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.