Damian has defeated a challenge to his leadership by a single vote. He was challenged in a WhatsApp message from Robert Benham,1 who spoke of ‘in-fighting’. He and his supporters lost and the Conservative ‘pot-of-gold’ politics might inflict a punishment beating on Robert and his supporters. Who knows? Damian might be magnanimous and they’ll all live happily ever after.
The galling fact for Damian is that he leads the largest party but needs five more votes. Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) have 20 seats and are negotiating for Labour’s nine votes to create a Friendly Understanding. HRA have 29 votes in sight but that means taking responsibility. HRAlike permanent opposition. It’s painless and well-paid. All of which means that they might actually prefer a seductive offer from Damian.
In 2018 Damian mopped up HRA councillors. He’ll try again but this time it’s harder. Why? Sally Miller, John Mylod and Michael Deon Burton all lost. Their fate is a warning to renegades.2 Individual HRA councillors might take Damian’s offer. It is, after all, a few thousand pounds, for doing little else than agreeing with him.
Can Damian heal? The challenges will test his mettle. The nest of vipers that’s the Conservative group have had a very public split, which could result in flaky members drifting to HRA. Throwing gold around solves some problems but there are some Conservatives with ambitions. And they’re lean and hungry.
The excitement is building towards May 25th when a new Administration is brought into being.
1 Damian’s deputy in the Conservative group
2 The Harold Wood Three bucked the trend and prospered
Eight elections since 1990 have resulted in No Overall Control. Conservatives have ruled Havering since 2002 but only once as a majority party. On every other occasion they’ve used HRA councillors. The last Administration used Harold Wood’s three councillors for four years. The 2022 election has put the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) in the driving seat.
Damian White was aware of the challenges of getting a majority in Havering and acted accordingly. He believed Rainham was vulnerable. He put in place a team of local Conservatives and won it. The Rainham result was announced and Damian was vindicated. Unfortunately, he hadn’t thought the unthinkable. Romford wasn’t the citadel he imagined and Conservatives lost three seats. Bang went his plans and the ‘nightmare’ of an HRA – Labour Friendly Understanding became a distinct possibility.
Andrew Rosindell could tell Damian a thing or two. In 1996 Havering had a Rainbow Alliance.2HRA’s Louise Sinclair led an Administration that included Conservatives and Socialists. The Socialists were, by Havering standards, hard left. Andrew was voting with Socialists in a joint Administration. Goodbye political purity! Labour enjoyed watching Del Smith influence them for two years.
Havering has spoken. And what they’ve said is they like Friendly Understandings. If the young Andrew could do it for the greater good then so can anyone.
Hornchurch and Upminster have no Conservative councillors at all. Emerson Park fell when Roger Ramsey retired. Labour won their first Romford seat for 20 years but the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) will take power.
Havering’s politics is complex. The election result1 is a mish-mash. HRA20 seats, the Conservatives 23, Labour 9 and Renegade RAs three.2 Meanwhile in Rainham the count continued on Monday 9th May and the result was announced during an acrimonious recount. Four burly police officers were there, at huge expense, to protect the Chief Executive in case things got physical. Three Conservatives won leaving them short of a majority.
HRA + Labour reach the magic 28 seats but will they do a deal? Havering’s politics depend on deals. There’s no political ‘purity’. This is the fifth time in six elections with No Overall Control. In the previous four, Conservatives have done deals with RAs. Now it’s the RAs turn to do a deal or not.
That’s the Thrill. Now the Spill.
Damian White had an innovative way of awarding allowances. Consequently, every Conservative councillor is facing a pay-cut. Damian loses about £55,000 a year. This might explain his anger on Election Night as he saw it dribbling away.
Local government has national organizations. There are many committees which demand representation. There’s nothing quite like an awayday at someone else’s expense and Conservative councillors are going to miss them.
There’s also the glory of summoning Chief Officers and strutting round the Town Hall. Demotion to backbench voting fodder is cruel but is the result of depending on a niche electorate.
Havering’s election on May 5th gives voters a choice of 199 candidates.1 They’ve been working hard on the issues that they think matter to the people of Havering. At the time of writing (30th April), postal voting means that about a third of the votes have been cast. How many potential voters will make the effort of voting in person?
Previous experience says ‘Abstentions’ will win on the 5th May. A significant majority of voters won’t vote.
Upminster’s Linda Hawthorn trounced the opposition in 2018 but failed to get a majority of the electorate. That ward held the largest turnout in 2018 with 45.5%, (a 54.5% Abstention rate).2 Does it matter? In her case no but it feels wrong. Conservatives have ruled Havering for 20 years with 16 years in coalition. Thus, Conservatives have been in control with a minority of seats and a minority of votes for 20 years.3
Local democracy needs reform but is highly unlikely to get it.
