Senior Cabinet portfolio holder Cllr. Simon Miller steps down, as local election tensions split Waltham Forest’s Labour and Conservative parties

In recent days, Cllr. Simon Miller has announced he will not be standing at the forthcoming local elections, and this is provoking some comment, because as Cabinet portfolio holder for Economic Prosperity he has guided many of the development schemes that are transforming parts of Waltham Forest.

In a parting message, as reported by Victoria Munro in the February 2022 Waltham Forest Echo, Cllr. Miller explains that he is stepping down because juggling his full-time job with his council responsibilities is ‘“in the long term unsustainable”, and he now wants to ‘“spend more time with the people I love while I still can”’.

However, there is a sting in the tail, for while urging local Labour members to rally round the new Leader, Cllr. Grace Williams, Cllr. Miller adds the following:

‘“To do this means standing against the voices of disruption, extremism and intolerance. It means resisting the siren call of the failed tombstone politics of yesterday, which sadly still pervades too much of our party. 

[This] politics has created an atmosphere of toxicity and poison in many of our branches, where the stain of abuse, bullying, intolerance and antisemitism has become all too commonplace”’.

Perhaps Cllr. Miller is exaggerating, his words just another partisan volley in Labour’s seemingly endless left-right internal feuding about the Corbyn legacy.

But in context, this seems unlikely.

Up to the present, and as far as can be ascertained from his public statements, Cllr. Miller has remained distinctly un-ideological.

Moreover, his analysis brings to mind that previously expressed by local MP John Cryer, an experienced grandee, who no-one plausibly could argue is Blairite.

In the light of such controversy, some Conservative inclined readers may be tempted to purr, but they would be well advised to hold fire, because as Ms. Munro reports, too, their party in Waltham Forest is similarly troubled, with Cllr. Andy Hemsted, also stepping down, moved to comment ‘“In almost twenty years on the council, I have never known the group so divided”’.

The issue here is less about political differences, more about personalities and egos, with the selection process for candidates to contest seats igniting long-standing petty feuds.

The big losers in all of this are the ordinary voters of the borough. There are more than a few decent local politicos, who genuinely want what’s best for all, but they find themselves outnumbered by those with very different agendas. So in effect the choice before the electorate is between a party mired in the cesspit and its competitor whose antics wouldn’t go amiss in a soap opera.

Perhaps it’s now time for some independents councillors who can shake up the mix?

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