Is Jason Kitcat right to be seeking selection as a candidate for the European elections?

The decision of the leader-elect of the Green Party in Brighton and Hove, Jason Kitcat, to put his name forward for the panel for candidates for the European Parliament is, unsurprisingly, attracting criticism. Conservative councillor Graham Cox, for example, has tweeted “New Green Council leaders pledge lasted 14 days. Already trying to leave for Brussels.” He tweeted later “Why are the Green leaders so keen to head for Brussels? Are they bored with us locals in Brighton and Hove already?”

It is inevitable that a newly elected administration will make some mistakes and it is expected that some of what they do will be misinterpreted and misrepresented. However, some things can be avoided. Putting one’s name forward for election to a different body within weeks of being chosen to be your party’s leader on a local authority is something that could have been avoided.

Questions were raised when the current leader, Bill Randall, decided to stand down after just one year in office. He is likely to be formally elected as the Mayor at the May Council Meeting. I personally understand why councillor Randall has made his decision. As you would expect with someone like councillor Randall, it was done for very proper reasons and came as no surprise to many, including this Blogger.

Should councillor Kitcat be elected in 2013 to the European Parliament, the Greens on the City Council will have their third leader in just over a year. I for one would hope that councillor Kitcat withdraws his name from the Green list for the European Parliament in order to focus on leading the Greens up to and beyond the City Council elections in 2015. He is extremely able and should he go to the European Parliament, he would be a huge loss to the City as there are few to match his ability.

9 Responses

  1. Perhaps Cllr. Kitcat is a bit too ambitious. I would say his overblown opinion of himself overides his actual ability. The fact that he has applied to become an EU candidate at the same time as taking over as leader, gives the impression that he is more interested in his own trajectory rather than running this city.

    His ambition is to be admired, but he is mishandling his current brief so badly, that he might find that in 2013 he will have to return to his previous day job.

    • I would not agree that councillor Kitcat has an “overblown opinion of himself”. I have a high regard for him and his abilities. Being leader of Brighton and Hove City Council is more important than being an MEP and his talents will be better used serving the City as Leader of its Council than disappearing as an MEP.

  2. If running Brighton and Hove isn’t Mr Kitcat’s #1 priority he should step down immediately.

    He clearly thinks the city can do perfectly well without him (and is entirely correct in that assessment).

    It would almost worth voting Green in the euro elections to get rid of him (almost…).

    A careerist politician like all the rest – the Greens who resigned from the party after the Brighton and Hove budget are shown to have been 100% correct in their assessment.

  3. Hmmm. It’s very hard to see this in a positive light. Considering they invested such resources and hopes in taking control of B&H council, moves like this show a surprising lack of interest in the job.

    It could be dismissed as simple political naivety, but that doesn’t really excuse it. What happens if (as is eminently possible) Cllr Kitkat wins election to the European Parliament? Given the investment of time that both roles require, and the amount of travelling inherent in being an MEP, I see no possibility that they can be done simultaneously, and so either the good councillor would have to step down from his leadership position after mere months in the job, or decline to take his seat in Brussels and embarrass his party.

    It was, in my view, a very poor move to put his name forward onto the list, and I echo the blogger’s suggestion that he withdraw it as soon as possible.

    • Is there any point in withdrawing? The damage already done – he doesn’t care about the city, he cares about his career (I hope no one is surprised by that – it has been pointed out many times).

      In reality is shows an honest acknowledgement by the ‘top green’ that the greens are dead in Brighton.. a dead party leading…

  4. Just to be factual, all candidates (Jason included) seeking nomination to the Green Party’s list for the European Parliamentary election put their names forward last year… well before the role of Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council became vacant.

    • Really pleased to see this clarifier….but he could, in light of his election to replace Bill Randall in May, have asked for his name to be withdrawn. There is potential damage to the city Green party as well as Administration if his name goes forward.

      If wanting to be selected as MEP, he should not also have then stood for Party leadership.

  5. I’m on of your fans, BPB, but I worry that on this occasions the facts have gone a little astray. If I may, as a Green Party member, I’d like to offer a few points of correction:

    • It’s not actually the case that Jason’s MEP candidacy came “within weeks” of the leadership contest. His European nomination was made last October, long before the council leadership contest was even announced. His candidacy has only come to the attention of local political commentators this weekend (though it was never a secret) because of comments by the Conservatives and an article in the Argus on Saturday.
    • The Green Party has yet to decide whether Jason is actually a party candidate. Jason is on a list of 18 potential candidates from across the SE of England, only 10 of whom will be selected by the party in a vote (STV secret ballot) that will involve the whole SE region of the Green Party. Those 10 will then contest with the other parties for 10 places in the European parliament so whether Jason is one of those 10 or not, it is highly unlikely that all 10 will become MEPs
    • The European elections do not take place until 2014, so if Jason should be successful in the national European elections, the effects are nearly 2 1/2 years away
    • It is perfectly normal – in all the parties – for national and European candidates to come forward from councils. For example, Conservative leader Geoffrey Theobold was a general election candidate whilst a councillor, and another Conservative cabinet member in B&H (Maria Caulfield) fought for a parliamentary seat in Wales (hardly representative of Brighton & Hove). By the same token,Keith Taylor, who became the Green’s successor to Caroline Lucas in Brussels when she became MP in 2010, is also a former councillor and Green convenor. Jason’s commitment to the city would be undiminished by standing as a European candidate, as the European seat would represent the interests of Brighton & Hove.
    • The Green Party’s ability to win European seats is growing in the SE, so it is important that it should be able to field candidates who have governmental experience, meaning that they can represent the region effectively in Brussels. And the Greens’ popularity in the SE is growing hugely: in the 2009 European elections, the SE saw by far the biggest Green growth of any region in the country.
    • It is not the case that Bill Randall “decided to stand down after just one year in office”. In fact, he made it clear when he took office that it would be only for one year, during the Greens’ very successful transition from opposition to minority government in Brighton & Hove.

    I hope these points help to provide a context for the story.

    Rob Shepherd

  6. Councillor Kitcat’s departure for Europe should be gratefully welcomed by the taxpayers of Brighton

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