Labour’s candidate in the forthcoming Brighton by-election, in Hanover & Elm Grove, has finally named a political issue she’s concerned about. She has declared that the Greens’ ability to disagree with each other in public is a “major issue”. Here’s her declaration on twitter and here it is recorded for posterity:
There’s never enough space to explain anything properly on twitter. Luckily, Ms Daniel has her own blog, which no doubt she’ll be using in the fullness of time to explain why a division of opinion is a major issue. Personally, I’d call it an advantage.
What sort of political class do we want? Do we prefer politicians who agree with their party whip no matter what the issue is? Do we want politicians to avoid any chance to express their opinions (if they have any) lest it conflicts with their party line? Do we really care whether a party governing at any level is united or not?
The Labour Party was famously divided between the Blairites and the Brownites throughout their entire administration in Westminster. That didn’t prevent them governing. On the contrary, it went some way towards showing them off as a party with real people in it, people who were ready to battle for power. That’s the way of politics. It’s the way it always has been and always will. Most people recognise that and expect it.
I grew up in a household which had Labour News delivered along with the weekly papers every other week (it was a fortnightly issue). The centre four pages contained letters from Labour members hell bent on discussing every aspect of their party’s policy. It’s editor, who was a friend of my Dad, insisted on publishing all sides of each debate. Then Neil Kinnock, of falling into the sea on Brighton beach fame, came along and set about expelling anyone with a militant tendency. Although only a very small number were expelled, a process of ending internal debate in the Labour Party began. Whilst the expulsions went ahead many more people just walked away. Socialists, every one of them. When no more scape goats could be found, Kinnock flailed around looking for someone else to blame for his unpopularity. He blamed the staff at Labour News and closed the title.
All of that happened before the internet got going properly. Back then the letters page of almost any newspaper was pivotal in local politics. Getting published there was the most effective way to reach a mass audience. Plainly,it worked, just look at all the old people still urgently scribbling letters to their local rag. For them, the internet is something that exists ‘in the local library’. I digress.
With all internal dissent eradicated, Kinnock lost his big chance to become Prime Minister anyway. Clearly, John Smith was less afraid of mass debates. Unfortunately, he joined the ranks of hard working Scottish Labour MPs who die of heart attacks on the train home from Westminster. With Tony Blair, the corporate world was convinced that Labour was free from any radical thoughts whatsoever. Their champions in the established media settled in and the rest, as they say, is history. Unless, of course, you’re a limbless orphan in Iraq, in which case it might only be your tenth birthday.
Labour’s obsession with refusing to discuss certain issues has led to the absurd situation whereby those remembering the dead in the illegal Iraq war have been accused by Emma Daniel’s election team of stirring up old news to harm her chances in Hanover & Elm Grove. It’s easy for Labour to be united on that matter because everyone opposed to the war either left the party or returned because they had no other social circles to belong to. They say they’re sorry but not so much that they will consider expelling the war criminals.
Before Ms Daniel gets around to writing her blog post explaining why division is a major issue for her, here’s some handy questions for her to consider. Since all parties voted for the current fiasco involving council officers taking political decisions, why is it bad that the Greens now publicly disagree about the merits of the strategy but Labour is silent? Isn’t the Green debate healthy? Does Labour’s silence betray a lack of any opinion, an embarrassment about supporting the technocratic approach in the first place or just a complete muddle about what the party line can be? Why is it better to hold all discussion behind closed doors? Why doesn’t the local Labour Party encourage its members to debate stuff by providing internet based chat channels like the Green Party members have? Since the divisions amongst the Green councillors have only emerged after the technocratic strategy was adopted with Labour’s support, how could those divisions have contributed to the bin strike?
Ah, yes, the bin strike. Yet again Brighton made the national news but this time for the wrong reasons. The division Ms Daniel complains about is between those who think it is okay to impose a pay settlement on council workers and those who do not. Which side of this debate is Ms Daniel on? She doesn’t say… the Green candidate in the by-election is very happy to state his position: he’s against imposing a pay settlement. That puts him into disagreement with the Green Council Leader, Jason Kitcat, but into agreement with a clear and consistent majority of his party. A vote for him is a vote against rule by threat of pay cuts.
