Constructive criticism of Labour or uncritical support for the Greens?

Dr Faust says that my “uncritical approach to the Green Party, and willingness to accept any observation (often from Green Party candidates) about the shortcomings of Labour is quite tiresome”. I thought I would confuse the Good Doctor by sharing a little insight into my sad little world.

First, in the ward where I live, it makes sense (to me, anyway) to vote Labour. A vote for a Green candidate would make little difference.

Second, I am not altogether opposed to what Baron Pepperpot has said, that it would not be too bad if “the old guard” of Labour was removed (although in Jeane Lepper Labour has one of te most active and most effective ward councillors).

Third, I am, by inclination, Old Labour. I am not a Green and it is unlikely that I would ever join the Greens. I am more likely to rejoin Labour if I thought they had regained any semblance of competence and campaigning ability.

Fourth, Labour also has to learn from Caroline Lucas and move on from the 2010 defeat. At the moment the most attractive thing about Labour is Warren Morgan’s choice of breakfast cereal.

For too long Labour thought it had the right to be the party of government in Brighton and Hove. It became arrogant. Two election defeats in a row, and the likely hammering at the polls in May, should be cause for a fundamental review by Labour. As a former Labour Party member, nobody has ever bothered to ask me why I left and whether I might rejoin. (The reasons I left include T. Blair, New Labour, Iraq, privatisation, etc.). Blue Labour is hardly going to help rebuild the “broad church” that once defined Labour, and Labour activists’ obsession with the Evil Princess and All Her Works is so unappealing.

The Green Party has become the “broad church” in Brighton and Hove, providing a home for environmentalists and Socialists alike. But I am unlikely to join the Green Party as it is unlikely to define itself as a socialist party, but then, what chance is there of Labour doing so?

Labour activists seem to go on the attack every time I criticise their party, question their prospe ts, or point out the reality of their ongoing decline. This is half the problem. Labour still can’t tolerate dissent – a legacy of Kinnock and Blair. The Control Freaks remain in charge of the asylum. What Labour should do is allow dissent, welcome diverse opinions, and allow control to be devolved to branch level.

That is probably a big ask given that the branch structure in Brighton and Hove is largely moribund, but it is where Labour’s success in the 1980’s sprung from and this has to be rediscovered if Labour is to be revived in Brighton and Hove.

So Dr Faust, there you have it. Constructive criticism is what I offer. Uncritical approach to the Greens? Not really, it’s just that they are basically right about the strength of its campaign and the weakness of Labour’s. On May 5th we will see if I am right or whether I will be eating humble pie!

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27 Responses

  1. So tell me why you left labour. It seems you are very bitter. Well that’s what it looks like from most of your posts.

    You don’t just leave a party because you are upset. You fight it out and help the party in a way you see fit… old labour is gone but so is new labour. It’s time you and others help mould the party into a well balanced modern socialist party! Things are changing and screaming from the side lines is either pointless or counter productive.

    Opinions are flowing in the labour party and old friends are coming back.

    • Harris is such good fun to read! Fascinating to hear of his (Labour) rose tinted glasses view of things in the labour party, when another candidate has told me how the selection process was stitched up in the area they wanted to stand, and that the Labour Party is full of dinosaurs blocking the way for the party renewing itself in the way it needs. There are many Labour activists and candidates I would be willing to work with (including the one quoted above) and one thing I respect about them is their realism about the faults of their party. Other long standing members have expressed similar views of discontent too, so not an isolated view.

      One of the things that I have heard from a number of ex members of the Labour party (many now Greens) is that the impossibility of effecting any meaningful change in the party is one of the main reasons they have left it – or rather because it has left them! It’s a great shame for Labour if that is indeed the case, because as I have said many times before, the biggest threat for the Greens is if Labour ever rediscovers itself, and our members return to their previous party affiliation. Not much danger of that at the moment it seems.

      • Would be interested to hear more of that stitch up councillor.

        Also glad you are entertained but don’t under estimate. We are a fighting force still friend! Could be your downfall!!!

