Jack Hopkins won a leadership challenge a month ago, but stepped down today just as his council agreed to pay out a share of £1m damages and costs to black groups who won a human rights High Court case
Jack Hopkins, the leader of Labour-run Lambeth Council only since February 2019, has quit.
The Oval ward councillor made the announcement via social media at lunchtime today, his comments even prompting some speculation over his future as a councillor.
No reason for Hopkins’ resignation as leader of the Brixton Town Hall Labour group was given, either in his Twitter thread nor in a formal announcement on the council website.
Hopkins’ announcement came on the same day that more than 30 black activists – from Nation of Islam and the Rastafari movement – successfully sued Lambeth and the Metropolitan Police in the High Court for breaches of their human rights. The Council and the Met accepted liability and agreed to pay damages and legal costs of approaching £1million to the claimants.
With no other explanation offered for Hopkins’s resignation, seasoned Town Hall observers Brixton Buzz today described the timing of Hopkins’ announcement as “bizarre”, with borough-wide local elections coming up in May 2022.
The Buzzers report, “Only last month [Hopkins] made the case to the Labour Group at the Town Hall to be elected once again as Leader.
“Walking away from Lambeth clearly wasn’t on his mind only a few weeks ago.”
Hopkins has been a councillor in Lambeth since 2010 and was the Labour chief whip when Steve Reed was the council leader, before he went on to become MP for Croydon North.
“Leading our amazing borough has been an immense privilege and I am thankful for having had the opportunity to serve,” Hopkins tweeted.
“While the pandemic has been unimaginably challenging for us all, we have also seen the very best of Lambeth at a time of such adversity. From the food hubs to our local mutual aid groups and voluntary organisations, the response of the community and council has been second to none…
“I know that I leave the council in safe hands and with a bright future ahead for those we serve.”
A statement on the Lambeth Council website said, “As the roadmap out of the covid-19 pandemic restrictions progresses, with Lambeth leading the way on innovative vaccination pop-up sites into the borough’s communities and millions of pounds in grants given to local businesses and voluntary sector groups to help secure their future, Cllr Hopkins said he believes now is the time to hand over the reins to a new leader.”
The council statement continued, “The council’s financial position – while severely hit by the costs of maintaining services and delivering innovative, rapid and comprehensive pandemic support for the people of the borough – remains relatively sound, enabling investment in housing, jobs and local infrastructure that will benefit Lambeth residents.”
Hopkins was subject to a leadership challenge last month, from Matthew Bennett, the one-time Westminster aide to Reed. Bennett, the Lambeth cabinet member for housing, had lost out to Hopkins in 2019 when Reed’s successor as leader, Lib Peck, disappeared off to City Hall to take on a cushty violence reduction job for which she is woefully under-qualified.
Brixton Buzz’s assessment today is that, “The legacy of Hopkins in Lambeth is one of extreme gentrification… Hopkins has his paws all over the borough though through the right-wing policies he pushed through in his various cabinet roles. Brixton BID, Somerleyton Road and shafting the mysterious Brixton Green and yep, bloody Pop Brixton – we can thank Jacko for all of these.”
The High Court judgement released this afternoon came from a case raised over events in August 2017 and the Africa International Day of Action staged in Kennington Park, something which the council co-promoted.
Lambeth Council and the police banned the black activist groups from broadcasting a speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan discussing reparations for the transatlantic slave trade, citing concerns around public disorder.
The judge in the case ruled that the council and the police unlawfully infringed the claimants’ rights under the Human Right Act 1998 – religious, social and political expression, and freedom of speech rights.
Lambeth Council has as yet made no statement regarding the legal case.
Whoever does succeed Hopkins as council leader has just a year until the next local elections, with – as they showed when finishing second in the Lambeth and Southwark Assembly constituency ballot last week – the Greens breathing down Labour’s neck on numerous over-development issues, such as Housing for Lambeth and the destruction of council estates like Cressingham Gardens.
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