Emma Daniel’s campaign has all the hallmarks of a Blairism. She declares debate an enemy, she hasn’t stated a single personal opinion and she cannot be photographed often enough beside overflowing bins, despite her not yet taking a position on the strike. Her party claims they want a negotiated settlement but passed up on the opportunity to make one, preferring instead to score petty party political points. Ms Daniel refused to criticise Warren Morgan for his role in that debacle and now blocks anyone who challenges her on twitter.
Is this really the best that Labour can offer? The party which once promoted democratic debate is reduced to claiming it is the very cause of a strike. Pointing at a problem, as Ms Daniel points at a bin, is good old fashioned grand standing. Nothing more. Will Ms Daniel ever express a personal opinion? Does she actually have anything to contribute to the debate she doesn’t like?
As regular readers will know, until very recently, I have been friends with the Labour candidate in the forthcoming Hanover and Elm Grove by-election. Throughout all of that friendship, I’ve always been clear that if she were ever to become a Labour candidate I would blog everything I know about her. Last week, I revealed that she has refused to join a trades union. This week I’m explaining her attitude to politics in general.
It’s worth mentioning that almost every conversation I’ve ever had with Ms Daniel has been about politics. That’s hardly surprising. I’m a political blogger and she instigated her friendship with me as soon as she decided to join the Labour Party, with the ambition of becoming a candidate. She’s been kind (or foolish) enough to invite me over to her house many times, she’s employed me to help redecorate the place, she’s chatted freely.
Every conversation we’ve ever had which involved the knotty subject of international politics has seen her asking me questions and me asking her none. Her knowledge of practically anything to do with the rest of the world is about as uninformed as the average UKIP member, although her politics are rather different.
Every conversation we’ve ever had about the UK’s national politics has seen similarly disinterested. “I’m only interested in local politics,” she has told me on more than one occasion. I’ve protested that local government is a creature of Westminster in this country, that local affairs are dominated by national matters and that all elected party representatives have a duty to understand all the issues because they will inevitably be influential in choosing parliamentary candidates. My protestations have fallen on deaf ears. “I don’t care, I’m just not interested,” she said.
When the subject turned to environmental matters, Ms Daniel’s exclusive approach to subjects she’s not into sharpened considerably. What with me and another member of her household being members of the Green Party, this topic has come up quite a bit. She’s pretty well practised at rolling her eyes during this sort of conversation. Once, she put her hand into a flat palm and vigorously waved it backwards and forwards above her head whilst making a face reminiscent of the cruel impressions from my youth of the estimable Joey Deacon. Doubtless, by that energetic gesturing she wished to indicate that she wasn’t the slightest bit interested. Another time she professed that during a recession no-one would be interested in the environment. More often than not, she adopted the thousand yard stare most commonly associated with soldiers on the Western Front in the First World War or simply left the room.
Having witnessed this carry on so many times, you can imagine my surprise when I saw the policies which she is promoting under Labour’s banner, during this election campaign. You can find them here but for your browsing convenience, here’s the page as it stands right now (before they brush it up by filling in the missing details):
Do Emma Daniel’s interests change according to whose house she is in? Click to enlarge.
Straight away, you’ll notice that Ms Daniel is associating herself with Labour’s national policies. Odd that, isn’t it? Perhaps she has had an epiphany and realised that whilst we can have local shops for local people, we can’t really have local politics without reference to the other shit that happens in this country. Most probably she didn’t tell the local Labour Party that she wasn’t interested in their schemes for the rest of the country?
Looking at the local policies, I gotta mention that she never mentioned any of these to me in our private conversations. That’s fair enough, of course. She’s perfectly entitled to fight for her party, regardless of what she thinks for herself. To be fair, she never specified her own views to me on local matters either, so it’s probably fair to assume that she didn’t have any particularly strong views on any particular policies. That is a little strange though, for someone who boasts of having worked in “policy”, whatever that means?!
I’m sure we’re all glad that Labour wants to tackle debt by promoting a living wage and credit unions. Caroline Lucas MP and the local Green administration has done much the same, by introducing a living wage for all council staff and by vigorously promoting credit unions. Since this is a two horse race, between the Greens and the Labour tribe, this isn’t really an election issue. There is no dispute and consequently no competition here.
The idea of a Park & Ride service for Brighton & Hove has been kicking around for more decades than anyone cares to remember. Labour has had plenty of chances to make this happen. The reason it hasn’t happened is that no-one can agree about the site for the parking. Proposing it without suggesting any sites at all is a bit like proposing that it’ll never rain on bank holiday weekends every again. It’s a nice idea but it can’t be taken seriously. As an election issue, it is meaningless.