      • Sven – the greatest threat to the Green Party will be internal. Ultimately the pressure between the factions will have to be addressed if you are serious about actually running the country. A lack of power is a great cement within a party, but power brings responsibility, compromise and conflict.

        Where will the eco-socialists and former Labour Party members go when the Green Party has to make the inevitable compromises of politics in the real world?

      • Bang on the money Sven..the one wise in the ways of internal wrangles and Kung Fu, politics of all the spectrum (i am servalaning) attracts these type of people who naturally form cliques and perform coups.
        Remove the £11K for Cllrs who have reached retirement age and you’ll see the back of the Dinosaurs..sad but true.

      • Ghost – do you want Councillors to do it all for nothing, or to be barred from standing if, like myself, they are oer 50 – or is a dinosaur simply someone you disagree with?

  2. Bappy, do you remember Bob Davies?…how about doing a sort of where are they now blog for old Cllrs..start with Andy Durr.

  3. Pull the other one, this is a total green rag.

  4. My impression is that Labour had a shortage of candidates.

    What I like in all this is that one shows up on a doorstep and people offer to help.

    • No, there was competition for almost all of the seats and we have plenty of new faces who are interested for next time. All this talk of renewal seems to ignore the 45,000 who have joined in the past year, bringing with them fresh energy and ideas.

      As Labour will be forming an administration after May 5th we will need the experience of colleagues who have run the council and taken tiough decisions in the past, but new faces will be elected and be promoted as time goes on.

      It’s the Lib Dems who are short of candidates – none in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, only one in Rottingdean, two in EB and QP…

      And there’s at least one candidate in a Green-held ward who wasn’t even a Green member in January, so I don’t know what that says about the Greens ability to find people willing to stand.

  5. BPB – I rest my case

  6. To me, the Labour Party stopped being a party of organised labour years a go. For a party who cites the minimum wage as their greatest achievement whilst in Government for 13 years, something is seriously wrong in what Labour aspires to be and whom they wish to represent.

    Yes, the Greens aren’t a socialist party or a party of organised labour but, we have plenty of self-defining socialists, Marxists and active trade unionists who are either members, supporters or Green voters.

    From what I’ve seen on the doorstep in Hollingdean, there is still no enthusiasm for Labour. For those who ditched the party years a go, they’re just not flooding back.

    I always point people to the 2010 Pavilion result. Between 2005 and 2010 Labour only lost around 100 votes. The Greens on the other hand, gained almost 7000. That’s either 7000 new votersor people who haven’t voted since 1997 or 2001.

    What Labour don’t realise is, despite their unpopularity at the time, their vote in Pavilion remained solid (though this can be attributed to Labour’s ‘Greens can’t win here’ line). It always looked as if we would end up with a Tory Government who would unleash hell on the public sector but 7000 people, who may never have voted Green before, decided that getting a Green MP would be worth their vote.

    So, what’s my point? My point is, Labour still has a long way to go before it can convince 7000 voters that they’re worth it.

    • I feel sure that Caroline Lucas’s majority will go up considerably. Not only from those who thought a Green win impossible but also look at all those who regretted voting LibDem. I keep hearing people who say, “I’m not making that mistake again.”

      I can see that if there are LibDem losses across England in these elections, then the LibDems could split into the Cleggites and the others.

    • Luke – so why didn’t it happen anywhere else for the Green Party? Your vote fell between 2005 and 2010 – hardly a ringing endorsement outside of the Pavilion bubble, and the predicted take over in Norwich stalled, even after the ‘historic’ GE. Across the City the Green Party polled less than half the votes of Labour- some of which I know was Green supporters voting tactically, but far from the majority. Across the country the BNP polled twice as many votes – facing the same difficulties of minor parties. It’s just worth pondering on that for a while before claiming that the Green Party is on the march.

      The Green Party will continue to grow locally, and may be the largest Party after May 5 – but this could be the high water mark for the Party, particularly given the job that lies ahead.

