Some of my favourite things about politics in Brighton and Hove

The Greens: Thank goodness we live in a city that has the variety of politics and an openness to new ideas that allows a party like the Greens to thrive and enjoy electoral success. As a tribal Labour loyalist who voted Labour in May, I can’t imagine how very boring politics would be if we were still locked in a two-party dog fight, year in, year out. The Greens are forcing Labour and the Tories to rethink their strategy and policies, and (who knows when) both the old parties may just one day change for the better!

Warren Morgan: Warren will hate to be included in this list but he represents the fighting spirit that remains in parts of the local Labour Party. I can rely on Warren to spill his Sugar Puffs each time I post my latest take on the Greens. For him, it is the Evil Princess and All Her Works (i.e. Caroline Lucas) that personifies everything that is wrong with Brighton politics. Without the likes of Warren, Labour’s decline would be almost terminal.

The Young Tories: Rob Buckwell, Michael Ireland, Mike MacFarlane, George Dore, Kerry Underhill, Robert Nemeth and the incomparable Momma Grizzly, Rachael Bates. The Tory Party needs ‘modernising’ but not in the Blair/Cameron sense (which are no more than a cover for the worst traditions of paternalistic old-fashion politics). This new breed of young Tories will help the Tories break with their past and will challenge Blue Labour, sometimes from the left. Momma Grizzly is an enigma: a right wing, anti-monarchist, pro-Palin, capitalist. Other than her anti-monarchist tendencies, she represents much of what I oppose, but at least she has a sense of humour and passion, but that could make her all the more dangerous.

Community Gardeners: These groups represent the free spirit of campaigning that has long existed in Brightn and Hove. They are bottom up campaigners that genuinely ‘shape place’ to use the jargon of the City Council. Co-operative and communal, they bring forward a model of how things can improve, without consultants and council officers.

Christopher Hawtree: Chris is the latest in a long line of characters that have graced and enriched the political scene in Brighton and Hove over many years: Dennis Hobden, Ruth Larkin, Doreen Radford (the lady who it is said wore a new hat at every Council meeting), Richard Stanton, Sheila Hall, etc. Christopher’s election sent greater shockwaves around senior officers of the Council more than any other result on the night. It is said his election sent shockwaves around the Green Party as well!

The Blogosphere and Twiteratti: My life was sad, lacking in focus, days passing into weeks and weeks into years. I am the shy, retiring type. But then I discovered a whole new world and made loads of new friends: The Ghost, Zombie, Doris Day (she never returns my calls), Baron Pepperpot, Momma Grizzly, Rosa’s Lovely Daughter, Dr Faust, etc. Social media has enriched the political world locally, although no party has yet worked out how to make the most of it. When one party fully utilises Twitter, they can expect to reap electoral success.

The future: I don’t mean the young Tories (see above) or even the impressive young activists in Labour (Harris Fitch, Clare Calder, etc.) or in the Greens (Luke Walter, Allie Cannell, Alex Phillips, etc.) but those who active in their early and mid teens, such as Pearl Ahrens. With committed young activists like her, we can take courage for the future health of the political process.

Report on Gender Equlity: Labour and Greens in Brighton doing OK but could do better

The comments left on this blog by Rosa’s Lovely Daughter, or RLD as we are getting to know her, has provoked a defence of the records of both Labour and the Greens but no response, alas, from the Stepford One, Jason Kitcat.

RLD responded to yesterday’s post by writing: “Your correspondents aren’t so hot on gender politics are they? I thought the Greens would know all about equalities. Stephen Wood says Jason’s comments were “good natured self deprecation”. I don’t think so. What he said was patronising nonsense. Ania got more votes, not because she is good looking, but because she’s a good candidate and because the voters like women candidates. They also like seeing women in positions of authority. That’s why I’m concerned about the make up of the cabinet. Fifty per cent of the city’s population is female. We need fair representation. Come on Bill. Sort it out.”

Neil Harding rallies to the defence of the Stepford One: “I did think Jason’s comments were a bit dopey and sexist. But give the guy a break, it had been a tiring 24 hours and he was probably knackered. I am sure he meant it as a bit of self-deprecating banter.”

Warren Morgan highlights Labour’s record on gender equality: “As you have raised equalities RLD, well over half of the Labour Group 2007-11 were women, and over 40% of our candidates at the recent elections were women. Two of our five new councillors are women, so six of the 13 Labour councillors are women. Our Group Leader is a woman, the Chair of our Group is a woman and our new Mayor is a woman. We’ve been pushing equalities and representation in the Labour Party for a long time.”