The really exciting proposal is a kitchen waste collection scheme. Presumably, now that Emma Daniel is suddenly interested in an environmental issue, she has realised that such a scheme must run across the entire city or else it will be unfair in its application. It’s a great idea. What’s not to like? Well, she doesn’t seem to have noticed that the thieving Tory bastard government in Westminster is imposing massive cuts on our City Council. Every year more and more cuts are forced on our good citizens. Sure, they want their kitchen waste collected! Who’s going to pay for this? Ms Daniel isn’t proposing that they pay for it themselves. If they were willing to do that, Magpie would have stepped in years ago and run it for them. If the City Council is going to pay for it, how much will it cost and where is the money going to come from?
The only reason Labour can get away with this sort of uncosted pipe dreaming is because this is a by-election. If Emma Daniel is elected, neither she nor the rest of her Labour colleagues (they’re not comrades any more) will be able to implement one jot of this wish list because they will still be the smallest party on the Council, without any power whatsoever. Make no mistake, Emma Daniel is not able to offer anything more than just being a ward councillor.
The fourth policy overlaps with the first one. Is Labour proposing that the Council set up its own credit unions? I confess, I’m not sure about the law in this area. I didn’t realise that local authorities were allowed to set up their own lending institutions? Certainly, there are problems with public authorities lending to businesses in the private sector under EU competition law. The policy is nothing more than a sentence, so we’ve got no detail explaining what precisely is being promoted. Could it be that Labour dashed this stuff off on the back of an envelope? No matter, if it has persuaded Ms Daniel to promote environmental concerns, it should give itself a pat on the back. It may only be a single sentence but everybody’s got to start somewhere.
More affordable homes! How, exactly? In what way does Labour’s policy here differ from the Greens? Without any stated difference, this isn’t an election issue at all.
Oh look, another environmental policy! Bus travel discounts for members in credit unions! After the Labour envelope was handed over to Warren Morgan and Steve “Lord” Bassam for their agreement, did anyone actually think about how badly constructed this is? Who is going to pay for the discount? Not Brighton & Hove buses, that’s for sure. If they were so keen on discounted travel, they wouldn’t have raised their prices recently, and then raised them again, and again… Is the Council going to pay for it Emma? The cash strapped credit unions? How much is it going to cost? Introduce a policy like this and overnight everybody in the City will join a credit union. How many discounts do you anticipate? What’s the point of a policy which cannot be implemented?
None of these are credible election issues. All of them are grandstanding. Standing on the doorsteps of other people’s houses, Emma Daniel will smile sweetly and suggest that she’s one of them. Except she isn’t. In Hanover & Elm Grove the residents are overwhelmingly Green in their lifestyles. Will they be persuaded to vote for a meat eater, converted to Green issues for the convenience of this election, a candidate who cannot cost even the simplest of her own policies?
Emma Daniel is the Labour Party candidate in the forthcoming Hanover and Elm Grove By-Election. Over the last year a so, I’ve formed an unlikely friendship with her, at her instigation. I’ll be writing about her from a personal perspective on another occasion but today’s post is all about Emma’s grasp of the principles of political action, or rather her lack of them.
Emma Daniel is a hard working woman who is rightly proud of her career. “I was a CEO at 26,” she told me more than once on the first evening I spent in her company (in a pub, not at work). She’s been employed in a number of capacities and never been self-employed. Yet, oddly for a Labour Party member, she has never joined a trades union.
Until a month ago, I’ve only ever been self-employed. I was brought up to believe in the power of the trades union, in solidarity with working people everywhere and to support organisations which support other people. Last month I got a job with The Big Lemon and immediately joined the GMB, because it was obviously a strong union with a clear record of fighting for workers’ rights, which had plenty members in the transport sector. The fact that the GMB paid for Labour’s election campaign against the Greens in Brighton & Hove in 2011 didn’t trouble me. Trades unionism is just too important to allow political squabbling or any other issue to frustrate it.
