics means, good housekeeping and aspirations. We’ve got the housekeeping. Where, oh where, is the aspiration?
Keith Prince is Havering’s1 Conservative GLA member and was awarded a full page in Havering Council’s taxpayer funded Living in Havering magazine, April 2019.2 As he wrote this himself he must believe it puts him in a good light, in which case he’s made a tragic error of judgement. It shows him to be an appallingly ineffective representative for Havering.
Keith’s article begins by quoting himself. “On a daily basis, I fight for the transport upgrades that we so desperately need in Havering.” This is to get the reader in the mood for his dynamism. Even allowing for the hyperbole of a politician on the make, this is ludicrous. Keith was chair of the GLA’s Transport committee in the year 2017- 8. He was a ‘mover and shaker’ but nothing moved or shook, at least not so far as Havering was concerned. Perhaps Redbridge benefited?
Keith, rightly, identifies two major problems in Havering. The ‘perennial’ Gallows Corner fly-over and Ardleigh Green Bridge roadworks. Keith claims to have been ‘banging the drum’ over Gallows Corner. Well I went through the papers for his year as chair and found nothing.3 Perhaps I missed something- “a drum being banged” “…TfL’s feet being held to the fire”- for example.
Keith has moved out of the shadows with this article. In broad daylight he looks ineffective. Now he has a motive for improving his performance. He’s got two weeks before the next election, which in a Johnson sleaze atmosphere might be bracing.
1 Strictly speaking he is Havering and Redbridge’s GLA member. So perhaps he’s putting in more time on their problems to Havering’s detriment
2 https://issuu.com/haveringcouncil/docs/5617_living_185_issuu_ p18 This full page ‘advert’ would normally cost £1400.
3 All I could find was an exchange between Mayor Johnson and Roger Evans, Havering’s previous GLA member, on the 22nd October 2014, where Johnson promised to come to Havering to look for himself. Evans grovelled to Johnson in an entertaining way.