      • You’re forgetting we had a big credibility hurdle to overcome. In Brighton Pavilion, this hurdle was crossed thanks to talking with people on the doorstep. We always said that if enough people voted Green in Pavilion we could win – it worked.

        If we are running Brighton and Hove city council this will be a new first for the Greens. How that will work out, no one really knows.

        If voters decide to put their trust in us to do right by the city, we will attempt to do just that and bring those voters with us.

    • Good on him I say,Whilst I am not Gay, I do have a friend who is homosexual and I once asked him “Do you ever think about having sex with me because you are gay?” to which he replied “Do you ever think about having sex with Jo Brand because you are straight? Same thing.” If I was inclined to have a boyfriend, I would select one my height and weight to save having to readjust the driver’s seat position. I am not interested in doubling my wardrobe as I wear the same outfit everyday to facilitate speedy identification should I ever be in a boating accident and of course the Abercrombie & Fitch loyalty points are a bonus.

  7. Faust, I simply agree that some people stay on past their sell-by dates and that from what I hear and from all the parties i mean too that most people’s opinion is that it comes down too having been used too the extra cash, and as for doing it for nothing i think you should do it too make a difference and because you care about the City/Town/Village in which you live and would gladly do it and claim out of pocket expenses.

  8. Often it is only retired people who have the time to be councillors. 11K is not enough to live on, and if it were removed local government would – even more than it already is – become the preserve of the landed gentry and those who have chased the dollar to the exclusion of everything else in life.

    Good post from the blogger, though I’m inclined to be more generous about Ed Miliband. His renewal is about more than Blue Labour, and even that strangely-named movement (such as it is) is taking a welcome critical look at market liberalism.

    Locally, I’m still inclined to think that Labour will end up as the largest party. The Greens could do with someone like Warren, who can do the sums and work out where the vulnerable seats are. They need less astrologers and homeopaths and few more calculating machines, dessicated or otherwise.

  9. It is important to bring this debate down to the politics of the locality.

    Although I am a Labour member, I tend to identify with them locally, and not so much nationally (although more since the end of the last government).

    I think Labour locally is more likely to represent socialist values, but mostly with a new order.

    Labour is not going through an identity crisis, it is just that in the make of the new economic world that is going to develop over the next few years, Labour will need to retreat into itself for a while.

    Brighton is a strange one though, and here is the problem….

    Those evil Greens (as apparently my fixation commands me to utter…) are a socialist movement, or at least Caroline Lucas, (that most affable Queen of Darkness) told me in a recent interview , they are happy to be regarded as such.

    This presents a problem for Labour and it’s image. To cast itself as socialist means to they have no distinguishing feature from the new kids on the block, to remain in the centre ground leaves it open to accusations of being Old New Labour.

    Those dastardly Greens are doing Labour a service though. Nationally they are having little effect, but locally Labour has an opportunity to see the butterfly released from the cocoon. It could be an extended period of pupation, though, but that’s ok.

    Labour have some bright young things who are ready for council, and some who need a little longer.

    The party isn’t going to be replaced locally by anyone. It just needs to reposition itself and view things from a community based and wide eyed angle.

    I know the local party is capable….. with renewal.

  10. What I find interesting is that Labour has given up on Westbourne.

  11. I too was a loyal but deluded Labour Party member until the Labour Government sent in the army to break the Firefighters strike. Some of you may be old enough to remember. brightonpoliticsblogger is right, the Labour Party is one of the greatest impediments to socialism in this country. This was as true for Old Labour as for New Labour. It is similar to the Democrats in the USA in that it talks progressively but acts reactively. The behaviour of the Labour Party in government is no different to that of the Tories. For greater detail see my blog SubversiveBrighton. The Green Party may not call itself a socialist party but its policies are progressive and Caroline Lucas fights tirelessly against the “elective dictatorship” to raise progressive issue. I suspect to little avail. The three main parties (if the LDs can any longer be considered that) act in the interests of big capital and have never done any different. The evidence on this is cast iron. However the mainstream media continue to tell us to believe otherwise. That is why we need to build an alternative media and support progressive parts of the movement, which at the moment includes the Greens.

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