Who offers the better vision to inspire voters locally: Ed Miliband or Caroline Lucas?

Last week I wrote about Ed Miliband and his half-hearted support for the Occupy London camps, but at the same time distancing himself from some of their wider objectives. I concluded by saying that nationwide his feeble stance will make little distance because voters have few places to turn other than Labour. But in Brighton and Hove voters do have an alternative, the Greens.

As if to prove my point, Caroline Lucas has a letter published in today’s Observer that summarises the differences between Labour and the Greens far better than I could ever hope to do. She writes:

“Ed Miliband’s article was an object lesson in mealy-mouthed prevarication. On the one hand, he acknowledges that the protesters pose a challenge to politics to close the gap between their values and the way the country is run. On the other, he dismisses their “long list of diverse and often impractical proposals”.

“I should love to know which he finds most “impractical”: their call for an end to global tax injustice, or perhaps their proposal that our democratic system should be free of corporate influence? Or maybe it’s their support for the student demonstrations this week, or the strikes planned for 30 November?

“Until he can demonstrate which side Labour is on, Miliband’s assertion that “the Labour party speaks to that crisis and rises to the challenge” will remain hollow rhetoric.

“Indeed, the real challenge that the occupiers present to politicians like Miliband is that they are staging the debate that mainstream parties have been studiously avoiding since the economic crisis started – the question of how to completely refocus the values and goals of our economic system, rather than trying to get back to business as usual as fast as possible.

“I was proud to have been asked to address the Occupy rally in London last weekend, and proud to be able to say the Green party stands fully behind their goals. It’s a pity that Labour can’t do the same.”

Locally, I have never wanted to see Labour reduced to the rump in Brighton and Hove that they are today. I wood love to see the party challenging the Greens, testing their economic policies, and outflanking them from the left. The Greens have shown that they can win in Labour seats and May’s elections show that they have replaced the Lib Dems and are now picking up seats from the Tories.

In fact, they have been winning seats from the Tories for several years, since Alex Phillips won the Goldsmid by-election. At the time and for a long time after, I did not appreciate the full significance of her victory. I saw it as a sign of momentum that would lead to the election of Caroline Lucas, even though Goldsmid is not in Brighton Pavilion. The real and longer-term significance is that it showed that the Greens could win Tory seats.

The Miliband approach to protest, and the contrasting approach of Lucas, will have a knock-on effect locally. Labour locally just isn’t doing it. There is some campaigning, and collecting signatures on a petition to protect the NHS is worthy, but opposing cuts to the NHS is like saying that you are against sin. Where is the energy, the doorstep presence offered by Nancy Platts, now returned to London, or the pre-election profile of a Fitch of a Brian or Harris variety. Is the number 5 bus route safe for another three and a half years?

In activists like Caroline Penn and Penny Gilbey, Labour have the potential to become a campaigning party once again. But the Party has spent the last three months looking at its organisation, and a new paid organiser locally is unlikely to inspire the troops unless they have something to be inspired by.

The Greens are still seen as the campaigning party (although the burdens of office are showing that they don’t have strength in depth in certain areas including their 3,000 majority stronghold of St Peters and North Laine where, I am told, their councillors have been invisible since the election). The Greens need to take stock to ensure that the hit they will take from next year’s budget is not exacerbated by a lack of campaigning on the ground. The Brighton Pavilion Greens should look to the Hove Greens, such as
Christopher Hawtree, Alex Phillips, Ollie Sykes, Phelim MacCafferty, etc. to remind themselves how politics should be done.

So as it stands, Labour remains in the Doldrums. The Green wind continues to blow through Brighton and Hove. It is likely that in 2015 Labour locally will disappear in a Green Bermuda Triangle comprising Lucas in Pavilion, a Green candidate winning in Hove, and a Green overall majority on Brighton and Hove City Council.

11 Responses

  1. It’s going to be near impossible for us to find our way without the national party at least sorting itself out in some way. It looks as if Miliband doesn’t have a clue really.

