Labour in Brighton must stop carpet-bomb criticism of the Greens and raise its game

In spite of comments from certain Labour activists, neither your humble blogger nor my extensive and highly paid editorial team, are hostile to Labour. This accusation is made each time I make a positive comment about the Greens or criticism of Labour.

I have frequently said that I regret that Labour has been so lacking in opposition, has not articulated a vision, or that it does not have someone to rival Caroline Lucas. I have been critical about the ongoing personal attacks, as opposed to political criticism, of Ms Lucas. Such behaviour tends to be counterproductive, alienating anti-Tory voters and consolidating support for Ms Lucas.

Yesterday Lord Steve Bassam (@SteveTheQuip) said on Twitter that “I think local party is gradually becoming a political force again making the political weather in the City”.

I think he is correct. Over the last couple of months there has been a noticeable increase in the volume of comment coming from Labour’s ranks. The budget proposals put out by the Green administration has provided an obvious target, and Labour has not passed up the opportunity to attack.

The LOLA campaign (Leave Our Loos Alone) was a smart move. I really would like to know whose idea LOLA was. Please can someone let me know. You can DM me @brightonpolitic.

What I think has been unfortunate about Labour’s insurgency is that it has the feel of being the political equivalent of indiscriminate carpet bombing. Carpet bombing is a tactic of desperation, of last resort. It does the opposite of winning the hearts and minds of the population. Rather it alienates and it is destructive. It leads to long term resentment.

What Labour needs to do is capture the hearts and minds of people in Brighton and Hove. The Greens have done so and, notwithstanding the Westbourne by-election, continue to enjoy support. While the honeymoon for the Green administration is well and truly over, Caroline Lucas continues to be admired and respected.

How can Labour demonstrate that they are more than being merely anti-Green? First they need to articulate a positive alternative by publishing their alternative budget. If they wait to unveil it at the Budget Council Meeting it will be lost to public attention, receiving at most a paragraph or two in the Argus. Second, Labour must also stop carpet bombing the line of “Green cuts”. Does the Labour Party take ownership of the cuts being implemented in Labour-controlled Manchester or Doncaster, or do they blame the Conservative-led Coalition Government for the cuts? It is the latter, of course. Third, Labour must ensure that its leadership in Brighton is seen to come from its local leadership, not from the House of Lords.

I have sympathy for Lord Bassam. The frustration he must feel about the situation in Brighton and Hove has forced his hand, and at a cost to him personally. Those who follow him for his excellent coverage of the effective opposition being mounted in the Lords against cuts in disability support, welfare benefits and legal aid, must be being put off because of his Brighton-focussed tweeting.

Labour really must raise its game or they will continue to be seen as an ineffective bit-part player in the politics of Brighton and Hove.

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Mike Weatherley saves Hove Library

Previously on this blog I have mentioned a veteran Labour councillor who has made a successful political career from his tireless campaigning to save bus routes faced with the axe. As a councillor for Hanover ward in the 1980’s he regularly saved the bus that runs (ran?) up Southover Street, the number 38, I seem to recall. He will remain nameless, but I did speculate in the run up to May’s local elections as to whether he would campaign to save the number 5 to Hangleton where he was standing.

This is how it works. Draw attention to a popular service, like a bus route. Tell everyone that it is under threat. Launch a petition. Get publicity. Then, in due course, announce that the campaign has been successful. The bus route will stay running!

Now our mystery Labour veteran has a pupil, someone who is modelling himself on the campaigning style of Fitch the Elder. This is what the pupil, Mike, has done. Draw attention to a popular service, like Hove Library. Tell everyone it is under threat. Launch a petition. Get publicity. Then, in due course, announce that the campaign has been successful. The library will stay open!

He, whose name I dare not speak, is learning well. But perhaps it is time for him to admit that, like the number 38, there is no threat to Hove Library. At least Labour’s LOLA campaign (Leave Our Loos Alone) is focused on an proposed cut. Perhaps Brian Weatherley should become part of something real and join the LOLA campaign.

Time for Labour and the Conservatives to stop personal attacks and to present their alternative budgets

I am back from my Rip van Winkle hibernation. Regarding the future of this blog, I have paused, listened, reflected and … You know the rest. I will continue for the time being. This decision is down primarily to the daily pleas for me to continue from my three regular readers, Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave.

I think there has been enough now on this blog about Christopher Hawtree and libraries. As Geoffrey Bowden posted at 1.05 yesterday morning, everyone with views on libraries should contribute to the consultation by visiting the council’s consultation portal.