Shortly before I started my new employment, Emma started new employment herself. Naturally, I asked her, “What trades union are you a member of?” Her reply astonished me, “None.” The trades unions have historically been the backbone of the Labour Party. It is fair to say that without them there would be no Labour Party. Yet here is Emma Daniel, who joined the Labour Party in the last year, with a job and no trades union membership. “Why not?” I asked her. “I don’t think they’d approve of that at [her employer's company].” “What on earth has your employer’s approval got to do with it?” Her reply was much in keeping with her character, revealing her Blairite desperation to be liked by everyone, “I think they might not like that sort of thing, they’d see me as a troublemaker. I’ve only just joined.“
Here’s a candidate for political office, who is basing her campaign on listening to the voters, to represent them. Yet Emma listens keenly to others as well. She’s so keen to please the local Labour Party hierarchy, that she refused to publicly criticise Warren Morgan, her political leader, when he published private messages between him and a Green Councillor recently. Perhaps that is fair enough, perhaps she doesn’t think Mr Morgan does anything wrong, perhaps being slavishly loyal is part of the deal in the Labour Party.
“You don’t have to tell them you’ve joined a union,” I pointed out. “I don’t know, I don’t think it is a good idea. No-one else there is a union member.” The union movement would never have achieved anything if all political leaders had adopted Emma’s attitude.
Emma Daniel is a political coward. She stands on the doorsteps of Hanover and says, ‘I’m listening’ and asks for the voters’ trust but she cannot be trusted to speak out for them because she is frightened of challenging those who butter her bread. If she can’t even bring herself to join a trades union in secret, she cannot be trusted to stand up for anything much.
The real tragedy is that the Labour Party has been reduced to choosing such gutless candidates. Being nice is not enough for achieving anything in politics. It’s a useful attribute but it doesn’t by itself wield power. There are times when a politician has to take a stand, has to kick arses, has to take risks. Our political offices are stuffed with nice people with nothing to say for themselves. We don’t need any more.
Today’s post is a deconstruction of a Tory blog post which is so confused that, had it been written by a comedian, it would be safe to assume that it was a spoof. Sadly, it was written by Councillor Graham Cox, who made his career in the cops, climbing the greasy pole and now finds himself flailing around looking for something to say to the good folk of Brighton & Hove. Reading it, you’d never guess that there was a by-election in progress. Let’s break it down with reference to some good old fashioned facts.
It has been a lovely sunny Bank Holiday weekend in Brighton and Hove. … The situation in the suburbs – Hangelton, Woodingdean, Portslade, Hollingdean, Patcham etc – is particularly bad with some residents going three weeks without their rubbish being collected.
Good opening paragraph. Factually accurate. Sets the scene for the post’s theme. Okay, he’s mispelt Hangleton and doesn’t seem to know how long rubbish hasn’t been collected in Patcham – it is more than three weeks now in places, probably because Jason Kitcat lives there – but perhaps that’s me being a stickler for accuracy.
… a two day unofficial strike by the GMB staff at City Clean, followed by a ‘work to rule’ reminiscent of the behaviour of the print unions in late 70′s Fleet Street.
Classic Tory nonsense. For starters, unions have frequently adopted a work to rule strategy, especially during Tory governments. Work to rule just means fulfilling your contract of employment and not doing anything extra. The English Law of Contract is the darling of the capitalist world, which is why so much litigation goes through London. The corporations love its unfailing strictness. Yet when a trades union adopts the same approach… ooh, it’s like when media barons didn’t quite rule the world!
The Green Party … are trying to modernise the pay and conditions of City Council staff, partly to comply with pay equality legislation (historically women have been paid less for jobs of equal value) but also … It really should be possible to have our rubbish collected on Bank Holidays rather than use expensive and inefficient catch up processes.
It’s true that the pay equality issues inside Brighton & Hove City Council are mostly concerned with gender imbalances but that isn’t really a fair description of the overly complicated pay structures. For example, CityClean, the in-house service which collects the city’s refuse, employs men as well as women.
So far as the claim that refuse collection and street cleaning on bank holidays is intimately connected with the present industrial strike is concerned, well that’s a new one on me. Remember, I attend Green Party meetings with Jason Kitcat and I have never heard him make that point. If Councillor Cox has had private conversations with Councillor Kitcat, perhaps we should be told?
I wrote here … on 11 May on how … the Conservative Group – are trying to be a responsible opposition on this matter. … Labour, … calls for the leader of Council, Jason Kitcat, to resign … arguing that the Council should cave in to the strikers. The reason the Conservative Group has not been attacking the Green Administration is that in broad terms we support what they are trying to do. … We think we would have conducted the negotiations more skillfully (as the well respected Mary Mears did when she run the Council), …
Prior to 2011 the Tories were running the Council. Equality legislation is hardly new – the Sex Discrimination Act came into force in 1975. The only reason local authorities around the country are suddenly panicking is because of a recent court decision that said these issues could be heard by County Courts instead of Employment Tribunals, with the result that claims up to six years old can be litigated over, rather than just claims from three months’ previous. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, you can’t expect a Tory to be up to date on employment law. When I say ‘up to date’, obviously they know that many forms of child labour are now illegal but other than that, pretty much everything passed after 1945 is news to them.
