Are Labour and the Tories ‘doing politics’ better than the Greens

Momma Grizzly cares! Earlier this evening she left a message on this blog with the simple question: “Are you still alive, Baps?”

Indeed I am but from time to time I am not in a position to post. However, the last week has been interesting. Mike Weatherley has been active (well supported by Grizzly, Mike Ireland and Robert Nemeth). He has been trying to take the political initiative on anti-social behaviour, dilapidated ‘heritage’ signs in Hove, calling for the Olympic flame to come not just to Brighton but also to Hove, has called for the new Green Administration to “get tough on travellers, squatters and quasi-protesters who are vandalising parts of Brighton & Hove”, suggested greater courage in architectural issues, and called on people to give blood!

So why this activity? Well Mike has always been an active MP but he must see that the advance of the Greens into Hove as a threat to his re-election.

The Greens are not doing themselves many favours as they have fed Mr Weatherley issue after issue – protest camp in the Old Steine, invitation to demonstrators, etc. The latest is the call by Caroline Lucas to decriminalise drugs could yet be spun by Mike, although I suspect he is not a million miles away from Ms Lucas on this issue. But it is an issue that does not play well with the public.

The Greens need to ensure that they maintain the initiative otherwise they will be bashed at every turn. But the transformation from opposition into an administration is not an easy one. New portfolios need to be taken on, briefs understood, and invitation after invitation to be responded to. Time to do politics is being squeezed.

But doing politics is what the Greens need to do. It is easy to be seduced by office. But the Greens have offered a new style of engagement – openness and engagement, but already here are murmerings that some Cabinet members have become remote and communication within the council are not easy, in spite of what the Greens wish to achieve.

Labour and Tory councillors are putting themselves around and are presenting themselves as accessible to the community. This is not difficult while in opposition. One or two councillors have undertaken some publicity-catching initiatives, such as Dawn Barnett who visited travellers in her ward to give them directions to sites in wards represented by Green councillors. Dee Simpson, too, has shown some populist campaigning with the launch of a petition.

There is scope for the Greens, particularly those not in the Cabinet, to maintain the populist touch. They need to be the match for the newly liberated Tory councillors and the long liberated Labourites. The Greens should allow their non-Cabinet colleagues to have freedom to raise issues, even those for which fellow Greens are responsible.

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32 Responses

  1. On the Dawn Barnett story, could you imagine the reaction of the Argus if a Green councillor visited travellers and, under the pretence of friendship, directed them to a Tory ward? I suspect that even the national press would be queuing up to put the boot in.

    But not all publicity is good publicity. I hope and believe that this will come back to haunt Cllr Barnett.

    Anyway, welcome back blogger. Could you please supply some details of what Mike Weatherley says about ‘greater courage in architectural issues’? I can’t find any reference to this on his snazzy new website.

    Regarding Mr Weatherley’s recent hyperactivity, again, not all publicity is good publicity. The stuff on anti-social behaviour, with its talk ‘various other gangs of squatters, eco-travellers, drug-pushers and fly-tippers’ may tickle the toes of the Tory hardcore, but will strike many others as hysterical and slightly ridiculous.

    • I am not so sure Clive. I think Cllr Barnett was making a clever point in a way. I do not agree with it, but she was showing the Greens that local politics is about defending those you represent and that the Green’s ideological policies are unworkable in practice. I think she is being a bit unfair and not tackling the route of the problem but it will not come back to haunt her.

    • I agree with Rob Brown that Dawn’s intervention is quite clever and won’t come back to bite her. I dont agree with her but it is clever politiking. The Greens need to match Labour and the Tories in ‘doing politics’.

      As for Mike Weatherley, this is his press release on architecture:
      HOVE MP CALLS FOR CITY ARCHITECTURE TO LOOK TO THE FUTURE
       
      Hove MP Mike Weatherley has called on Brighton & Hove City Council to reject plans for the proposed development on the site of the former Sackville Hotel on Kingsway in Hove. 
       
      After reviewing the plans for the new development, Mike wrote to John Barradell, Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove City Council, to lodge his objection. Mike highlighted that what is proposed does not blend in nor does it exude any sense of architectural integrity.
       
