The Greens blame Labour, Labour blames the Greens, and the Tories laugh all the way to the polling station

Yesterday I was upbeat and positive about the collaboration between Labour and the Greens.  Tonight they are back at each other’s throats.  This is how I see it. It was great that there was a shared approach to the Tory budget.  Labour and Green councillors were joined by Lib Dem Paul Elgood and independent (former Lib Dem) David Watkins, in voting through some amendments.  So far, so good.

It was right to amend the Tory budget, but that did not mean it was no longer a Tory budget, in spite of what the Grizzly One might say: “I am very disappointed that the Conservative budget proposal was voted down. It was, on the whole, excellent.”  The tens of millions of cuts remained.  Labour and Green councillors were then faced with a choice of what to do.  Together with Elgood and Watkins, they had more than enough votes to throw the whole budget out.  And there would have been enough time to review the Tory proposals and to come up with some alternatives.

But when push came to shove, all 13 Labour councillors abstained. All 13 Green councillors votes against the budget along with Watkins and Elgood.  A truly courageous group of Labour councillors would have seen this as an opportunity to make a real stand against the ConDem Coalition.  But it was not to be. The Tory budget, mildly amended, was comfortably carried. Andy Richards writes: “The opportunity which is being missed here by all of the non-Coalition councillors is to say to an increasingly weak and divided government, ‘we are not going to pass on your cuts’.”

There is a debate about whether it is ok to vote against a motion you have amended. It is no difference than abstaining if the vote goes in favour of a cuts budget.  Dani, as always, speaks sense: “The amendments were just tinkering at the edges of a £23 million cuts package. They restored less than £3 million – welcome, but not enough to make the overall budget acceptable.  Amending a motion you are intending to vote against is perfectly reasonable. It means you are saying that you don’t want to do what is proposed, but if you are defeated and it ends up being done, you would prefer it done in a different way.”

I entirely disagree with Ian Chisnall who writes: “If the Greens and Labour were not happy that the final budget was adequate they should have either tabled more robust amendements or tabled no amendments and voted against the unamended budget.”  Wrong.  It is right that Labour and Green try to make the best of a bad deal, but that doesn’t mean they then have to vote for that bad deal.

What will the consequences be? Immediately the prospect of any form of reconciliation between the two parties of the left has been lost, the likelihood of co-operation after May’s local elections gone.  The blame game has begun. Labour activists accuse the Greens of being unrealistic, the Greens blame Labour for selling out.  While I tend to take the latter view, the one party that will be laughing all the way to the polling stations is the Conservative Party.  They have their headline – a Council Tax being voted down – along with the defeated cut in the cost of parking permits.  Geoffrey Theobald ended with some egg on his face over the cycle path, but that is small change compared to the vitriol that is being expressed between the two opposition parties.

I am sorry not to have responded to the record number of comments left today, but the debate rages on in the Comments section of my last post which gave my knee-jerk reaction immediately after the end of the Council meeting.

9 Responses

  1. But you cannot say ‘we are not going to pass on the cuts’. However runs the Council after May will be passing on cuts. Tory cuts, perhaps, but cuts all the same. Trying to pretend otherwise is just posturing.

  2. I find it very difficult to believe-despite today’s Argus headline, that any Conservative-apart from those in those leafy outwith suburbs, will be laughing to the polls.

    Sometimes we over estimate the average persons interest in the intricate nature of these issues.

    Most people, however, will have heard about the proposed 1% reduction in council tax, most people will know about the cuts.

    It is my conclusion, from those I have spoken to, that people see the 1% reduction as a gimmick and that people know cuts are coming and are, whether rightly or wrongly, resigned to them.

    From this conclusion (and some people on here will agree, some not) I see that no damage has been done long term to either Labour or the Greens. Both can sell an alternative argument. And most people don’t have the time or inclination to draw an in depth conclusion.

    Post May 5th it is a coalition of the left, whether one of convenience or not-and you didn’t hear it here first.

  3. I think thats a very pessimistic post. Labour and the Greens are always going to disagree about things, thats why they are seperate parties!

    You can’t expect them to get along all the time, what is encouraging though is that they found so much stuff that they did agree on so that they could significantly change the Tory budget so it wasn’t quite as bad.

    There is some overlap and I think the collaboration in this budget shows that mostly both parties can work with that overlap and that politisicing hopefully wont get in the way.

  4. […] the budget vote for Brighton and Hove City Council. Here’s my best stab at setting a context and explaining the decision. I must say though, that over the last few years, as I’ve learnt more about local government, […]

  5. I spoke with a lot of people yesterday, and did not hear the Budget mentioned. It made me all the more certain that Billy Wilder holds the key to this election.

  6. I agree with Allie. We co-operated on some amendments, we made a difference in what was passed. There was a disagreement over whether to vote out the amended Tory budget or let it go through with the changes we had agreed.

    The Greens had other amendments that they put in which they will use on election leaflets to differentiate themselves from Labour, and chose to make a stand and vote against the Budget. Again they are using that position to differentiate themselves from Labour.

    We could have done the same, and would have had to do the whole thing again next week. That may or may not have enabled further changes, or it may have lost the changes already won. We could not, lawfully, have continued to vote it down and deny the reality of Tory govt imposed cuts.

    We are separate parties and have different approaches and policies, along with a difficult history and, in terms of the Labour Party, all the baggage that 13 years in government brings. Some Green members are Green members because of that and may not want to talk to Labour locally as a result.

    The Greens – in the majority of wards where they are seeking to win or hold seats – are fighting Labour far more than the Tories. For Labour the opponents are Greens in some wards, Tories in others. This inevitably colours what the Greens have to say and do in the election.

    At the end of the day a budget had to be set, and parties have to make their political points as a result of who did what. But on May 6th we will know the outcome of the locals and will probably not have another polling day (bar Europeans) for four years. So there will be an onus on parties who share many values in common to talk and find a way of providing a stable administration. I agree that it is a very pessimistic reading of this week’s events to say that we won’t.

  7. Some interesting news is that before the final vote there was another adjournment. It was after this that Labour changed tack, and indeed some of them said “abstain” through gritted teeth.

    Could it be the old familiar tale of the Tories and Labour going along with each other, turn and turn about, to maintain the status quo?

    If so, that is foolish. What I am hearing is that people want something fresh.

    • But I just don’t see how coming back a week later with the same outcome, or possibly having lost some of the gains made, would be considered ‘fresh’, and if the Green Party voted at the end of a further week’s dicussion for the budget , or abstained, why would that not be maintaining the status quo? ‘Fresh’ could be saying that we will set a budget that will maintain all local services, and we will raise council tax, or use other revenue raising ideas to maintain services – but the Green Party are not saying that either.

  8. With some distance this is more interesting, because it would seem that Labour may have felt if the budget was voted down the Tories would have been better organised and come up with a tougher budget and hoped again it would be voted down.
    Guess what happens if you can’t set a budget? The communities Minister and his civil servants set it for you, So Mr Pickles would have come down and more than likely taking stock of what the ruling Tory Group proposed set a Tory budget with no amendments at all. And possibly even tougher.
    The usual Green idealist fracas ensued. The minor parties always seem to struggle with realpolitik

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