Allie Cannell responds to RLD’s call for Bill Randall to “sort it out”: “One of the main reasons I am in the Greens is because Bill cannot sort it out! He may be convener of the Green Group and leader of the council but he has no constitutional power over the party.”

Allie reflects more widely on gender in politics: “I think the lack of women in politics is a big problem though (partly because the reasons for it probably put many people of all genders off politics). I would say that the Greens are generally pretty good at attempting a balance though (I think the leader and deputy leader of our party have to be different genders for example). It is a shame that this group of Green councillors has a slightly lower proportion of women then the last one but its still at 40%, which is pretty good for party politics. I don’t know how the make up of the cabinet happened but I would be very supprised if it happened in any sort of discriminatory atmosphere.”

Stephen Wood sums up the position for Labour and the Greens: “So in effect, Labour and the Green Party are broadly comparable locally with our representation of women in elected office, albeit with us ahead on seats.  Around 40% is good, but as RLD says, this can and should be better. In my experience of it, the Green Party nationally is takes gender equity seriously as an organisation and is held to it’s principles by our membership.”

Stephen says that there is still much to do for all parties around equalities in general, such as broadening the demographic base of our supporters, “something which I am particularly keen upon the Green Party engaging more pro-actively with. If the wrong impression has been given in a throwaway comment about our commitment to this, then I would apologise – and hope that recognition is given to the fact that we aspire to represent the rich diversity of Brighton and Hove’s population in how we conduct politics and open up political spaces.  I’ve never thought that we had the monopoly on good ideas – if others are more successful at this, I’d love to collaborate to improve representation in public life.”

I conclude with a question posed by Allie Cannell: “What do you think are the reasons that less women get involved in politics? I’ve never seen someone really analyse that but surely those reasons need to be identified so that we can put the gender balance right.”

Jason Kitcat is condemned as a Dopeydrawers for his comments on Ania Kitcat

Some silly stories have done the rounds in the days since the Greens became the largest party on Brighton and Hove City Council and more will no doubt follow after they formally take over on Thursday. The Argus ran a sensationalist headline about traveller sites. Reference has been made about congestion charges (which, sadly, was not in the Greens’ manifesto and they are not, so I understand, intending to introduce such a charge).

This blog, though I hope not this Blogger, is guilty of scare stories, as this comment from Dr Faust shows: “The Green Party is committed to running services ‘internally’ whenever possible. Voluntary organisations and charities should be worried about that.”

But Green Dad is more measured: “I don’t think any charities or voluntary organisations need to worry about the Greens’ decision to review the Tory budget. The whole point of this is to avoid cuts to such organisations, who I believe have been invited to contribute to the review, as have Labour.”

I would imagine that the Greens, under the leadership of Bill Randall, are determined not to score any own goals, particularly in these first few weeks and months. Inevitably, mistakes will be made, but that is true for all parties. In fact, the Greens have made a misjudgement in their choice of Cabinet members, as pointed out by a new correspondent, Rosa’s Lovely Daughter: “I’d like your opinion. Unlike you I voted Green in the end, but I’m beginning to wonder whether I did the right thing. I like the fact they’ve got a female leader and a good one, but what do you think about this new cabinet? Ten cabinet places, with seven places for men and only three for women. And there’s only one woman in the three person leadership team. Amy Kennedy may be very competent as a deputy, but in a setup like this she looks like a token female. And why isn’t Alex Phillips there? She’s the one who won Goldsmid.”

Well Rosa’s Lovely Daughter (what on earth am I meant to call you, I can’t call you Daughter, nor Lovely, and you aren’t Rosa! Perhaps BPB will just call you RLD), my view is that Amy’s appointment is more that token, certainly there on merit. Alex Phillips’ omission is surprising, though not because she was the first Green councillor in Hove. That was an achievement in itself, but her omission is surprising since she is extremely bright and able. The gender balance is a disappointment and one that I would hope the Greens will reflect on.

RLD has a lovely take on Jason Kitcat: “He’s in the cabinet, but his wife Anya isn’t.. It wasn’t because she is a new councillor – new blokes were included. I’m told he appeared with her at the count clutching her hand like a Stepford husband. Anya got more votes than Jason did, but when the Argus asked him why he said it was because she is better looking. News for you Jason – we voted for Anya because we thought she’d be an excellent councillor…..sexist dopydrawers.”

I have no idea what a dopydrawer is, but I am sure that councillor Christopher Hawtree will enlighten me.