Council Leader Chris Robbins finally bobs off UPDATED

Several well-placed Town Hall sources tell me that, yes, it is finally true: Council Leader Chris Robbins is standing down, perhaps by Christmas, certainly by next May.

Robbins has always been nervous around selection time, looming now, but in the past, he was at least able partly to control the process. However, with the influx of new members, Waltham Forest Labour is now a rather different kettle of fish. It is a reasonable assumption that most of the recruits are left-leaning, if not actually Corbynistas, and few will have much time for Robbins’ top-down’ style of managing colleagues or his flexible politics. So it is a case of better go now than risk the ignominy of de-selection.

Plus it is rumoured that City Mayor Khan has offered Robbins the prestigious role of F and F tsar – the man charged with looking after London’s flag poles and firework displays – and who could turn that down? A square peg finally finds its rightful square-shaped hole.

So what of the succession? The pool of talent in the Labour Group is not exactly extensive.

However, I phoned my bookmaker this afternoon, and was quoted the following odds for those who are known to be contemplating standing:

Cllr. Nadeem Ali 5500-1

Cllr. Gerry Lyons 150-1

Cllr. Alistair Strathern 25-1

Cllr. Clare Coghill 25-1

With the exception of that for the jocular Cllr. Ali, these prices will no doubt narrow as more becomes known of each candidate. One fly in the ointment is that all the front-runners have at least one or other obvious handicap. Cllr. Lyons is personable, and will probably receive the support of Momentum, but though he is strong on solidarity with Palestine, his grasp of the mechanics of running a borough in England is questionable. Cllr. Strathern has a proper job (he works at the Bank of England), but he is a bit of an unknown, and probably the last person in Waltham Forest who thinks that being endorsed by Cllr. Loakes is a plus. And as for Cllr. Coghill, she may go down well with more impressionable element of the newly arrived middle-classes, but her soft soap approach in public is less popular elsewhere.

So it seems that there is everything to play for, and we await developments with interest.


A long-term Labour insider contacted me last night as follows:

‘You must have a very generous bookie. I’ve got:

Coggers 2/1
Strathern 12/1
Ali 15/1
Lyons 1000/1

Oh, and Robbo changing his mind 5/1’.

And this morning, another correspondent told me he fancied Ali, not least because of his father’s reputation and influence.

No doubt, my bookmaker will be reading this with interest.

But luckily, with Leicester City always in my mind, I snapped up his odds yesterday.

So from now on in, it will be Waltham Forest Matters for Ali. As they say across the pond, ‘Let’s hear it for the Big Man’…

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