      Mike commented: “As a huge fan of Brighton & Hove’s unique architecture, I am always keen to see quality new buildings, particularly in Hove and Portslade. I believe that this particular development really lets down the rest of the seafront. What is proposed does not blend in nor does it exude any sense of architectural integrity whatsoever.”
       
      In his letter to John Barradell, Mike said: “Fake old buildings may appear attractive in the short-term but I fear that the suppression of architectural innovation in such a dreary manner risks changing what Brighton & Hove is all about.”

      END

      • Thanks, blogger – interesting. I think he’s right about the Sackville Hotel plans.

        You haven’t considered the interesting question of whether a Green (or Labour) politician would get away with doing what Dawn Barnett did. I don’t think they would. The press would be on to them like a ton of bricks, condemning their actions as irresponsible and so on.

        You can represent the interests of your ward without dumping over everyone else, surely?

        This kind of behaviour is partly a product of an electoral system under which the Tories (in this particular example) don’t need votes in Queens Park or Brunswick, as they have no hope of winning those particular wards.

        Town v gown has been discussed on here recently, but I wonder if the real divide isn’t between centre and suburb.

    • But to parody the conservative/traveller incident, the green would have to be diverting the employed, the business owners, and even new private sector businesses to non-green controlled areas…

      Not sure anyone would have a problem with that (apart from those left in the green ghettos).

  2. I think that Caroline’s comments regarding drugs are worthy of some attention and debate here. Although I resent the implication that she speaks for the whole City, and that the ideas are couched in politically expedient terms (not saying decriminalising when that is essentially what it means), the debate has to be had, and it is a brave(ish) attempt to get it going.

    Having been a youthful supporter of legalisation, now, as a parent, I find it difficult to accept that we should condone behaviours which kill our children, and destroy their families. However, I would want to pragmatically realise that the present arrangements are failing, and we need to do something different. I also don’t think that everything I disapprove of should be illegal. Can people give any examples of where legalisation has worked in reducing drug use and associated
    criminality? Alternatively, are there examples of countries where very robust enforcement has reduced use, and what are the libertarian implications of such a policy?

    Brighton is already the drug death capital of the UK. Is it more so because of our relaxed approach to drug taking?

    • No parent wants to condone things which can harm their children but I think the salient point when assessing different countries’ policies on drugs is the effect on the death rates from drug use. Portugal decriminalised possession of all drugs in 2001 and after five years drug deaths dropped from around 400 people per year to 290. The number of new HIV cases each year from sharing dirty needles went down from 1400 to 400 (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=portugal-drug-decriminalization). I can’t find an exact comparison for the UK but this article show rising drug death rates for around the same time (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/uk-drug-deaths-on-the-rise-despite-government-pledge-414057.html).

      It’s important to remember that the vast majority of drug deaths in Brighton were caused by heroin (http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/4570685.Brighton_and_Hove_is_drugs_death_capital_once_more/). It is the very illegality of heroin that makes it more dangerous, since users do not know the strength what they are injecting and are therefore are more likely to accidentally overdose. If heroin of known purity could be obtained from clinics for addicts then I believe we would see less overdoses.

      Drugs such as ecstasy and cannabis are much safer than alcohol and tobacco. No one has ever overdosed on cannabis and died, while the amount of people dying from ecstasy each year per user compared to these two legal drugs is minimal. This graph compiled from a survey of experts of drug addiction (including psychiatrists, chemists and pharmacologists) attempts to give a comparative analysis of the harms of different drugs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rational_scale_to_assess_the_harm_of_drugs_%28mean_physical_harm_and_mean_dependence%29.svg).

      • Thanks for the useful links.

      • Spot on, Juicy. And what’s more, many studies to which I don’t have links have found that a huge proportion of the ill-health and death caused by heroin are directly attributable to the chaotic lifestyles users are forced into by its legal status.

        People addicted to illegal drugs are victims not just of their own failings, but on a particularly pure manifestation of capitalism, red in tooth and claw. Any responsible government would take steps to harness and regulate the market in order to more effectively protect its citizens. For as long as our spineless political leaders constrain themselves to curry the favour of the white, male ultra rich oligarchy controlling the popular press we will never see a government act so.

