Local politics – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

My long, and meandering road back to Labour, a party I have supported since my teenage years is almost complete, I just need to seal the event with 4 crosses on May 7th next year. Many a slip twixt, etc. but I should get there.

I left Labour as a result of the vote, on 18th March 2003, rubber-stamping Blair’s vanity project, the senseless invasion of ‘Narnia’ (apparently its bad form to mention <*redacted*> , the name of the target country. It marks one out as a closet Green and deeply suspect; so one of my first lessons on the long road back was ‘don’t mention the war’).

So, in 2003, I went first to the Lib Dems (yes, embarrassing I know) and then The Green Party (not embarrassing at all).

I have always been amused how different local politics is from its Westminster sibling; very much the ugly, but more interesting, sister, bitchy, cliquey, full of in-fighting and intrigues, but also possessing some marvellous selfless individuals giving up much of their own time to spread the message and push for a Labour victory.

The range of characters, not just Labour of course, would keep a satirical genius like Tom Sharpe busy for many a year.

We move from silliness, to obsessions, onto pettiness and finally more sinister developments.

Take the Green councillor who persuaded her lover to climb a tree to stop it from being cut down, a decision she voted for. Then in the Labour corner, the two Oxford graduates, one with an obsession with sparing children’s, and everyone else’s, eyes from the sheer evil of bare breasts in a family newspaper, the other suffering from an intense, almost pathological, dislike of The Green Party, and seemingly incapable of avoiding a swipe at the modus vivendi of Green politics in his otherwise rather excellent blog, though much improvement of late I have to concede.

From my own experience on my journey back, I have been blocked by the aptly nicknamed CouncillorNo, the leader of the Labour group, for merely having a different opinion, blocked by one of the excellent Kemptown PPC’s more feverish impeys for daring to copy Nancy Platts into my tweets questioning Labour non-policy (well someone’s got to), a block that was preceded by a firm diagnosis that I am some sort of Asperger’s Poster Boy, hilarious but also rather insulting to those poor individuals who have to spend their lives on the Autistic Spectrum. eastonnicky

Personally I think I’m just a pain in the arse.

Then we have The Hired Killers Affair, an offensive and silly tweet by my local Green councillor, but still just only an offensive and silly tweet. The furore generated and hypocrisy of local Labour was jaw dropping and came complete with much ‘wrapping round the flag’ , the latter guaranteed to make me grab the vomit bucket (even more so as it came from Labour). Anyway, it was useful education from my point (I was still half Green and half Labour back then), if only in that it taught me not to ‘mention the war’ in defence of anything Green, apparently even more de trop than farting on a first date with Juliet Binoche (well I keep banging on about Labour obsessions, so one of my own for balance, the date not the other thing).

Moving onto the shady sinister stuff, the Leigh Farrow affair; haven’t a clue about this but it just stinks. Unfortunately the local rags are not much cop at investigative journalism.

A sample from the Brighton and Hove Independent…

“Grassroots members are particularly angry at the treatment of Councillor Leigh Farrow, the veteran party member who was suspended last month from the panel of “approved” candidates after a complaint that he swore during a private meeting with two fellow Labour councillors.”

What the f*ck. It’s our party and well swear if we want to (so long as we apologise afterwards, which he did).

..and one more…

 “During the period of the suspension, the Moulsecoomb and Bevendean branch will not be able to meet or conduct any formal Labour Party business.”

…and another…

“Mr Powers did, however, assure members they could still campaign for the party.”

Wow, heir to Mr Motivator (remember him).

’ Powers’, very aptly named; I picture a very self-important individual, National Health specs and an ankle length leather overcoat. Damn, I need to spend less time in Berlin.

So I expect UKIP to do rather well in Moulsecoomb.

Back to the Brighton Labour Party’s obsession with The Green Party; probably recognition that they still represent a threat, especially in the centre of the city. To anyone not familiar with Brighton one could be forgiven for thinking that The Green Party took a thriving, clean successful city and totally trashed it – did absolutely nothing of merit, no achievements whatever. My personal experience of Brighton stretching back to 1979 is that rubbish collection has always been an issue; unfortunately for The Green Party it is compounded by their predominantly middle class indifference to the concerns of ordinary residents.

However, the endless repetitive attack on the Green record on rubbish collection and re-cycling is good electioneering. Pick a single issue dear to resident’s hearts and hammer it ad-nausea. It is a good strategy though rather grating to the fair minded. The national party could do worse than copy that strategy against the Tories (replace ‘rubbish’ with ‘bankers’); the Tories certainly need no lessons, witness the meme ‘Labour crashed the economy’, a lie brilliantly packaged and sold.

That the Greens never achieved anything in the past four years is of course absurd. Even the German National Socialist Party did some good stuff. I am convinced that the marvellous west to east network of autobahns was none other than good forward thinking so @testedbylife could effortlessly commute between Brighton and Berlin, without the inconvenience of speed limits.

To name just a few Green achievements, the 20mph zones, The Level / St Peters area, the i360.

  • The 20mph. long overdue though constrained by budget. Ideally more should be done with landscaping to achieve parity between cars, cyclists and pedestrians. For example instead of signs which get ignored and which the police don’t enforce, pavements, road and cycle lanes of equal width with cobbled roads. Self-enforcing.
  • The Level / St Peters area, totally transformed and just very popular especially with families with young children. The area around St Peters Church is a good example of lateral thinking. Remove the foot high fences, a deterrent to law abiding people but not to vagrants and drunks, introduce nice seating and hey-presto people start to come back.
  • My own particular favourite, the i360, and also probably one of the most slated projects in Brighton’s recent history. Objections tend to fall into three groups. One, a waste of money, two, suspect business model, three, inappropriate location and aesthetics. Re. the first point, the funding loan is from an external agency, with agreed payback (at a premium) from the private company engaged in development. Difficult to see how the funding could be used for, say, pot holes or school facilities, where’s the payback? On point two, the business model is certainly not risk averse, particularly to an economic downturn but all projects carry that risk. I would be more concerned if the company behind the project had no previous experience on something similar (it has) or has no reputation to lose (it has). Finally the last point, location and aesthetics. The location is apt, on the site of The West Pier and at the base of Regency Square; the new complementing the old. As for aesthetics, a slim elegant needle, with a width of just two and a half percent of the height, what could be more aesthetically perfect, especially if one contrasts with the overbearing hideousness of Sussex Heights or the huge concrete orifice that beckons cars into the underground car park.


The Labour Party argues that the basics must come first before any of the glamorous projects. Well they are right, which brings me to the Ten Pledges unveiled this week.

My initial take, sensible, sound, grounded and achievable; also dull, but that often underpins good stewardship, as a look at any well managed small town (even ones with city pretensions) in Germany will tell you.

But, just like man cannot live by bread alone, nor can a city with Brighton’s quirky unique heritage. So what will Labour give (assuming they win in 2015, probable but not certain) Brighton in terms of projects essential to maintaining the City’s profile. Anything at all; a 200 foot statue to CouncillorNo on top of Whitehawk Hill doesn’t count by the way.

As an idea, how about something bold on reducing traffic congestion. Banning all traffic from the city centre, with a new rail station at Waterhall together with a park and ride into Brighton on specially adapted shuttle trains.

Alternatively, holding an annual Wagner Festival in the Pavilion Gardens, something to rival Bayreuth; I can think of one or two citizens who would especially welcome the idea and I am sure our friends in Hove won’t mind too much.

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