Where idealism meets reality: Brighton Green Party’s folly


brighton green eric pickles

I told myself, after last week, that I was going to leave the Greens alone for a bit. I also have a general policy of trying to avoid commenting on localities where I don’t have an personal interest.

I’m about to break both of those statements of intent, I’m afraid, because down in Brighton things are edging dramatically beyond the usual standards of crazy which govern things down there on the south coast.

The Green Party in Brighton & Hove have decided to forgo any attempt at rationality, and embrace fantasy. Which would be all well and good were they not responsible for the local government managing the lives of 275,000 people.

In case you’ve not seen it, below is the pertinent passage of the motion passed by the general meeting of Brighton & Hove Green Party:

It is therefore the policy of Brighton & Hove Green party that any budget that makes further cuts to local services should not be voted for by the Green Group of Councillors, nor abstained upon to allow it to pass.

Now, the Greens control Brighton & Hove City Council. It’s a minority administration, but a Green administration nonetheless. So the “budget that makes further cuts to local services” is, to be clear, a Green Party budget. As the blog post linked to makes clear, the general meeting resolution cannot force Green councillors to vote in any particular way, but given that several of them proposed this motion you can expect significant pressure to be applied to them.

When the budget does come to a vote then, it is likely that the ruling Green group will propose an illegal “no cuts” budget. The Tories will probably abstain, for reasons which will become clear later on. And the Labour group do not have sufficient numbers to stop it.

So what happens if a legal budget is not passed by Brighton & Hove City Council? Well, if a council’s expenditure exceeds its income, then it will enter bankruptcy. At which point central government come in and take over the finances.

That’s what this means. The Greens cannot, as much as they may want to, wish away budget cuts from central government. How I would like that to be possible. Nobody relishes making cuts, but the first responsibility of any elected representative is to deliver the best for the residents that they represent.

Answer me this: do the Greens really think that turning the budget-setting for Brighton & Hove will be fairer under Eric Pickles?

The worst part, from my perspective, is that we the warned about this. When the Greens campaigned in 2011 on a no-cuts platform, when I lived in Brighton, we warned that it was impossible. For the better part of four years the Greens accepted that, and at least attempted to deal with reality.

Not now though. Now the Greens have embraced full lunacy. They see themselves as revolutionaries on the cusp of victory, when they are in reality nothing but, to borrow a phrase, “Pound Shop Russell Brands”. Now, drunk on the “Green surge”, this abdication of responsibility is going to ruin Brighton. In all senses.

I hope that the Green councillors in Brighton will disregard this motion. For the good of the city they serve, if not the party whose colours they wear, I hope that rationality wins out.

I leave the Greens, in Brighton and beyond, with a quote from one of the best, boldest, and most correct political speeches in British history. They may not like it, I do not like it, but local government is often about choosing the least of all evils, rather than wishing yourself into a fantasy land of cake for everyone.

I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, mis-placed, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a [Green] council [inviting in Eric Pickles to dictate its budget].

I am telling you, no matter how entertaining, how fulfilling to short-term egos you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes.

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3 comments

  1. I think I would wait until the Green Group of councillors in Brighton propose what you say they are going to propose (which would be very soon, and in my experience, very unlikely) before making any comments – this is speculation as to how the motion will be put into practice (or *if* the motion will be put into practice – remember there is no whip) before it has actually happened.

    1. True, but several councillors did second the motion, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that some intend to see it through. Whether or not they actually do is yet to be seen, and as stated in the blog I hope that they won’t.

      I do, however, note that a great many sitting Green councillors are not standing for reelection. If the Greens do retain control of the council (which, admittedly, looks unlikely at this point) then this motion (passed, apparently, unopposed) suggests some worrying ideology behind the new would-be Green councillors.

      1. The 2015-16 budget will be set by the current group of councillors – and as far as I know has already been written to a greater or lesser extent – in the last few years the budget in Brighton has been set from December through to February through a lengthy consultation process – this article from November last year is, I think, the starting point for that – http://www.brightonhovegreens.org/news/budget-2015-cuts-will-hurt.html

        In terms of the people who might take over in the Green Group on the council, I’ve not seen who is standing etc. and don’t know all of the locals well enough to say which way it will go in the future.

        I think the important point is actually that the status quo is untenable – the proposals by Labour for a continuation of austerity are untenable – the destruction of local authorities through this process is effectively casting the most vulnerable in our society out on the scrap heap, and there are no effective provisions within the current system to do anything about it – this isn’t just a problem for the Greens, it’s a problem for local authorities all over – Birmingham, Newcastle and others have all come out and said that the level of cuts expected have become impossible to deal with, and with 4 more years on the way from Labour or the Tories, there are no real solutions in sight.

        I’d also take issue with the fact that you emphasise that the Green Administration is in control in some way, yet the reality is that the unholy coalition of Labour and Tory councillors has, on a number of occasions, conspired to stop them implementing proposals which would have helped, and in some cases, will impact on the most vulnerable in society – it is a minority administration, and it’s suffering at the hands of the Tories and Labour who both want to see if fail, and a return to two party politics as soon as possible – flying in the face of the wishes of the electorate.

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