The Greens blame Labour, Labour blames the Greens, and the Tories laugh all the way to the polling station

Yesterday I was upbeat and positive about the collaboration between Labour and the Greens.  Tonight they are back at each other’s throats.  This is how I see it. It was great that there was a shared approach to the Tory budget.  Labour and Green councillors were joined by Lib Dem Paul Elgood and independent (former Lib Dem) David Watkins, in voting through some amendments.  So far, so good.

It was right to amend the Tory budget, but that did not mean it was no longer a Tory budget, in spite of what the Grizzly One might say: “I am very disappointed that the Conservative budget proposal was voted down. It was, on the whole, excellent.”  The tens of millions of cuts remained.  Labour and Green councillors were then faced with a choice of what to do.  Together with Elgood and Watkins, they had more than enough votes to throw the whole budget out.  And there would have been enough time to review the Tory proposals and to come up with some alternatives.

But when push came to shove, all 13 Labour councillors abstained. All 13 Green councillors votes against the budget along with Watkins and Elgood.  A truly courageous group of Labour councillors would have seen this as an opportunity to make a real stand against the ConDem Coalition.  But it was not to be. The Tory budget, mildly amended, was comfortably carried. Andy Richards writes: “The opportunity which is being missed here by all of the non-Coalition councillors is to say to an increasingly weak and divided government, ‘we are not going to pass on your cuts’.”

There is a debate about whether it is ok to vote against a motion you have amended. It is no difference than abstaining if the vote goes in favour of a cuts budget.  Dani, as always, speaks sense: “The amendments were just tinkering at the edges of a £23 million cuts package. They restored less than £3 million – welcome, but not enough to make the overall budget acceptable.  Amending a motion you are intending to vote against is perfectly reasonable. It means you are saying that you don’t want to do what is proposed, but if you are defeated and it ends up being done, you would prefer it done in a different way.”

I entirely disagree with Ian Chisnall who writes: “If the Greens and Labour were not happy that the final budget was adequate they should have either tabled more robust amendements or tabled no amendments and voted against the unamended budget.”  Wrong.  It is right that Labour and Green try to make the best of a bad deal, but that doesn’t mean they then have to vote for that bad deal.

What will the consequences be? Immediately the prospect of any form of reconciliation between the two parties of the left has been lost, the likelihood of co-operation after May’s local elections gone.  The blame game has begun. Labour activists accuse the Greens of being unrealistic, the Greens blame Labour for selling out.  While I tend to take the latter view, the one party that will be laughing all the way to the polling stations is the Conservative Party.  They have their headline – a Council Tax being voted down – along with the defeated cut in the cost of parking permits.  Geoffrey Theobald ended with some egg on his face over the cycle path, but that is small change compared to the vitriol that is being expressed between the two opposition parties.

I am sorry not to have responded to the record number of comments left today, but the debate rages on in the Comments section of my last post which gave my knee-jerk reaction immediately after the end of the Council meeting.

Doorstep Brighton 10: General round up and more on the Mary Mears Budget

I have been overwhelmed by the reaction that this blog is having of late, not least the volume of comments, emails and direct messages received.  Apologies to those who I have been unable to respond to or include in subsequent posts.  A feature of the responses that amuses/interests me is the number of Tories who are reacting including comments from Adam Campbell (Brunswick and Adelaide, Maria Caulfield (Moulsecoomb and Bevendean), Peter Booth (East Brighton), Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates, Hollingdean and Stanmer) and Rob Buckwell (Estate Agents, Seven Dials, sorry Goldsmid Ward).  But they are equalled by Labour and Green activists, and the occasional sad Lib Dem.  I am aware my posts are getting longer and longer.  It is, in fact, your fault, Dear Readers.  I will try to make them briefer, but it may take longer to comment and respond to you, let alone post something original of my own.

Regarding the Mary Mears budget, Serenus Zeitblom makes a very interesting observation regarding the text of the letter to the Times sent by 88 Liberal Democrat council group leaders last week. “It’s arguing that local government cuts should not be front-loaded but spread more evenly over the next four years. In effect, that’s exactly what Mary Mears and co appear to have done, drawing on reserves to cover funding for next year while keeping the big cuts in reserve. (The Lib Dem letter looks rather Micawberish to me, founded on a pious hope that future cuts will be softened because something will turn up).  Strange – we all know that the Liberal Democrats are irrelevant in Brighton and Hove, but here are Brighton Tories implementing Liberal Democrat policies in apparent defiance of Eric Pickles.  If Mary Mears brings this one off it may be testimony as much to her bare-faced cheek as to her strategic sense!”

