Sunday, July 22, 2018

The perils of political seismology


I haven’t blogged here for a while because there is little of interest usefully to be said (in public) about the administration of shortlisting and selection meetings across Brighton and Hove – and not much time to think about other topics.

It’s just not very exciting to tell the tale of how a small team of valiant volunteers met over several weekends to interview dozens of would-be Council candidates, or how our indefatigable Local Campaign Forum Secretary coordinated 42 meetings (currently underway) – and the attendance of various observers.

Some commentators would, it seems, much rather pay attention to a squabble about a tendentious definition, or focus on division and disagreement, than note that we are plodding through a time consuming democratic process. Most Labour members are keeping our own counsel about the process as it unfolds, and most of those who have expressed opinions in public have been resolutely positive, as befits comment upon an inclusive, transparent and democratic process.

I was, however, entertained to come across the online meanderings of a Mr Tony Janio, who apparently leads something called the Conservative Group on the City Council. Councillor Janio, writing (as it appears to the reader) after a fairly good lunch, draws upon a passing acquaintance with the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel and a little knowledge of Ancient Greece, to treat us to his take on Labour’s shortlisting and selection meetings (by way of what appears to be an amusing self-parody).

“Across Brighton and Hove,” warns our latter day Cassandra, “the hard left Corbyn-supporting organisation Momentum is threatening the deselection of sitting Labour councillors and, following the local elections next year, will surely enact a grotesque socialist experiment on our city.”

In case his readers should fail to appreciate the severity of this warning, the Councillor offers a sober and measured historical comparison; “The original Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 226 BC. A similar political earthquake, I fear, may have a similar effect on our city.”

It is of course fair enough for a Tory to attack the Labour Party, and par for the course for them to get the facts wrong (there is no “deselection” in Labour Party Rules just the option for automatic selection and then for shortlisting and selection – and the whole process is being organised by a democratically elected Local Campaign Forum representing all Party members, in close cooperation with our Regional Office).

However, it comes to something when the Tory Leader in Brighton and Hove concedes, ten months before next year’s elections, that his Party has no hope of victory (instead warning of the certainty of a “grotesque socialist experiment”). This amounts to deflating expectations of the electoral performance of the Tories on a pretty grand scale (although he is of course right that his Party can expect – and deserves - to lose support from the people of Brighton and Hove).

It’s also a little ironic to read complaints about the possible “deselection” of Labour Councillors (however incorrect and ill-informed those complaints may be) from the leader of the Tory Group (who, you might think, would want the voters to “deselect” Labour Councillors generally and replace them with Tories – just as we aim to unseat every one of Councillor Janio’s little gang).

The truth is both less dramatic and more interesting than the imaginings of the Conservative’s amateur political seismologist.

A rejuvenated mass membership Labour Party, inspired by the politics of our national leadership and the 2017 General Election manifesto, is mobilising to select a diverse band of candidates across Brighton and Hove – and to prepare a socialist manifesto to put before the people in next May’s elections.

As far as I know we aren’t planning any “grotesque experiements” – but if Councillor Janio’s Party should manage to hang on to any seats on the Council I am sure that we can rely upon them to provide all the grotesque we need.