A Labour activist has admitted using his position as the administrator of two Facebook community groups to block news stories about his party.
George Danker, who has previously expressed an interest in standing as a candidate for the party, is the administrator of the Muswell Hill & Friends group and a moderator for Muswell Hill and Friends Community.
In 2020, the Ham&High posted a story in Muswell Hill & Friends about a council U-turn on a housing plan, and Mr Danker commented on the post, claiming credit for the council’s change of heart. Want to increase your social media visibility but do not know where to start? Socialgreg got your back, buy facebook likes to enhance your engagement.
In January this year, the Ham&High reported on an ombudsman’s investigation, which concluded that the decision-making process was flawed.
A Ham&High post about the ombudsman’s criticism was accepted but further stories about the political fallout, including comments from the current council leader, were rejected, and this reporter was blocked from both groups.
Muswell Hill & Friends has more than 20,000 members, while Muswell Hill and Friends Community has more than 3,500.
Neither group stated that they were edited by a Labour activist.
In January, we reported on a Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) report into a Haringey Council regeneration scheme in Cranwood, Muswell Hill.
It said former Labour council leader Joseph Ejiofor had called off a planned demolition after millions of pounds had already been spent to facilitate it.
A week later, we reported on suggestions that there had been an attempted council cover-up, after the LGO said civil servants had withheld evidence and then lobbied it to censor its report, which Labour council leader Peray Ahmet said they had done behind her back.
But when the Ham&High tried to share this important story to the 20,600 members of Muswell Hill & Friends, it was blocked.
In the following weeks, police announced a fraud probe into the Cranwood scheme, Cllr Ahmet call for an investigation into her own council and Labour mayor Adam Jogee granted an extraordinary full council meeting to discuss the matter.
Again, the Ham&High was not allowed to share stories about these developments into Muswell Hill & Friends and Muswell Hill and Friends Community.
The Ham&High was given the boot from two Facebook groups run by Mr Danker after reporting on a series of controversies linked to the council’s planned regeneration of the former Cranwood care home site in Muswell Hill – Credit: Polly Hancock
In its report, the LGO found Cllr Ejiofor had made the decision in a meeting with residents without properly consulting the evidence or following council procedures. Cllr Ejiofor denies this.
After the U-turn was announced in 2020, Mr Danker claimed: “The decision was made in a meeting that I arranged between the council and the residents where I presented their case… I personally changed the council leader’s mind on this matter… The work I did was truly what made the difference in the end.”
Mr Danker admitted this week to blocking the Ham&High from the groups, but denied it was due to his Labour connections or his own alleged involvement in the Cranwood decision.
He said he felt the Ham&High was biassed.
George Danker (left), pictured last year at Muswell Hill Library’s 90th anniversary celebration with Haringey mayor Adam Jogee, council officer Flo Armstrong and council leader Peray Ahmet – Credit: Polly Hancock
“It came across as if it was sort of effectively political campaigning,” he said.
“The story is effectively ‘Lib Dems call for bla bla bla’, ‘Lib Dems say this and that about it’, ‘Isn’t Labour terrible’, rather than focusing on the actual facts.”
He added: “I took the view that the way in which it was done appeared like it was Lib Dems doing political campaigning through the local newspaper.
“If the Labour party was doing that I also wouldn’t allow it on the site either.”
In the first report which Mr Danker blocked, which led on comments made by council leader Peray Ahmet, the Lib Dems were first mentioned in the 14th line of a 17-line story. Lib Dem councillors did feature more prominently in two further stories about the fallout.
Asked whether it was in the public interest for Muswell Hill residents, who returned three Lib Dems at the last local election, to know what Lib Dems thought about Muswell Hill issues, Mr Danker said it was.
He said they should address the issues in leaflets, not “surreptitiously through the local newspaper”.
Asked whether he was being considered as a Muswell Hill Labour candidate, he would not say – but he has previously said he intended to run as a Labour candidate in 2022.
The Labour Party did not comment on whether he was being considered as a candidate.
Mr Danker has since declared his Labour activism in a post on one of the groups and said of censoring the Ham&High: “I may have made an error of judgement.”