Hear the painful 20-minute interview on local radio that left Croydon’s council leader feeling exposed for her part in all the decisions that led to the collapse of the Town Hall finances
Hamida Ali, the new-old leader of Croydon Council, has never responded to Inside Croydon’s requests for an interview since she “stepped up” to take her new position a month ago.
Now, she might just be wishing that she had. It surely could not have resulted in a worse outcome than she managed to produce yesterday.
Among the latest redundancies at Ali’s council, it is now very likely that one of those to be handed their P45 will be whichever klutz in the council’s communications department who advised her that it would be a good idea to appear on yesterday morning’s Vanessa Feltz programme.
What followed on BBC Radio London, as you can hear for yourself from our media file below, was the epitome of a car crash interview.
It’s difficult to imagine how Ali, who used to tell Labour Party colleagues that she harboured ambitions to one day become an MP, will ever recover from such an appalling performance on live radio.
Feltz’s bombastic style of interviewing, in which the sound of the broadcaster’s own voice appears to be regarded as far more important than any answers her interviewee might want to offer, attracts a certain kind of audience each weekday morning. It’s fair to say, and was shown in the kind of repetitive questions posed to Ali, that BBC Radio London’s star broadcaster might not always be as well briefed as might be ideal.
But equally, Ali’s performance was exceptionally dire.
As one Inside Croydon loyal reader said on hearing the broadcast, “That was a load of waffle. Hamida sounds totally ill-equipped for the task facing her.
“Who is going to be making the tough decisions needed over the next few months? I can’t see it being our new leader.”
While another reader observed, “Hamida had obviously been prepped with ‘key messages’. But not very well.”
Under questioning from Feltz, the clearly rattled Ali could only offer a series of glib, vacuous words and phrases – “mistakes have been made” was one favourite, while “living within our means” might seem at odds with the latest “renewal plan” agreed by Ali and her cabinet this week which includes an overall increase in spending of £36.96million in 2021-2022.
Ali tried to suggest that she was presiding over some shiny new administration. Her 10-person cabinet has just two people in it who were never a long-term part of predecessor Tony Newman’s discredited regime.
Feltz all but accused Ali of making statements of the bleedin’ obvious, and then asked the old-new council leader (Ali was herself a member of Newman’s cabinet for the majority of her six years on the council): “How did you not know?”
It was less an interviewer’s question, more a heckle. But Ali had no answer.
The old-new council leader’s closeness to the regime that caused the borough’s bankruptcy is not something Ali can deny or very easily shake-off. Ali had been at the heart of the decision-making under previous leader Newman.
She is implicated in every bad decision that was made.
After all, Ali was a member of the appointments committee (together with Newman, Simon Hall and Alison Butler) which met in June 2016 and appointed Jo Negrini as the council’s new chief exec, giving the position a hefty pay hike in the process. Ahhh… those were the days, eh?
And there’s growing discontent among figures on Katharine Street about the manner in which Ali’s succession as council leader was rushed through.
Ali was selected as Labour group leader on October 22. The external auditors’ Report In The Public Interest, which unearthed so many of the chronic faults in the council’s governance, never mind the finances, was not released until October 23.
“I doubt that I would have voted for Hamida if I had seen that report first,” one Labour councillor told Inside Croydon.
“She knew that report was coming, she’d seen it and said it was ‘shocking’. Then why did they not delay the leadership selection for a day or two?”
But that, like so many of Vanessa Feltz’s questions yesterday, is unlikely ever to get a satisfactory answer.
Hear for yourself:
Read more: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council
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Ali was even incapable of listing the proposed cuts that were listed in the cabinet report from a couple of days previously. Utter incompetence. Just shows how useless she is along with the rest of the cabinet.
I was impressed with how Ms Ali kept on message, was unflappable and is as thick skinned as a rhinoceros.
Vanessa did a fantastic job highlighting the very many failings of the current administration.
The thumbs-down count shows how poorly sarcasm comes across in writing, Moya
Tony Newman and Jo Negreedy should have been in the interview chair.
Both were weak and lacked the spine to stand up to any form of public scrutiny.
I don’t praise Ms Ali for her performance but I do for standing up.
You would have to have a heart of stone not to feel a little bit sorry for her, I’m sure that she is a lovely person, but really… It’s difficult to see how 21 years tackling inequality and diversity remotely qualifies her to face the gathering storm in Croydon.
truly frightening interview. i just can’t believe what i heard or, rather, what i didn’t hear.
What a total embarrassment, people still think these sad sacks will get Croydon on the straight and narrow. When you have members who can’t see that they are completely useless and can’t see what they have done wrong, it’s like having a child running a sweet shop. I feel sorry for the workforce.
Well done Vanessa Feltz….
Ali is your typical bureaucrat coming out with management speak bullshit.
Stick to your day job in equalities and diversity because you are truly out of your depth..
Can we please have Piers Morgan on GMB and Andrew Neil interviewing her ….
A lot of stonewalling with banalities and generalities. Ms Ali must be wondering what she has now taken on as the new council leader.
Do think Vanessa Feltz should learn some communication and conversational skills. I wouldnt let anyone talk to me like that. Think i could ask Vanessa about her weaknesses and failures in life quite easily but in a more respectful manner. Who talks to people like that on the street? Disgraceful. Councillor didnt know what hit her but at the same time Vanessa’s respect towards a person was non existent.
Diversity and equalities manager says it all. Woke box ticking
I can’t believe that your correspondent blamed Vanessa Feltz for a lack of respect!
The Diversity and Equalities Manager was the one lacking respect – prepared to offer bland generalities and ducking proper answers to reasonable questions like why on earth they bought the hotel and tolerated the incompetness of B+B (other than bolstering Tony’s stupendous ego – he did miss out on his Arena after all).
Nope. The report doesn’t mention anything about Feltz not showing “respect”.
But she is not a very good broadcast interviewer, for whom the first rule is “listen to the answer”. Not “talk over your interviewee”.
… of course listen to the answer. Unless of course you’re not answering the question asked. Then you are surely quite at liberty to talk over or interrupt. Can you point out anywhere in the interview where she was actually answering a question that was asked where Vanessa interrupted? I personally do not like the Vanessa Feltz style of interviewing, but she was absolutely correcting how she handled this.
By definition, if Feltz is talking over someone and interrupting them, she is not listening to the answer they are giving.
It’s something she does all too often and is simply bad broadcasting.
The likes of Robin Day, Paxman, even Emily Maitlis, when properly briefed (and it never sounded like Feltz had learned anything much about Croydon beyond £1.5billion) ask questions which hoist their subjects by their own petards.
Eddie Nestor, Feltz’s colleague at BBC Radio London, showed how it should be done a year ago or so when he had Tony Newman on his programme and kept asking the same question, time and again, thus emphasising his point about platitudes and obfuscation until, eventually Newman found himself in a corner with nowhere else to go.
It achieved the interviewer’s aim: of getting an answer to an important question, and admit that Croydon was failing to build any council homes.
You, and Feltz, would do well to listen to it.