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:
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