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)

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Time for Red and Green to come together in Brighton and Hove

Daniel Yates is absolutely right to propose that we consider a deal between Labour and the Greens to run the Council in Brighton and Hove.

This is the right approach from the point of view of policy, and from a practical point of view.

There are great areas of overlap between the Labour manifesto and the Green manifesto.

Even before the results had been declared, Labour Councillor Nancy Platts was calling for cross-party cooperation to address the climate emergency.

The objectives of the Labour Group and the Green Group on the City Council as set out in their manifestos have a very great deal in common.

From a practical point of view also, in terms of running the Council, it makes a great deal of sense to try to create a stable political majority.

With a hung Council and a minority administration (which has been the experience in Brighton and Hove since 2003) senior officers are greatly empowered.

Now, I have nothing at all against local government officers. I am one. However, the senior officers of a local authority are not a force for radical political change.

If elected Councillors want to achieve radical political objectives they need to be able to give clear political direction to officers, who need to know that the politicians are in charge.

Without the authority which comes from stable majority backing in the Council chamber, politicians lack the strength to steer officers in any direction which officers may not want to go.

This understanding was one of the reasons why we wanted a Labour majority Council. I should imagine that members of the Green Party would have liked a Green majority Council for the same reason.

The people of Brighton and Hove, asked to choose between these options, gave us 20 Labour Councillors and the Greens 19. It is now time for these 39 Councillors to come together to drive forward the radical policies which local people support.

There will be a lot of work to be done to negotiate an agreement, on policy and in practice, for effective cooperation in the Council chamber – and (in the Labour Party certainly) decisions must be taken democratically by the elected representatives of the membership.

There are a whole number of hurdles which will have to be jumped by people of goodwill in each Party if we are to deliver the Council which Brighton and Hove wants – but today the starting gun was fired in the race to achieve this objective.

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