Leadership candidate Georgia Gould: ‘Privileged’ start to life has made me more determined to help others
Front-runner to be next Camden Council leader says Labour must listen to all wings of the party
12 April, 2017 — By Richard Osley
AS the only declared candidate to be the next leader of Camden Council, she has been labelled by sceptics inside the Labour Party as “the chosen one”.
But Georgia Gould said this week she was ready to tell her own story and tear up the labels that have come her way, often due to her personal links to the main players of Tony Blair’s New Labour government. The 30-year-old told Labour councillors on Sunday evening that she wants to take over from Sarah Hayward, whose decision to step down as council leader was revealed in last week’s New Journal.
No other councillor has so far put their name forward and the process, leading up to the Labour group’s annual general meeting next month, could still be a coronation rather than a contest.
Cllr Gould is used to seeing her name pop up in the diary pages of national newspapers as one of the so-called heirs to New Labour: she is the daughter of the late Lord Gould, Mr Blair’s favourite pollster, and has holidayed with Alastair Campbell’s family. She also worked for Mr Blair’s faith foundation before becoming a councillor.
But in an interview with the New Journal she insisted she had a track record – and a mind – of her own that people should judge her on. “I absolutely am from a privileged background,” she said. “If I think what drives my politics more than anything else, it is the experience of being at that school [Camden School for Girls] and seeing that those of us who had more privilege, who had that kind of family background, had so many more opportunities than some of my classmates who were just as bright or brighter than me. I felt very strongly that we were failing young people in Camden and everywhere.”
Cllr Gould added: “You just saw people’s life chances not be about how bright they were or how much they had to offer – and being about their family background and I thought that was wrong. “It’s been at the heart of everything I’ve done since. “So when I became a councillor in Camden, the first thing I did was set up a project looking at white working class achievement, which is the biggest gap in Camden.”
Cllr Gould said that she was not looking ahead to becoming an MP, as she had tried to do aged 23 in Erith and Thamesmead – an ill-fated campaign which introduced her to how the press would use her heritage and friendships against her. One photo that regularly does the rounds is her appearance on a 1980s election manifesto in which she is held aloft as a baby by Lord Neil Kinnock, then the party’s leader.
“My dad was very involved in the Labour Party and I was brought up with very strong Labour values, leafleting as a kid,” said Cllr Gould. “I was taught to try and make a difference in the world – those are the values that my dad gave me and that absolutely influenced me, but that doesn’t mean I agree with absolutely everything he stood for. We used to argue all the time, and I think we are in a different age now, and anybody who thinks we need 1997 solutions to the modern problems is delusional. We have to deal with the issues we face.”
Sarah Hayward with Georgia Gould
She added: “That government achieved a huge amount, and a lot of the stuff we are fighting for – to defend Sure Start, tax credits – was brought in by that government, but there was a lot that they didn’t do. “They invested a lot in council house repairs but they absolutely did not even begin to deal with the housing crisis. We should have had a much bigger house-building programme. We didn’t do enough. But we are in 2017 and my dad’s been dead for five years, it’s a different world. The issues we face now, post-recession, post-Brexit, are about tackling inequality.”
Cllr Hayward is not endorsing any candidate in the wake of her resignation announcement, although it is understood that Cllr Gould has heavy backing among Labour councillors who supported the current leader. The prospective successor has delivered warm praise to Cllr Hayward in the past week, saying she had shown what Labour councils can do in power by building new council homes.
Cllr Gould said: “I grew up in Camden and I’ve been a councillor for seven years, I’ve had experience in cabinet and seen through difficult changes in young people and adult services – and I think I really have got a strong vision in terms of how we go forward. What we are facing now is huge, huge threats. A lot of what I love about Camden is under threat: our mixed communities, our public services, really strong community organisations. I want to work with the great team we have to build an alternative.”
Cllr Gould did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the recent Labour leadership contests, supporting Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper instead. “But I’m loyal to the Labour Party and I’m really focused on what we can do here in Camden,” she said. “Here we can provide a real alternative to austerity and isolationism that Labour can point to as an example. We have diverse experiences, backgrounds and strengths in the group, but that’s a strength. What we have is a left-wing council with a left-wing agenda, and I’ve been part of a team that has delivered on Labour values: investing in public services, creating apprenticeships. And what’s important is we draw from every wing of the party when we are facing really big challenges. I have friends on both sides: in Momentum, and those in the right of the party. In order to solve the challenges we face, we need to hear all of those voices.”