    Lucas or Miliband locally… well we all know the answer to that. It’s not even worth asking.

    With regards to SPNL – they have NEVER been around! Well, not in the tightly packed student area that me and my family lived in. This is what makes it so unfair I guess, that councillors in safe seats don’t really maintain their presence.

    We all have ideas about how to “come back” in Brighton in the LP but really our victory lies on many factors. First and foremost great national and local leadership.

    You will see me out and about over Christmas hopefully. Not with an NHS petition but with a smile and lots of membership forms.

  2. Gosh you have such wonderful insight!!!

    “The Brighton Pavilion Greens should look to the Hove Greens, such as
    Christopher Hawtree, Alex Phillips, Ollie Sykes, Phelim MacCafferty, etc. to remind themselves how politics should be done”

    All of whom did not appear at todays rememberance ceremony.

    • What’s worse, not turning up at a remembrance event, or using the fact of someone having not turned up to make a cheap political point?

      • Whether or not an elected representative turns up at such a significant event is surely a legitimate area for comment. I was at the service at the Steine and there were several Green Party representatives. As Mike Weatherley was not there I presume there was another event in Hove – or is C basing their judgement on the wrong event?

      • Political my point is and cheap it is not, think about it before responding!!

        Dr Faust. I was referring to the events in Hove.

      • Maybe I should not have said ‘cheap’ but maybe remembrance day oughtn’t to be used to make a political point, full stop.

    • I observed the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. That is what counts. Rather than the bumping of it towards the nearest Sunday. I also very much think that, in general, private observation is more important than being dutifully public. I avoid “photo opportunites”. Better to be seen in person. Anybody can RSVP. I prefer a different approach.

      • “than being dutifully public”

        Sorry my apologies. I thought representing your ‘local’ community was about duty.

  3. BPB – you complain about the ‘hollow rhetoric’ of Milliband’s position, but surely it is the Green Party position that more appropriately fits that description. What does ‘an end to global tax injustice’, or ‘our democratic system should be free from corporate influence ‘ actually mean in practice? You complain about the Labour Party campaigns as like being ‘against sin’, surely the same applies. Who doesn’t want justice and democracy? As others have pointed out Ed is campaigning to lead the country and has to take a more measured approach. He needs to be continually pushed and Caroline can fulfil that role.

    Your cheerleeding for the Green Party has led you to rubbish anything that Labour do, and accept the Green Party agenda uncriticaly. Even minor issues such as Caroline calling herself MP (Brighton and Hove) is allowed to pass without comment. Would you allow the same latitude to Kirby or Weatherley?

    Labour has been looking at its structures – a very necessary step, and you fail to report the progress made, and energy it has begun to inject. Its far from ready to fight another election now, but Labour is doing some of the right things to recover. They will just hope that the first byelection doesn’t come too soon.

    Labour was only 1% behind the Green Party in May. Not a ‘rump’, but clearly facing an uphill battle to win seats back. However the reality is that when the buget is produced there will be choices that people can make judgements about. The Green Party faces particular difficulties in securing sufficient school places – probably a more significant issue to many than some more traditional ‘green’ areas of policy.

    In national policy terms, The Green Party has also shifted significanty since the election. From being the Party that would resist all cuts, we find Caroline saying that we need to find a middle ground between ‘Tory cruel to be kind austerity, and Labour’s debt fuelled spend a thon’. Where do they stand on overall public spending? What cuts would they make in addition to Labour’s should be the question.

    • At last, a full-hearted defence of Labour, one that I really welcome. Dear Doctor, you make some fine points with which I agree, some I don’t agree with. Your spirit is what I think has been lacking. The fight back starts here. BPB

      • As a committed Labour Party member and aspiring candidate for 2015 I have to say that it is satisfying to finally be able to challenge the Greens and hold them to account now that they are in power, albeit a minority administration. Much discussion has been taking place within Labour as to how we regain our local support and many new ideas harnessed. It’s not for me to say what changes there may be but they will be of interest to many and certainly make for some lively debate on the blog. I am very positive about the future for Local Labour.

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