Addendum: Mayoral election for Manchester, 2021
In Greater Manchester Andy Burnham won an outright majority without preference votes. Abstentions amounted to 67.3% of the electorate and the remaining 34.7% was divided between nine candidates. Andy received 67.3% of 34.7% or, 23% of the total electorate.4
3 Robert Benham is a cabinet member and had a thumping majority in Brooklands ward. But! The turnout in 2018 was 32.5%. So, before opposition votes were counted he’d been passively or actively rejected by 67.5% of the electorate.
Romford Conservatives were jubilant when Johnson was elected. They immediately talked of the Boris Bounce. No more. Johnson is now an albatross round the neck of Damian White. If he survives it proves how loyal Romford voters are to the Conservatives.
Partygate: ‘Law-breakers can’t be law-makers’. Johnson’s defence of his law-breaking is strange. It’s,
“I’m an idiot. I didn’t understand what I was saying in my daily Covid-19 broadcasts.”
Rishi Sunak’s Wife: Sunak’s billionaire wife has decided to pay taxes in Britain because she’s the wife of the Chancellor.
Cost-of-Living Crisis: If you don’t get a 7% increase in your wages, or benefits, you’re worse off than last year.
Pensioners: Pensions increased by 3%. Every pensioner is 4% worse off. Pensioners are overwhelmingly Conservative voters. The ending of the triple-lock was a betrayal.
Sleaze: Johnson’s £80,000 flat refurbishment was paid for by a donor even though he denied it. He tried to change parliament’s rules to protect his friend Owen Patterson who was paid £100,000 a year to be a lobbyist.
Council Tax: This has increased by 18% since 2018, with 3% this year.1
Conservatives took every Romford seat in 2018 and still didn’t get a Havering majority. If they have any hopes, they can’t afford to lose a single seat. Loyal voters will continue but will flaky Conservatives? One thing’s for certain: Conservatives won’t get the 28 seats needed for a majority.
The Conservatives’ grip on power has been achieved by exploiting Resident Association (RA) votes. RAs don’t want to be the bridesmaid anymore and they’re swaggeringly confident this year is their year. They might be mistaken.
Firstly, there’s more than one RA group. The principal RA group is the Havering Residents Association (HRA). They expect a majority on May 5th. This is unlikely. Havering has elected one majority Administration in 20 years.
Gooshays ward has two RA groups: (1) Harold Hill Resident Association Gooshays, and (2) Havering Resident Association – Gooshays. So, who are the real RAs? Gooshays voters are confused.
In Rainham ward HRA isn’t standing. The Rainham Independent Resident Association (Rainham and Wennington) is a type of RA group.1South Hornchurch ward is a version of them.2 It’s possible five flaky so-called RA councillors could be elected in May. If they’re elected how long will they cooperate?
Harold Wood RA councillors have kept Damian White in power since 2018. They’re standing for election and are opposed by HRA. Harold Wood has two RA groups who are (1) Harold Wood Hill Park Residents Association and (2) Havering Residents Association – Harold Wood. (Another eight candidates are standing.)
These four wards will elect eleven councillors, who are crucial to HRA aspirations. HRA won’t get 28 reliable votes. They need coalition partners. The best partners are Conservative and Labour councillors. Their key attraction is their reliability in Council. The downside is the Conservatives are led by Damian White,3 which leaves Labour. Will they play ball?
Havering politics continues as a bizarre, wonderful and fascinating soap opera.4
1 Alby Tebbutt is an ex-Conservative and UKIP councillor; David Durant is a climate change denier and anti-vaxxer; Jeff Tucker makes incoherent speeches in Council.
Since February Facebook has published ‘David Taylor’s adverts. They don’t mention his fellow Conservative candidates: Councillor Joshua Chapman, cabinet member, and Councillor Nisha Patel. Conservatives always promote themselves as ‘Action Teams’.1David doesn’t understand ‘Team’.
So, what’s going on?
St. Edward’s ward has been changed by the Boundary Commission and Judith Holt2has been ousted. David looks like an outsider who’s muscled her out.
David’s Facebook page has a ‘Team’ photo in which he says:
I’m very lucky to be standing with a great team in Councillors Nisha Patel and Joshua Chapman.
There’s a lot I can learn from them. I think smiling is one of them! 14th March 2022
This is sarcasm dressed as praise.