Andy Richards (do read his blog People’s Republic of Hove – stuck a bit in the 1980’s but nevertheless providing an important Unison/Left perspective)  takes issue with Rachael Bates: “What a joke. The council tax cut is being financed by a central government grant. I’m presuming that Rachael knows where the government’s money comes from? We’re paying for our own tax cut!”  And in reply to a comment from Rob Buckwell who had said he hoped that opposition councillors would not block the cut in Council Tax, Andy writes: “I am sure you DO hope the opposition parties block it. If it goes through, people will be able to reflect at leisure about what a meaningless gimmick it is. If the opposition blocks it, this will provide you with some short-term ammo for the election campaign. The Tories don’t actually believe that this measure brings any real benefit any more than anyone else does.”  You are absolutely correct, Andy.  It is why I believe Mary Mears to be a cunning political operator.

I recently asked whether I should lay off those absolutely dreadful Lib Dems, you know who I mean: the Party that betrayed the electorate over student tuition fees, the ones that have enabled the Tories to form a government, the ones who deserve to be at 8% in the opinion polls, the ones destined to be wiped out in Brighton and Hove come May’s local elections.  It has been suggested I might, on occasions, show my bias against that party. Michael Taggart writes: “They were amusing when they wore long beards, chewed dung and danced around Stone Henge in their shoes made of lettuce. And that was just the women. The nasty Lib Dems of 2011 are just annoying. I think it’s time to send them to Room 101 where they can be afforded space to come up with a big plan for a return to relevance.” ‘DAP’ concurs: “They deserves all they get; belonging to a party who have lied and mislead their voters (especially Students on tuition fees) and who are now carrying the Tory cuts through Parliament (however recognition here to Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd who voted against the Tuition fee rise)… A disgrace to what used to be thought of as a principled party… and as your analysis shows; i wouldnt be surprised (in fact; slightly pleased) to see no LibDems in the Council come May.”

DAP also makes a compelling statement regarding LGBT candidates being named by political parties: “Im glad parties have candidates who are openly LGBT. Im not naive enough to think that LGBT people in Brighton & Hove will vote for the candidates with the same sexuality as them (and i dont think thats why the Greens/any other party announce it), but openly showing than LGBT people can hold office and achieve great things is an inspiration to the younger LGBT community. Having more ‘out’ LGBT role models can be nothing but a bad thing.”  I agree.

Following my identity being ‘outed’ as Roy Pennington, Dan Wilson isn’t convinced. He asks: “People from all parties are asking me who you are Bappy. I have no shame in asking a simple question: Do you reside in the city of Brighton and Hove?”.  Perhaps the Ghost of Nobby Clarke is closing in: “Hove resident I think…councillor maybe.”  Maybe Hove, maybe a councillor.  But there again, maybe not.  Who knows.  In fact, who cares?  But a straight answer to Desperate Dan: Yes, I live in Brighton … or Hove.

A Hove councillor (who will remain nameless) recently told me that her campaign for re-election was going well (I predicted she would hold her seat in a marginal fight) but said that she wondered what my ward predictions are based on.  A bit of knowledge, an understanding of electoral politics, a bit of feedback, a lot of guess work.  My track record isn’t too bad.  For example, I predicted the result in the Goldsmid by-election well before polling day.

More tomorrow ….

A round-up of political blogs in Brighton and Hove (Part 3)

Apologies for the delay in posting part 3 of my occasional round-up of Brighton (and Hove) political blogs.

Jason Kitcat writes one of the more interesting local blogs, as expected from one of the more interesting councillors.  There has been some focus, understandable, on the case brought against him by vindictive and narrow-minded Tory, Ted Kemble. I was delighted to see that Councillor Kitcat has been cleared this week by an independent Tribunal.  But Jason’s blog provides interesting and informative coverage of the Council and the cuts.  He even provides links to the occasional YouTube video of Geoffrey Theobald! Jason Kitcat’s blog is good news for the blogosphere, and Jason Kitcat is good news for the City Council.

Paul Perrin is a nice man but why on earth has he got such extremist views?  Paul should feel at home in the Tory Party, but he believes the Conservatives are far too pro-Europe, something the rest of us think is a laughable position.  Instead he remains in UKIP where all he can do is snipe from the sidelines.  His blog “Free People of England” describes the Conservatives as “the new party of the left” and refers back to speech made at a Tory Party conference in 1977.  It may have been a speech by William Hague, but he was a child then, for goodness sake. Have a look at his blog, but don’t let it convince you – not through argument but by comparison – that the Tories are a moderate party.

Andy Richards’ blog, People’s Republic of Hove, is a straightforward, uncomplicated, unreconstructed blog of the old left, and Andy is a straightforward, uncomplicated, unreconstructed activist of the left.  His blog provides a good reminder of the left in its glory days of the 1980’s.  I agree with much of what he says, but feel that he does little more than preach to the converted.  I hope he can prove me wrong, but I suspect he is leading the left and his union members to an heroic defeat.

