In taking on the St Paul’s protesters, Weatherley goes where angels fear to tread

A week is along time in politics, and the People’s Mike won’t have enjoyed it too much. Last week I praised him for his Man of the People impressions – taking up issues that, by pure coincidence, would appeal to the people of Hove at a general election. But then he backed a wrong horse, and his mate George Osborne let him down.

Mike Weatherley had said he personally wanted to clear away the campers in the Occupy London protest from outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Perhaps the good Christian folk of Hove will note this. Even that well-known radical churchman, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has come out in support of the protest. I guess he had to given his Boss said: “It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” I also recall something from my childhood Bible study about “the rich being sent empty away” and “Blessed are the poor”. Perhaps someone could assist me with some more accurate Bible quotes.

In taking on the St Paul’s protesters, Weatherley goes where angels fear to tread

But the big disappointment of the week for Mike was the downgrading of his meeting with the Chancellor, George Osborne. A press release from his office on Tuesday said: “Mike Weatherley, the Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, is to meet with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss the EU budget proposals.” Good stuff, Mike. Influential, eating at the top table.

But no. A correction was send out 32 minutes later from one of his aides, Momma Grizzly herself, stating: “Contrary to the earlier press release, Mike will be meeting the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban, not the Chancellor.” More picnic in Victoria Park, Portslade, than a Palace Garden Party, more go-carts on the seafront than Formula One.

And on the issue of Formula One, petrol head and Green councillor Alex Phillips hooked up with former world champion Damon Hill on Saturday in a Brighton to London race. Actually, it was a race to see who can get from Brighton to London using the least amount of energy. The car Lady Everton drove used the least energy. How many of us can say we have beaten a racing world champion? Certainly not the People’s Mike.

Greens continue to prosper where Labour fears to tread

Bravely, four weeks after the event, when he knew which way the tide was running, and taking his lead from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ed Miliband has come our, unequivocally in favour of the protest campers outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. Well, almost.

Writing in today’s Observer he carefully distances himself from the “long list of diverse and often impractical proposals” of the protesters.

At least he recognises that the Occupy London protest and similar protests around the country and the world as “danger signals” that only “the most reckless will ignore”.

Miliband writes: “the challenges that they reflect a crisis of concern for millions of people about the biggest issue of our time: the gap between their values and the way our country is run ….. I am determined that mainstream politics, and the Labour Party in particular, speaks to that crisis and rises to the challenge”.

Perhaps the first challenge Ed can rise to is to reframe “the way our country is run” to “capitalism”. He should name what we all know. What we are experiencing is the greatest crisis of capitalism EVER. The 99% believe one thing, the 1% – bankers and their supporters in the media and political elite – another. Instead Ed trots out cliche after cliche, carefully choosing his words so not to offend the 1%.

His second challenge is to support the day of action on November 30th. This will be the nearest thing the UK will have to a general strike, pathetic and limited though it is. Imagine if Miliband provided what is known as LEADERSHIP and called for an actual general strike on that day.

But Miliband won’t support this or any other industrial action. No Labour leader ever has. Nationally Miliband’s fence-sitting won’t matter. The unions will have to support Labour. TINA – there is no alternative.

But in Brighton and Hove there is. Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, was one of the first to visit the Occupy London camp, Ben Duncan emerged from his sick bed to visit the Brighton camp (a sad little gathering, it must be said). Mike Weatherley has been quick to condemn the Brighton camp.

Labour locally has remained quiet. Like their ‘leader’, they are waiting to see where the people are going so that they can lead them. (Can anyone source the quote from the French leader who said “There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them”).

People in Brighton and Hove have a genuine choice. They can support the People’s Mike (Mike Weatherley who would wish to personally evict the campers at St Paul’s), or they can wait and see what ‘decisive’ action Labour takes, or they can support Caroline Lucas and the Greens who are demonstrating which side they are on.

Rumour has it that the trade unions in Brighton are becoming disenchanted with Labour and are privately looking to work more closely with the Greens. It might be expediency given the forthcoming budget. But it might just be that the Greens continue to prosper where Labour fears to tread.

No Happy New Year, the only silver lining is the probable election of Caroline Lucas

The Archbishop of Canterbury is right: the last decade was gruelling. If we look back to the optimism at the start of the new millennium we have seen, amongst other things, the election of George W Bush, 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the London bombings, swine flu, and, most recently, the Recession.

So can we look towards the next decade with any greater optimism? I fear not. The legacy of Tony Blair’s obsession with war has resulted in both Britain and the world becoming more unsafe. The gap between rich and poor nations has grown, and between the rich and poor in Britain likewise.

The Recession will afflict us for years to come, with house prices well beyond the reach of ordinary people, the value of pensions for most being eroded, and the decline in job security will mean that we, our children and their children will be paying the cost of the recession and of Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come.

One of the greatest negative legacies on the domestic front is the institutionalisation of debt. Where previous generations avoided debt, through the introduction of student loans Blair and New Labour have allowed debt to become an accepted part of ordinary life, something encouraged and nurtured by government.

Of equal concern is the central role that alcohol is now playing in most social activities. In a report issued today the NHS Confederation has said that alcohol is placing an “unsustainable burden” on the NHS. Blair’s obsession with deregulation and allowing the market to set limits is not only hurting the economic health of the nation, it is hurting the physical health of ordinary individuals.

These are the legacy of Tony Blair. Gordon Brown had an opportunity to make a clean break from one of the most disastrous prime ministers in British history, but he failed to do so, demonstrating a lack of political acumen and personal courage. Labour should hang its head in shame as it enters an election year.

I would like to wish you a happy New Year, but the outlook is too grim. I would like to say that a heavy defeat in the General Election would be a just reward for New Labour, but the alternative, a Conservative victory and David Cameron becoming Prime Minister, is too frightening to contemplate.

The only silver lining is the probable election in Brighton Pavilion of Caroline Lucas at the General Election.