  3. Stop telling people I care, Baps. It’ll ruin my reputation! 😉

    • But you do care, Grizzly. Beneath that grizzly exterior, their is a little angel wishing to emerge into the light, to spread fairy dust of happiness over all who behold you!

  4. The Greens will learn quickly from the Traveller and New Steine debates and in 4 years that will be forgotten. I think the bigger danger for the Greens is that any new approach they bring will be neutered by senior bureaucrats in the council, and this will make them become like the other parties. Given that it is probable that people voted for the Greens because because they are sick of the old politics, to begin to look and speak the same will be dangerous.

    • I’m convinced that the aim of the new council is to do as little as possible – partly because there is no money, and partly because Caroline will not allow anything to risk getting in the way of her re-election. There will be a few different approaches that cost very little – consultation with community groups, ‘openness’ in the operation of the Council – but nothing radical. I don’t think that most of the Green Party supporters want anything radical, rather nothing that would mean sacrifice for themselves. They didn’t vote for radical eco-socialism, or the rag-bag of libertarian (allegedly) policies that the Green Party bring with them. They voted for ‘nice’ policies with a nice smiling face. The Green Party risk far more if they try to be themselves – but the budget cuts and Caroline will save them from themselves

      • You maybe right…..

      • What about those of us who DID vote for ‘radical eco-socialism’? The Greens have got to keep us happy too you know 😉

      • No they don’t, Green Dad, You’re massively outnumbered by those who voted Green as a lifestyle statement.

  5. For me the Greens have lost it and I supported them. They taked the talk in opposition and now can’t walk the walk in power. Dawn Barnett is showing what a good councillor should do; stick up for your residents and the Greens could learn a thing or two from her.

    Not sure about Mike Wetherley, as I have not seen the stuff that BPB writes about here but Simon Kirby over the other side of the City seems to be doing a good job and I watched the debate he had against Caroline Lucas in the house of commons that someone put on facebook and he took her apart over travellers. Can’t find the link or else I would have pasted it here. Too old for all this technology. Posting is about as hi tech as I get.

    • FYI, Mike Weatherley also was involved in the debate you’re referring to. It was at his remark that Ms Lucas seemingly lost the plot.

    • Don’t give up on the Greens yet. It is early days and the adjustment from opposition to administration will take some time. They will have their ups and downs, will win some, lose some. It is their overall performance that will count.

    • I also watched Simon Kirby’s debate last week, he certainly has been very active on the issue of travellers and party houses (and many others it has to be said), credit to him for that.

  6. As I mentioned before, the intranet comment by Tony Janio, a Councillor in Hangleton, has made me rethink any sort of public engagement in such quarters as this. What cheers me are the comments made by people when i meet them, as I have done over the weekend; and, although I cannot say anything as yet, I do think that the Greens have a great deal in prospect but, naturally, it takes time to put these across in a more than a temporary, headline grabbing way.

    At the same time, I must say that I enjoy working in Central Hove with Andrew Wealls and that here, in Westbourne, it is affable stuff in the kitchen when Brian Oxley comes round, with others, to discuss the memorial to the greengrocer Tony Magdi.

    And this is my last post.

    • Arguing against myself, here, I agree with you, councillor Christopher. Engagement in the real world is so much more important than engagement through this or other blogs. Blogs have their place, and this blog tries to bring some debate, information and fun into local politics. While being left of centre, this blog tries to acknowledge positive contributions from left and right. I like people who are passionate about their politics no matter how much I disagree with them. (How are you this evening, Grizzly?). You mention Andrew Wealls. I have a huge amount of respect for Andrew and I think that you and him will make an impressive partnership not withstanding your different politics. Andrew and you, Chris, are good news since neither of you are conventional, and I mean that as a compliment. – BPB

  7. Good to see the Blogger back in action. BPB would not (or perhaps would) believe the number of Council officers who follow this blog in the hope of gaining some (indiscreet?) knowledge of what Councillors really think. May it long continue.

    Re Cllr Barnett and her travellers stuff, no I don’t believe that it was some Blofeld style strategic master plan but it did play well with her electorate in Hangleton. It’s knee jerk dog whistle politics.Not big and not clever though in the short term perhaps effective.