The advert above3 is a straight-forward attack on the failings of current Conservative councillors. Joshua and Nisha obviously don’t keep constituents informed about the council. Facebook politicians don’t have loyalty in their kitbag of ambitions.
David’s wrong about St. Edward’s. It isn’t as safe for Conservatives as he, and everyone else, assumes. Is David part of the Romford Conservative’s internecine war that’s going on? Roll on the 5th of May!
This was Damian White’s final council meeting as Leader before the election. He’s matured politically, becoming less frenetic and in charge of the agenda.1
The meeting began with very long-standing councillors being honoured. Councillors O’Flynn, Ower, and Ramsey were treated stylishly. They demonstrate the stability of Havering’s politics. More councillors will follow them out of the door, not all of whom will be pleased.
Question time2 (@1 hour 07 for 45 minutes) was effective. Osman Dervish’s boyish charm carried him through a multiplicity of questions mostly about pavements and pot-holes. (There were nine Resident Association questions.) Roger Ramsey answered Ray Morgon’s question (@1:30 minutes) about Havering’s deficit with magisterial ease showing how much he’ll be missed. Ray’s question was uniquely probing.
The debate on crime was peculiar.3 Councillors demanded more crime reporting using Alice in Wonderland logic. ‘More crime = more police and police are a Good Thing therefore Havering needs more crime reporting.’Jeff Tucker led the ‘discussion’.
Ray (@2:10) stepped into the gutter. He announced Damian had a driving/drugs conviction. Damian subsequently said he’d struggled with his sexuality and was depressed. This explanation sounds sincere. Ray’s intervention was uncharacteristically sour and unpleasant.
Havering Council meetings end with the National Anthem. They’re usually sung quite appallingly. The sound system on this occasion threw in the towel and it was muted.
Romford Conservatives are unhinged. They’re opposing Sadiq Khan’sClean Air policy because it’s a Labour policy.1 This is political immaturity at its worst. Air pollution causes debilitating illnesses like asthma. Romford Conservatives are defending clapped out 17 year-old bangers to make a political point. And their ‘political’ point is:
We Really Don’t Like Labour And Especially Not Sadiq Khan.
For a once great party to be reduced to petty childish opposition to a Public Health programme is shocking. Winston Churchill (see Addendum) would have been astonished. Clapped out bangers are being charged for the health risk they pose.
Every London Mayor, including Boris Johnson, uses the pricing mechanism to achieve policy objectives such as controlling car parking.2 It’s very effective. Surging demand for electric vehicles demonstrates this. They’re subsidised directly,3ULEZ is the other side of the coin.
Air pollution is invisible but real.4 Air pollution causes long-term illnesses in young children and the elderly. Havering Council monitors air pollution throughout the borough, especially near schools.5 Romford Conservatives are opposing their own policies by opposing ULEZ. Their immature opposition is demeaning.
Addendum: Clean Air Act, 1956
In 1953 Winston Churchill’s government initiated the Clean Air Act.6 This act was hugely disruptive, and expensive, but absolutely necessary. The ULEZ programme is a 2022 version of Churchill’s Clean Air Act. It’s harder to sell because air pollution is invisible unlike the smogs of the 1950s. They share one thing: without these policies Havering’s children will suffer unnecessary ill-health.
Havering is a political nightmare where elections usually end in No Overall Control.1 Resident Associations (RA) are wooed into coalitions. (They’ve supported Conservatives and Labour in the past.) 2022 should be different. Ray Morgon’s RAs could be the majority group and he’ll have to create a coalition.
The recent Council meeting illustrates Ray’s problem. He made an impressive speech showing he understood the principal challenges which he’ll face leading a RA Administration. Unfortunately, two more RA ‘leaders’ were given full status for their speeches. At the March 2nd Council meeting there were three RA leaders recognised by the council.
Martin Goode (RA) supports the Conservative Administration. Martin, and his colleagues have kept the Conservatives in power for four years. If they’re re-elected will Ray ‘bid’ for their support like Damian White did in 2018? Building coalitions involves holding your nose. What will Ray do?
Jeff Tucker (RA) is a maverick. His Council speeches suggest unreliability. His Rainham stronghold is shaky. (He ‘lost’ 600 votes between 2014 and 2018.3) But he’s been a councillor for twenty years and could win in a bad year. Will Ray take the risk?
Labour and Conservative: As political parties they’re reliable. Their leaders can deliver votes and they won’t go off in a huff. But Ray knows they’ll both want their favoured policies endorsed. Will Ray pay the price? Will less motivated RAs go along with ‘horse-trading’?
RAs like being wooed. In 2022 Ray may need to learn political seduction. Damian’s masterclass4 is the template.