Simple arguments for the Tories and the Greens, an impossible argument for Labour to make in Brighton and Hove

The Noble Lord, Baron Pepperpot, has disagreed with my analysis of the political implications of Thursday’s Budget votes at Brighton and Hove City Council. He writes: “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.”

I don’t agree, Baron. The Tories will emphasise the fact that Labour and the Greens voted against the cut in Council Tax. Theirs is an easy (if sloppy) argument, one that ill-informed voters miught buy. Imagine the line on the doorstep/on leaflets: “We put forward a cut in Council tax but Labour and the Greens voted against saving you money.”  No mention of amounts, a simple, accurate message.

There is damage for Labour.  The Greens message will be: “We could have voted down the Tory cuts budget, but Labour abstained and allowed the cuts to go ahead”. Again, a simple, accurate message.

As for Labour, what will its message be? At best “While we don’t like the cuts, we had to abstain to allow a budget to be set to avoid chaos”.  Huh? A confusing, not so accurate message.  Floating voters like me won’t be convinced.  (Before I am accused by Labour activists of being pro Green, I intend to split my votes in May. Whether it is 2 Green and 1 Labour or 1 Green and 2 Labour is yet to be decided, but Labour’s abstention encorages me towards the former).

Warren Morgan makes a brave attempt to explain Labour’s position: “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.”

That’s a complicated argument, less still a convincing argument that will be difficult to make in response to the simple message that the Greens will be making.

Allie Cannell thinks my views about the future prospects of Labour-Green co-operation is too pessimistic: “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.”  I hope you are right, Allie, but the tone of exchanges of late (well, since Thursday night) suggests some activists are less likely to stab others in the back, it is an all-out, full-frontal assault!

Christopher Hawtree says that the Budget is largely a non-issue: “I spoke with a lot of people yesterday, and did not hear the Budget mentioned.”  I doubt that the Tories or the Greens will allow that situation to last long.

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21 Responses

  1. The amendment was marginally better but the cuts are still horrific. The amendment should have been proposed and passed and then the whole thing thrown out. Labour are signed up to Brighton Stop The Cuts Coalition which has agreed “Oppose all use of discrimination and division to promote a cuts agenda.”. They should then have defied the law and refused to agree a cuts budget the week after. The Tories are taking the welfare state apart. This needs total opposition.

  2. I think Allie’s barking up the right tree. There are areas where the Labour and Green parties can cooperate locally. This afternoon there was a Friends of the Earth Question Time event (http://bhfoe.org/2011/01/20/brightonfoe-welcome-cold-cut-skrillex/) where Warren Morgan read out seven Labour proposals regarding the city’s transport. Many of them sounded like the kind of thing the Greens could endorse too. The few things Ayas Fallon-Khan proposed were very car-centric – lots of park & ride schemes and some muddled thing about more electric cars in which he mentioned India and China (I didn’t quite understand that bit).

    • Those proposals:
      – putting the Sustainable Transport Strategy back on track by prioritising public transport, continuing investment in cycling, enhanced pedestrian facilities and tackling traffic congestion & air pollution.
      – investigate the feasibility of three viable Park & Ride systems operating from edge of city sites and assess their impact on city centre traffic reduction.
      – increase the supply of electric vehicle charging points to keep pace with demand.
      – seek sponsorship for a citywide communal “City Bikes” scheme so that people can borrow a bike for a short period from key pick up/drop off points around the city.
      Promote a citywide commuter car-sharing scheme with major employers via linked websites.
      – create a “green-lung” opoen space / city park based around Valley Gardens.

  3. I agree that our message on the Budget is not a simple one. Things like “Greens voted against the Tory Budget” and “Labour voted against lower taxes” are simple messages, but sometimes the right approach is a more complicated one that doesn’t translate into election leaflet soundbites.
    Let’s not underestimate the electorate and their ability to understand that things are not always black and white.