Paul Elgood’s Brunswick Blog is little more than an electronic version of a Liberal Focus leaflet.  The blog tries, and fails, to reassure voters that the Lib Dems are anything other than the party that has made it possible for the Tories to destroy public services by making unprecendented cuts.  Danny Alexander, David Laws, Nick Clegg, Vince Cable are, I believe, Lib Dems.  No, Paul, it won’t wash.  Thank you for your service to the City, and enjoy your political retirement.

And then there is the Brighton Politics Blogger.  It has been described as “a load of twaddle”, “clearly narcissistic and inconsequential”, “superficial, snide and irrelevant”, and “it  is just not very good”.  What do you think?

The balance of power on the City Council rests on Preston Park, Queens Park, Regency, and St Peter’s and North Laine

So far I have reviewed the prospects for next May’s local elections of every ward in Brighton and Hove other that Preston Park, Queens Park, Regency and St Peter’s and North Laine.

I predict that Labour will regain the two seats lost in May 2007 in North Portslade and South Portslade but will not be successful in Hangleton and Knoll (Labour might just grab one seat but certainly not all three).

I think that the Tories will hold Hangleton and Knoll and gain a seat in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, as well as weigh in heavily in their traditional strongholds.  In spite of the optimism of Christopher Hawtree and Maxxxxie, I can’t in all truth think that defeats for the Tories in Patcham and Rottingdean Coastal are possibilities.  But good luck to the Save the Lido campaigners, nevertheless.

And while I am about it, thanks to Andy Richards for correcting my poor knowledge of the electoral history of Hove.  He writes: “Labour had all three Hove Borough seats in Wish from 1995 to 1997, and held 2 of them in the first years of the new unitary council. Heather James later won a seat there for Labour in a by-election. I don’t need to rely on Wiki……I was the Labour election agent for some of that time!”   He adds: “The Lib Dems held the Westbourne County Council seat for some time in the 80′s/90′s.”  Thanks, Andy, I stand corrected.

Finally, Andy Richards askes: “If anyone can think of a single independent thing the “Independent” Jayne Bennett has ever done, do tell!”.  From memory, Andy, I think Jayne resigned the Tory whip in order to head the successful campaign to retain a breast cancer unit in Brighton.  She felt being a party politician would undermine the campaign.  I personally think the Council would do well to have more independents, including single issue campaigners who could focus on that issue as well as representing their ward constituents.

Back to my predictions.  The Greens could win Brunswick and Adelaide, and pick up the other two seats in Goldsmid.  Most interestingly, the Greens could pick up two seats in Hollingbury and Stanmer.

Should all this happen, and should all other seats remain with the party currently in place, it would give the Tories 19 seats, Labour 14 and the Greens 10.  It is what will happen in Preston Park, Queens Park, Regency, and St Peters and North Laine where the final eleven seats are up for grabs.

Labour currently holds 2 of these seats, but will be keen to keen return 6 of these 11 councillors. The Greens currently hold 9 of these seats, having displaced Labour in areas like Queens Park and one of the Preston Park seats.  They will be looking to win all 11 to make them the biggest Party on the Council.  As for the Tories, their best chance of picking up seats from these wards will be in Preston Park and, in a good year for them, the two Regency seats.

I will continue my review tomorrow with a look at St Peters and North Laine.

Review of Brighton Blogs

There are eight regular political blogs in Brighton and Hove.  All are worth a look.  Here is my take on these eight:

Ben Duncan, Green candidate for Brighton Kemptown and councillor in Queens Park Ward, is the most regular political blogger locally. Worth reading each day, although he might like to consider length and should ask himself if everything in each post is worth saying.

Jason Kitcat, Green councillor for Regency Ward, is also a most regular blogger, but of more interst to Green Party members than real people. He can go on, and on, and on about certain subjects, and I am sure he finds it all fascinating. Some of his stuff, however, is spot on.

Mary Mears, Conservative Leader of the City Council, posts weekly, although it mostly lacks politics!  It is as if her entries are drafted by the press office at King’s House. 

Nancy Platts, Labour candidate in Brighton Pavilion, has a cluttered but energetic sight, although without any dates it is difficult to know how up to date it is. She uses photographs well, and demonstrates that she knows where Crabtree Avenue is!

Neil Harding was, until 25th August, the most regular of bloggers but since then, nothing. Is he ok? His blogs are missed.

Andy Richards‘ People’s Republic of Hove is a regular and opinionated blog (both are a good thing).  He is still fighting battles of the 1980’s (not a good thing) and his blog reflects an increasingly marginalised view, but it is still well worth reading. 

Paul Elgood writes the Brunswick Blog but it is as exciting as an out of date edition of Liberal Focus.  If you want to know what letters the 2 Lib Dem councillors have written, and which meeting they have attended, then this is the blog for you.

And finally, there is the Brighton Politics Blog, always wonderful, original, inspirational, and ever so humble.