CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

New independent chair of inquiry into Chalcots crisis has ‘always voted Labour’

Civil servant offers her political opinions on social media, tweeting barbs at Tory ministers

07 December, 2017 — By William McLennan

Marian Harrington

CAMDEN Council appears to be “papering over the cracks” by appointing an apparent long-time Labour Party supporter to lead an inquiry into the evacuation of the Chalcots estate, it was claimed last night (Wednesday).

Marian Harrington, who it was announced last week would be the independent chair of the Town Hall review of the emergency operation this summer, was scrutinised after she appeared to make her political affiliations public on social media. Writing on Twitter, Ms Harrington said that she had “always voted Labour”, but had been turned off by the actions of Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general appointed by Jeremy Corbyn. She described her as an “embarrassment to the party”.

Marian Harrington tells Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that he is ‘unfit to be anywhere near the NHS’

She also criticised a number of leading Conservative politicians, saying health secretary Jeremy Hunt was “unfit to be anywhere near the NHS”. Responding to a tweet by Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, she said transport secretary Chris Grayling was “possibly the worst of a very bad bunch”, while tweeting directly to home secretary Amber Rudd over cuts to police funding, she said: “Pity you don’t give them respect or a decent wage or working conditions.”

Despite posting supportive comments to many Labour politicians, she was also tough on members who have risen to prominence under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. In reference to Islington Labour councillor Claudia Webbe, a former chair of Operation Trident, she said: “Don’t get me started on Claudia Webbe. She has been quiet for a while but when she gets going she is ludicrous.”

Islington councillor Claudia Webbe, a Jeremy Corbyn supporter, is branded ‘ludicrous’

Camden Council had pledged to review the whole Chalcots saga – as the New Journal campaigned for – but residents have now been told that a continuing legal dispute means the investigation will only look at how the council dealt with the evacuation. A second phase, probing why the evacuation was triggered, has been promised, but the council has said it “may take us some time” and could leave some questions unanswered.

One Chalcots resident, who anonymously sent the New Journal examples of tweets he felt were a cause for concern, said: “I was just very surprised to see the independent chair was happy to make her political views so clear in public.”

Claire Louise-Leyland, leader of Camden Conservatives and a ward councillor for the area, said: “Our Chalcots residents went through hell over the summer and they’ve been promised answers by the council. I’m quite surprised that Camden would appoint someone who describes herself publicly as a lifelong Labour supporter to chair an independent review. People may well now ask themselves if Camden Labour is just trying to paper over the cracks, rather than really look at the choices made during the evacuation and emergency management and own up to their mistakes.”

The New Journal understands that Ms Harrington is not a member of any political party. She has had a long civil service career, working at a senior level in Westminster and previously serving as chair of Camden and Islington “safeguarding adults partnership board” – which looked at work being done to “identify and stop the abuse and neglect of adults”.

A council spokesperson said: “Marian has been independent chair to a number of high-profile boards in the last 10 years, examining safeguarding matters in Islington, Camden and Enfield until 2016. She was a strategic director of adult and community services at Westminster City Council until 2011. Her personal Twitter account has no connection to the professional approach we expect her to take. She is getting on with the job in hand and has already begun to review written evidence submitted by residents to the Chalcots Review.”

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