Dissenting voices should be welcomed by all parties

Politics, and party politics in particular, has a way to go to recover from the depths in terms of public credibility. Estate agents have been more trusted than politicians. I am not talking about expenses. I always thought that apart from excesses regarding duck ponds and moats, the debate about expenses was unfortunate. Elected politicians should be well paid and well resourced, equally so their support staff. Who would want to see Momma Grizzly having to seek out a second part time job down at Asda because she struggles to get by on the salary of a diary secretary for a Member of Parliament?

What has damaged politics is the party political system that favours party loyalists well above independent thinkers or those with experience beyond the political world. Too may special advisers, with no experience of the real world, get elected. The certain ending of political enhancement is to speak, let alone vote, with ones conscience.

This is particularly true in Westminster, but not unknown locally. Labour has a very sad record of stifling talent because it was ‘off message’. I am told that probably the brightest of all Labour councillors was Richard Stanton, a brilliant economist with a grasp of local government finance second to none, including council officers. He was kicked off the Council for his campaigning against the Poll Tax (as well as to settle a few scores for his support for the Troops Out of Ireland Movement).

More recently the likes of Joyce Edmond-Smith, Francis Tonks and Jack Hazelgrove found themselves at odds with the party establishment. How Labour would benefit from their likes again.

But all is not lost for Labour. Far from it. They have, in the wings, a number of excellent activists who have an element of independence of thought yet committed to the Party’s cause. To be successful in the local elections in 2015 the Labour Party will need to reach out well beyond its ranks and engage with those not yet supporters and, possibly more importantly, those who were once supporters, members and even activists.

The Green Party has achieved that over the past decade, attracting a broad base, from community activists (may I mention library campaigners?), LGBT campaigners, to traditional environmentalist types. It can cate unlikely bed-follows, if you pardon the expression, with the likes of Phelim MacCafferty and Christina Summers standing together, noted, under the same banner. Which is why I think the ‘process’ started against councillor Summers is ill-judged.  There is little the public likes less is the appearance of internal party divisions and the suppression of independent thought amongst elected representation.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have created an eclectic group of councillors, from Tory-grandee types like Geoffrey Theobald to street fighters represented by Graham Cox. It is an uneasy coalition, one that ultimately could split. Indeed, where Labour has had the foresight to create a single district party, the Tories remain divided between the Hove and Brighton Pavilion association on the one had and the Kemptown association on the other.
But where the Conservatives appear weak is the damning of each and everything that the Greens say. Their opposition, and the of their MP’s , to everything the Green Administration does, weakens them since, frankly, I am bored of the press releases put out in the name of Mike Weatherley by Momma Grizzly and the other Bright Young Things between their shifts at Asda.

Some Labour activists fall into this trap as well. I would rather hear positive stories from Labour about their plans and policies. I have enough independence of thought to make my mind up about how the Green Administration is doing. Perhaps Labour could produce and widely consult on a range of policies that could form the basis of its 2015 manifesto. But if it is to do that, it must be more than lip-service, and party officers should not be looking for approval from their masters in Westminster.

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2 Responses

  1. You begin by echoing some of my well-aired recent snarlings about political parties. But end by looking to them for salvation!

    There is serious change in the wind. In London a Westminster City Council ward went ‘parish’! I follow a man on twitter who preaches the gospel according to parish revival and I’m paying attention.

    We need a way forward that dumps the party political system, whilst keeping some semblance of what it is supposed to deliver rather than WHAT it delivers.

    If a series of Parish Councils sent representatives to a ‘full council’ in this city and these Parish Councils consisted of local people with non-political experience and agendas (not all business types like Murnagh, French or Holland either, though Holland perhaps has something to offer beyond Scientology in view of his own successes), we might actually get more than just members of political clubs having the gall to be Chairing important Committees pretending they know what they are on about.

    The days of Party-Poitical lickspittles taking the tax payers shilling and whuff, whuff, whuffing about sod-all as they never say boo to the goose and just prop up their ambitious ‘leaders’ has Got To Go.

  2. This is a great post. I think that parties have their place in politics but the tribalism and unthinking dogma that goes along with them is a high price to pay for an unavoidable (to my mind) evil.

    It may well be that the Greens need to part ways with one of their councillors but it’s the way in which they do that that will be most telling. You’re right that voters don’t like to see parties in disarray slagging each other off (even though they do like to see parties as a place where alternative views are being put, sometimes strongly).

    It seems to me that any parting of the ways needs to be done without slurs, smeers or damning each other to hell – which requires the kind of discipline and strategic thinking that not everyone possesses. I’ve a feeling that this episode will, needlessly, end up being a black mark on the Greens record if they can’t rain in those who want to go full rant and rave even though I think it may mean a parting of the ways.

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