Claiming that Labour wants the Council to ‘cave into the strikers’ completely contradicts the facts. Cox published this post yesterday. Only four days before Labour refused an offer from a Green Councillor to help undermine the city administration with a view to ending the currently proposed pay cuts. It simply isn’t possible to claim that Labour wants to side with the strikers in the face of that fact. Presumably, Councillor Cox only reads his own blog.
The claim that the Tories would handle the negotiations more skilfully than Councillor Kitcat’s crew is utterly absurd. Firstly, Jason Kitcat’s administration has not conducted the negotiations. That is at the heart of the problem, as it happens. He handed power over the council officers. There’s been so much written about this delegation of power that it is literally incredible that Councillor Cox did not know this.
The claim that Mary Mears managed the negotiations better is demonstrably false by dint of two plain facts. Firstly, she simply abandoned them altogether. Secondly, if she had been so brilliant at them, the equal pay issue would have been resolved instead of the Green administration being obliged to resolve the problem.
The Council leader, Jason Kitcat, has written a blog post … This is well argued …
This is a straightforward attempt to embarrass Jason Kitcat in front of his own party’s supporters. Along with the clear majority of civilised people everywhere, they distrust the Tories in much the same way that we all distrust rabid dogs.
… the Greens in Brighton and Hove are divided, … as an outside observer they seem to be split between ‘realists’ and ‘revolutionaries’. The realists (and I include Jason Kitcat and his team in this) are liberals/social democrats with a commendable concern for the environment …
The local Tories have woken up to the facts of political life in Brighton & Hove. Condemning green politics out of hand has condemned them. They need to appeal to green minded voters somehow, or go out of business. This paragraph is the first step along that new strategy.
In many ways I am supportive of much of what they are trying to achieve. I want to see congestion reduced, the roads may safer, air quality improved, cycling encouraged and space in the city centre shared sympathetically between all road users. …
The Tories have objected to every cycle lane proposed in the city.
However it appears now that the realists within the local Green Party are facing concerted opposition by a Group of revolutionaries within the Party who have never been comfortable with the compromises required when in control. It is difficult to tell who exactly leads this revolutionary faction – it could be anyone of Caroline Lucas MP, Phelim Mac Cafferty, Ben Duncan or Alex Phillips. They are united by a dislike of Jason Kitcat, and a political outlook which regards Derek Hatton and Arthur Scargill as liberal compromisers.
When I last checked, revolutionaries didn’t trouble themselves with elections. They just launched revolutions. It’s worth noting here that although Arthur Scargill failed to hold a ballot for the miner’s strike, he did himself insist on more regular ballots for his own NUM post than both the law or his union rules provided for. Similarly, back in the day Derek Hatton was elected to office. What Councillor Cox cannot stomach is the idea that socialists can get elected to power from time to time. Nevertheless, having adopted the rhetorical label of ‘revolutionaries’ for a whole bunch of elected Greens, he needs them to have a leader. Obviously radicals must have a leader because, erm, the Tories always have a leader. If a radical group doesn’t have a leader, Councillor Cox cannot see it. He is literally blind to the facts. Presumably, so far as he is concerned, there is no Cowley Club, no critical mass, no vegetarians, no peace movement, no… well, you get the picture. It is Councillor Cox who doesn’t.
‘The compromises required when in control’ is a classic Freudian Slip. It says more about Councillor Cox than anyone in real life. Doesn’t he mean ‘in power’? Does he mean to say that he is ‘out of control’? What does he mean? Presumably he hasn’t heard of reading through what you write and redrafting it before hitting the publish button.
Last week they tried to remove Jason Kitcat as leader of their Group and of the Council. Ben Duncan tells the story of the attempted coup here and here in his recently relaunched, and entertaining, blog.
I’m glad that Councillor Cox derives pleasure from Councillor Ben Duncan’s blog, which I’m pleased to host by the way. Certainly he can’t have actually read the posts he linked to because if he had he would see that they are not concerned with any coup at all but instead with the actions of one councillor.