  4. I am as fascinated as anybody by the intricacies of the Budget hoo-ha, which is pehaps akin to deciding which chess piece to move first…

    And yet I stand by what I said. What I find energising in all this is the talk on the doorsteps. A remark here and there by somebody, it is all so illuminating. People are looking fowards. That is the secret of life, but at the Council meeting, the Tories kept on about some weird stuff about who was or was not in charge of the Council at some point God knows when years back. Bizarre. In the demotic: who gives a stuff?

    Although the Count is delayed until the Friday afternoon by the Referendum count, if that goes ahead, I reckon that the Local count could be slowed until the night by tallying the votes given to different parties by individual voters.

    That said, I do find it hard to beleve there will be any LibDems on the next Council. A couple of months ago, I might have said differently.

    In saying that, I should not like to be taken as simply knocking Paul Elgood: I reckon that he is astute enough to have a Plan B, and, what’s more, wth the savvy not to reveal that Plan until he has to do so.

  5. Warren (just a boy) Morgan and gill mitchell delivered the Tory budget for arch enemy Mary Mears. They’ll find it difficult to answer for that on the doorsteps of East Brighton.

  6. Firstly, it’s nice to follow a forum on which people can disagree with others without resorting to abuse. The exception being politician on politician, which after Cllr Fallon-Khan’s attack on Jason Kitcat’s blog page recently, shockingly still has no ceiling to its cavalier mindlessness. I should be used to this, I am in broadcasting, and may have to referee such matches, but that one was still a shocker.

    It is also nice to see reasoned views, although in this case I still question the reasoning. I just don’t think that the 1% reduction in council tax was a vote winner, let alone a flag ship policy. The one thing the Tories have done well nationally is to convince Joey Public that bad times are ahead. I think it was my 80 year old Father who I heard use the word ‘gimmick’ first, and I’m yet to hear a person who thought it was a sound policy. When there is such a pressing need to cut back essential services, why is money (and a tiny sum at that) being handed back.
    Correct me someone please. My own persuasion is left of centre, so perhaps my eyes are full of subjectivity, but I feel the Tories cooked their own goose on this one when they so convinced the public that cuts are coming long and hard. Wouldn’t such a cut merely confuse people?

    • Meers has made it quite clear that she supports the Tory government neoliberal policies. The public do not need to be hammered for the crisis caused by the bankers. Take back the fortunes paid to the bankers in bonuses and inflated salaries and nationalise the banks so that the profits come to us, the people. If you doubt the logic check out the film Inside Job showing at the Duke of Yorks this week. http://subversivebrighton.wordpress.com/

  7. What is odd, is that if you add all the wards up that the Greens claim to be winning (and few non-Greens think they have a chance in a fair number of them) then they still won’t have enough seats to take the council outright. So they have a losing strategy.

    More likely us that they will be reduced to a rump of just eight seats, similar to their dramtatic loses in London last May.

    • Really? Will you actually be putting money on that unlikelhood?

      • I’d take a bet that the Greens lose more than they gain in their target wards.

        They won’t get close in Hollingbury for example.

        The Greens show themselves to be negative campaigners (just look at Geoffrey Bowden’s twitter in QP) but also as this reveals hyper sensitive and unable to take criticism

      • You’re right,, Numbers, we probably won’t win in Hollingbury, considering Hollingbury isn’t even a ward.

      • PS Numbers,do you ever go out and knock on doors or do you just make judgement based upon candidate Twitter feeds?

    • You’re the only person with that idea!

      I think most people have realised that there is going to have to be some kind of coalition on the council to keep the Tories out after the elections

    • Labour councillors that I’ve spoken to, including Gill Mitchell clearly feel very very threatened by the Greens. Labour stole the Tories clothes so they have no right to complain when the Greens champion the left agenda.

      http://subversivebrighton.wordpress.com/

  8. My key message on the doorstep today seemed to be: “Yes. An election. In May. For the City Council.”

    Make of that what you will.

  9. Old Mrs Kit-Cat seems to be a Hot Green Totty..I’ve done my recycling, Nudged a few veggies but nothing yet up here in old Alderman Heaven…

  10. @Dan Wilson – me too whilst out leafleting today. Ithink that of those who vote in May it will only be a minority who vote on public issues – for most the national mood will be the guiding factor.

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