    What will be interesting is how the Greens take the issue of a permanent travellers site forward. The last Tory adminstration planned a permanent travellers site on contaminated land on Wilson Avenue. The land had mercury, zinc and other lovely cancer causing substances beneath the surface and would require thousands spent in detox to make it fit for human habitation.

    The “consultation” was a sham with “public” meetings becoming an exercise in how swiftly Mary Mears and co could dodge the public which led me to being referred by Bishop Brian reporting me to the Standards board for allegedly accusing MM of behaving like Mugabe (untrue – what I actually said was the administration’s desparate efforts to stifle the voice of the public by moving meeting times/dates at the eleventh hour was reminiscent of the Mugabe regime – not the same thing but in retrospect a bit OTT though I was quite pissed off on behalf of local residents at the time. Anyway, the Standards board rejected the complaint).

    Apart from Horsdean, a permanent travellers’s site is inevitable given Government policy. The issue is where geograpically and socially such a site will be most appropriate given that such a site will not be wanted by whichever local community ends up having it on the doorstep. Whichever ward it will fall within, the local councillors concerned will be under pressure to resist.

    Given that the Greens appear hell bent on the City becoming a haven for semi-permanent protest camps everywhere,the geographical options become even more limited.Perhaps we should think beyond the constraints of Council boundaries and work with other local authorities to embrace shared spaces which make more geographical sense?

    One area which immediately suggests itself is Shoreham harobur area where BHCC owns land (once considered for park and ride BTW but rejected) but is bang next door to Adur. Come on, how hard should it be to agree to a shared space which would satisfy BHCC, Adur and Worthing?

  8. I think it is sad if councillors no longer feel they can take part in discussions such as these as it is often the only way we, the public, get to interact with them. Shame that as candidates they want to talk to us voters in anyway they can but once elected BPB is not good enough for them. Glad Cllr Turton is still posting

  9. I’m personally rather ambivalent about the Steine camp. BUT it is clear to me that it is one issue that has made a bit of cut through in the generally moribund discussion of local issues in the saloon bar. I don’t think it will easily be forgotten.

  10. The worst thing from the Greens so far is the airbrushing of their manifesto commitment to ensuring the highest paid council employee gets no more that EIGHT times the pay of the lowest (page 3 green manifesto, headline priority 13).

    Since then, the Greens have been talking about TEN times… tut tut tut…

    Wrote it up at:
    http://free-english-people.blogspot.com/2011/06/brighton-and-hove-greens-breaking.html

    And await a reply from our green council leader.

  11. I am surpised Dawn Barnett has been allowed to get away with all she has done, relatively unchallenged. She has incited tresspass elesewhere in Brighton. She has tried to straightjacket councillors into attending prayers on a like it or not basis(most Lab councillors didn’t attend prayers in the 70s with no fuss made).

    Some Labour councillor(Brian Fitch where are you?) could have stood up for local residents less stridently and in a less inflamatory way.Someone could have stood up for freedom of expression and thought.

    Labour has been inept and cowardly and has allowed Dawn Barnett and Tories like Mike Weatherly and Geoffrey Ttheobald to do all the running in making political hay, while the Greens pile on error after error.

    The Greens will learn or be overwhelmed. Labour will deserve to disappear from political life in B & H if it cannot speak a lot louder than it has been of late.

    • I think a moment of contemplation, reflection (or ‘prayers’) before meetings should be compulsory.

      An opportunity for our representatives to remind themselves that they are servants not leaders (whether or not they are religious) – if they want to lead they need to persuade the public and then follow them!

      So how is this absurd meat free mondays thing going?

  12. Great to see Simon Kirby has stood upto the Greens and some of their Loony Left Policies that they are putting forward..where will it all end one wonders.

  13. Also interesting to note that the Council are sending out reminders to schools that any staff who take strike action will be in breach of contract, and will lose a days pay. I know this may well be standard practice, but shouldn’t our new political masters be sending out something a bit more supportive of teachers. Maybe the officers are in charge.

  14. Great to see all the reactionaries queueing up to villify the Greens – I just love the smell of thick-as-pigshit morons in the morning! 🙂

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