Moving on. Where are we at. Unlike me, Lord Bassam appears to have gone for at least 2 weeks without sleep as he attacks the Greens in Brighton and Hove for Tory imposed cuts from Westminster. It is a shames that Labour continues to see the Greens as the enemy. All I can think is that by attacking the Greens in such an unrelenting fashion Labour hopes to deflect attention from their absence of policies.

Ed Balls has made it clear what we can expect:

“My starting point is, I am afraid, we are going to have keep all these cuts. There is a big squeeze happening on budgets across the piece. The squeeze on defence spending, for instance, is £15bn by 2015. We are going to have to start from that being the baseline. At this stage, we can make no commitments to reverse any of that, on spending or on tax. So I am being absolutely clear about that.”

Look at Scotland, Labour hitched its wagon to the ill-thought through Tory referendum quicker than you can say Alex Salmond. Why didn’t Labour find a position somewhere between the Tories and the SNP? It is because Labour cannot see beyond trying to protect its own short term interests by attacking those to the left, be it the SNP in Scotland or the Greens in Brighton and Hove.

So why vote Labour …..? What does Labour offer that is different from the Tories? It no longer offers an alternative when it comes to pulic spending. If I want to vote for a party of austerity, I might as well vote for the one that is enthusiastic about cuts, about small government.

Locally, just Lord Bassam, There’s-only-one-Caroline-in-Hove, Warren Morgan and Craig Turton seem to be fighting for Labour, but their focus appears to be purely on the Greens. It must be difficult to be in the Labour Party when Ed Miliband is failing to make an impact, and Ed Balls is signing up to Tory cuts. I would appeal to Labour activists locally to say what there alternative is to the cuts imposed by the Westminster Tories. Please list what services you intend to put forward for cutting, how many jobs will go, and how you intend to make up for the shortfall in income resulting from buying into the Tories’ Council Tax freeze gimmick.

The Greens have published their draft budget, and are consulting on it. I do think their approach has been the most open, consultative approach to budget setting that I can recall. Credit to them there. I don’t agree with everything they are proposing to do, but anyone in control locally, Green, Labour or Tories, would have no choice but to cut.

So what is Labour’s alternative? Each time you oppose a Green cut, it is required of you to put forward an alternate cut. It is what you demanded when you were in control locally. Or are you saying you would not cut, that you would set a deficit/illegal budget? It is time Labour locallyshows it has an alternative (assuming it has one).

And the Tories, you too need to list your cuts. There are many who want to know how exactly you will obey your Westminster Masters and make the cuts required in Brighton and Hove.

One reason I considered closing down this blog was because politics locally is about to become very nasty indeed. I hate the prospect of the closure of services, making people redundant, new hardships.

So, Labour opponents of the Greens, please stop the attacks and let’s hear from you what you would do.

After the nasty attacks on Christopher Hawtree, I am considering closing down this blog

I have seriously considered closing down this blog over the last few days.  I have several reasons for this but uppermost in my mind is the tone of the debate over libraries and, in particular, the nasty personal attacks on councillor Christopher Hawtree.

The library issue, as with everything to do with the budget of Brighton and Hove City Council, is fraught with difficulties, and ethical dilemmas for those involved. But attacks on an individual’s integrity is not acceptable.

We should also remember that no party is immune from some culpability in what is happening:

  • The Tories and Lib Dems are imposing cuts of 35% on the City Council. There are alternatives, but this is a government with an ideological commitment to cutting government. That is a political choice.
  • Labour failed to maintain confidence of the electorate, are not mobilising opposition, are more interested in who should lead their party, and they are failing locally and nationally to provide a viable alternative to the cuts agenda.  Nationally, their political choice is to make cuts but not as quickly.
  • The Greens have made the political choice to form the administration locally, and to best manage the level of cuts imposed on them.

Within each party there are honourable people trying to do their best.  For many it is a question of compromise which, after all, is the most common feature of politics.  For some, it might lead to resignation.

I find it unacceptable to question, in such personal terms, the integrity, morality, even the mental health, of someone who is struggling with issues. I can only conclude that those who indulge in this political form of bear baiting have no positive policies or proposals of their own. It says more about them than the target of their vitriol.

We are fortunate to have the likes of councillor Hawtree in Brighton and Hove, just as we are fortunate to have the likes of the Hangleton Twins (Barnett and Janio) and many others who sacrifice a great deal to stand to become and then serve as councillors. Let us start all debate by recognising this, and then, by all means, question the policies being implemented, but keep the debate about policy, priorities and alternatives, or as Craig Turton always says, stick to the ishoos. 

I once referred on this blog to Thumper from Bambi who said “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say anythin’ at all”.  There are some who could learn from Thumper.

I am still considering whether or not to close down this blog.