Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Saturday, May 04, 2019

The challenge facing Labour in Brighton and Hove

We did not achieve the Labour majority on Brighton and Hove City Council which we wanted today as the votes were counted from yesterday’s elections – and we lost some good comrades, both from among sitting Councillors and candidates in seats which we had hoped to win. This was largely the consequence of a “Green surge” which saw the Green Party dominate seats in the Pavilion constituency which is – of course - held by their sole MP.

However, because we also made gains from the Tories, Labour remains the largest single Party on the Council. We are now in a position to offer the smaller (though much increased) number of Green Councillors the opportunity to support our radical and progressive manifesto, which will make a real difference to working class people in Brighton and Hove.

Such an offer – if made and accepted – will challenge Green Councillors to help us embed a radical programme for Brighton and Hove for a generation – and to build upon the historic (and most welcome) defeat suffered today by the local Tories.

Exactly how (and indeed whether) this offer is made remains to be determined – and must be the subject of debate within the Party – but the sheer number of “mixed votes” at today’s count (where voters split their vote between Labour and Green candidates) surely tells us that much of the progressive electorate in our City expects parties of the left to cooperate to achieve social change.

The new Labour Group has a political composition which is closer to the political centre of gravity of the Party membership, and will be more conducive to building a strong and cooperative relationship between the Group and the Party (of which the Group is a constituent part). In future I expect that the Party will support the Group – because the Group will implement the will of the Party.

A year from now (for example) I expect that – before the Labour Group votes (at its Annual General Meeting) for its Leader, Deputy Leaders and other office holders, the Party will have had an opportunity to express its view about these matters. Precisely how this will be done remains to be determined, but it could (for example) be by way of a meeting of the full Local Campaign Forum, prior to which all branches will have had an opportunity to meet and advise their delegates how to vote.

It is simply impossible (for practical reasons) for the Party to be afforded the opportunity to express such an opinion before this year’s Council Annual Meeting (and therefore before the annual meeting of the Group). Therefore, the new Labour Group will have to take these decisions this year, without the opportunity formally to seek the views of the local Party.

We are at a time when Labour Councillors in Brighton and Hove will have to take responsibility for important decisions with far reaching consequences. They will know that the Party will stand with them to support them to take decisions which are in the interests of the Party and of the people of Brighton and Hove.

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