I’m hoping that the Greens have chosen their new Brighton and Hove Cabinet wisely

The new Green Cabinet in Brighton and Hove contained a number of surprises – the number of newly elected councillors who have Cabinet positions. Of course, with so many new councillors, and just nine re-elected ones, at least one newly elected Green member had to end up in the Cabinet of ten.

But the appointment of so many new councillors creates extra responsibility and increased demands on those without prior Council experience. Some, like the Sussex Square, Geoffrey Bowden, has taken to his new role like a duck to water. His prior experience in a government quango will have helped. Others, though, are having to make the adjustment to being an elected councillor, becoming a Cabinet member and learning a new brief, all at the same time. Most newly elected councillors, no matter how lowly they are in the pecking order, especially in an authority like Brighton and Hove, are overwhelmed by the demands placed one them. To become a Cabinet holder is a huge ask.

Those Green councillors who have taken on Cabinet experience have not been appointed based on experience or competence by the Leader of the Council. No, they have been elected into each position by the entire Group. While that may be good for democracy within the Group and the Green Party, it could have resulted in appointment being made that might not otherwise have been made, with others, currently more experienced and possible more able, remaining on the back benches. I am not thinking of any particular Cabinet member. But for the well being of Brighton and Hove, I hope the Greens have got ALL appointments right. There is no time to learn the job on the go. The City can’t afford mistakes.

I anticipate that there will be one, if not two, resignations from the Cabinet within the first year as individuals realise what the brief entails and what time commitment is required. Whatever you may think of the last two administrations, individuals like Mary Mears, Maria Caulfield and Ayas Fallon-Khan (all Tories), and Simon Burgess and Sue John (Labour) worked every hour of the day and night fulfilling the demands of their portfolios. They may not always have got it right but nobody should negate their commitment and service to the City. I hope in a years time I can say the same thing for the ten Green Cabinet members who will need to make huge personal sacrifices while coming under close scrutiny and, in all likelihood, gleeful criticism. I wish each and everyone the best of luck. The City needs you to be successful.

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9 Responses

  1. I do feel sorry for some of these newbie cabinet members. There’s an awful lot riding on their shoulders: new councillors; new cabinet members; a minority administration; and the first Green administration. Inevitably, any screw-ups that occur whilst their settling in will have double the impact with attacks from three major parties (well, if you still consider the Lib Dems to be “major”).

    It’s one of those situations where everyone’s watching, because it’s something new, and all judgement is likely to be extra-critical. This is partly due to the way the Greens have portrayed themselves as being above the cut and thrust of politics, and have raised expectations of their performance (Lib Dems in the Westminster cabinet, anyone?), but also just one of the difficulties of adjusting to power.

    It will be very interesting to see a) whether the Greens can make this work, and b) whether they can emerge with their credibility intact. Not just Brighton, but the whole country will be watching. Not a time for stage fright.

    • Well said, far more articulate than my post and clearly captured what I was trying to say. Thanks.

  2. You’re right to identify the increased workload, but as significant will be the change in mindset from opportunistic opposition to serious administration will be a real test. The amount and variety of promises made by the Greens to almost every section of the electorate will be almost impossible to keep, without upsetting others along the way. Will this be a Green Cabinet of Broken Promises?

  3. As someone who still remembers what it was like as a newly elected councillor, and as a potential Cabinet member, I very much agree with most of this blog entry BPB.

    The prospect of a Cabinet job is a daunting one at the best of times, but in the current circumstances it is much more difficult even for experienced hands. I hear there has been some shock at the demands of the job on Cabinet members time.

    Ayas and Maria had a year to find their feet before going in to the Cabinet, and even then seemed tired and stretched at times. That should not be taken as an argument for not promoting able first-term councillors to senior roles.

    I have to agree with you that the Green way of arriving at a Cabinet is very democratic, but not necessarily the best match of talent and ability with portfolio.

    In Parliament the PLP elect a Shadow Cabinet, but in Government Labour Cabinets are appointed by the Leader/PM. There may be some merit in that kind of hybrid model that allows promotion outside of patronage, but ultimately gives the person with whom the buck stops the final say on who is charged with what job.

  4. The system of the leader appointing people results in the senior politicians not being the people who are best at the job but the people who have the most loyalty to the leader.

    So you end up with a leadership with no morals as they threw their morals out the window ages ago in order to get promoted!

  5. Blogger, you and Adam Trimingham have both seen fit to big up Ayas Fallen Down and it baffles me. He was demoted from Deputy Leader in May, 2010. Demoted from Cabinet Member for Central Services in May 2010 and at the height of the financial crash shunted off to Cabinet Member for Major Projects (an empty briefcase job) and finally de-selected by his Party to stand again in Goldsmid Ward….having to scramble and finally ending up accepted in Moulescoomb as a candidate.

    He fell from grace for reasons that seem to have slipped past you. One wonders if Maria Caulfield would have lost her seat in the May elections had she not had this man for a running mate.

    And you clearly have never heard this man in full flight when he makes a verbal takeoff into quite wild stuff.

    • hi Valerie, I think you are being too harsh on Ayas. While you don’t have to agree with someone you should respect his passion and commitment. I think the City Council is all the poorer for the loss of Ayas Fallon Khan (and Maria Caulfield and others) not that that should be graded as a negative comment on those who have replaced them. BPB

    • What a total load of rubbish as usual from v.paynter. She likes to think she knows what goes on, and thinks she is privy to information. Well , she’s not. I had completed my brief in Central Services and was charged with promoting inward investment in the city, protecting small businesses, and driving the award-winning apprenticeship scheme, as well as reinvigorating some of the major projects. I offered to stand down from the Deputy Leadership because I wanted the Sustainability brief, which was my passion, and it sat perfectly with the major projects brief. I actually proposed Cllr Oxley for the Dep Leader’s position! Ms Paynter seems to get upset when she loses the argument, and doesn’t really have anything constructive to say. One thing I will say about her is that, in my opinion, she chairs meetings which were a shambles. Ask her what her record is in public service.
      I love Brighton and Hove and Portslade , and thank heavens some people never get elected. To the Greens, I wish them well, and to Warren and his colleagues, too. It was an honour to serve, but those who go through the rigours of an election should take victory and defeat with a bit of class, and I’m pleased to say that Labour and Green Councillors were such. I know how hard Warren works, and he will know how hard Cabinet Members worked, particularly in a recession. As for perennial complainants with jot a good word to say about anybody, they know diddly squat.

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