The local Labour Party also find themselves in a difficult position. Almost all their funding comes from the GMB, and they have therefore followed the GMB line. …
Again, if Councillor Cox had actually read anything about what Councillor Phillips had done, he would know that Labour have failed to support the GMB. Instead they have betrayed it. Labour & the Tories have run the council since 1975 but they didn’t cure pay inequality, they exacerbated it. This Tory writes as if anything that occurred before he won his by-election is irrelevant to his analysis. BC could mean ‘Before Cox’. By ‘act responsibly’ he means ‘support Tory policy.
Labour’s position is complicated further because their new leader, the very capable Warren Morgan, is actually an arch Blairite and supporter of Progress. At the moment he is going through that strange process it seems all ambitious Labour Party politicians have to do – appearing to be more left wing than he actually is in order to appease his Party. I have little doubt that in his heart of hearts Warren knows that pay and conditions at the City Council need modernising, just as he knows that using a mixture of in house, co-ops, mutuals, the community and voluntary sector and private companies is the best way to deliver Council services.
You can almost hear Councillor Cox unzipping his flies to release the pressure as those words flowed. His adulation of Blairism is complete. Announcing that the best way to deliver council services is to make use of every type of financial vehicle known to man all at the same time is a bit like revealing that the weather involves the sky.
I was surprised that Warren Morgan chose to reveal the confidential messages from Alex Phillips, rather than assist her in a way which would have ended the pay modernisation process that he professes to oppose. This tribal Labour approach – put the Party rather than the City first – smacks more of Lord Bassam than Cllr Morgan.
Hang on a minute, didn’t Councillor Cox earlier claim that Labour was hamstrung by the GMB and did whatever they wanted? Yes, he did! Yet a few paragraphs on, he admits that the new local Labour leader did exactly the opposite. This isn’t a proof-reading issue, this is now a question of intellectual capacity.
All in all it is mess. We have an irrecoverably split Green Party Administration and a Labour Party which seems content to sit on the sidelines and fire off cheap shots, whilst offering no alternative. All the time the people of Brighton and Hove see rubbish piling up, and face the likelihood of an all-out strike as summer begins.
This is getting weird. Actually Labour coined the phrase ‘irrevocably split’ in reference to the Greens but Councillor Cox now claims it as his own. He uses the cheapest of all rhetorical devices, repetition, to drive home his point that Labour don’t agree with him. I’m tempted to buy him some of Cicero’s speeches, to show him how to make an argument.
Someone tweeted me last week asking if it was possible for some kind of no confidence motion to be proposed, which if successful would lead to new elections. I cannot see how that can happen under the constitution.
Somebody asked Councillor Cox a question to which he does not know the answer a week later but rather than just side step that, here he is bragging about it!
But I do recognise that Brighton and Hove deserves better than petty squabbling from its councillors. I am therefore willing to work with anyone of goodwill in the best interests of the City of Brighton and Hove. The alternative is that we cede power to the officers and allow them to run a technocratic organisation. Some may see this as attractive in the short term – as a democrat I’m not convinced.
A generous offer indeed. Why on earth would any progressive want to work with a thieving Tory bastard? Even if they did, why would they pick Councillor Cox, who cannot string two logical points together in sequence, who cannot distinguish fact from fiction and who mistakes political debate as petty squabbling?
The message is clear: a career in IT in the cops is no preparation for politics.
A by-election battle has begun in the Brighton ward of Hanover & Elm Grove. The election date hasn’t been announced, most of the candidates are still undeclared, the sensible residents are out and about enjoying the bank holiday weekend. None of that troubles any self-respecting political party! Today will see activists from the two main contenders – Labour & Green – pounding the glorious uninhabited streets of Hanover. Why are they doing this? There are two reasons.
The first reason is that both parties are desperate to win the by-election. The local Labour party knows that a win for it will redeem itself with its national party. In 2011, its electoral strategy in Brighton & Hove proved disastrous. It ended up in third place, with the least number of seats on the council. Being defeated by the Greens was extremely embarrassing in Labour circles. Humiliating even. Their comrades in the rest of the country laughed out loud at the seaside sideshow. The Greens know that losing a ward seat now will increase the workload on an already pressured minority administration. Although they ‘won’ the last elections, they didn’t win enough seats to spread the resulting jobs properly. Winning this election will also boost their moral because their chosen candidate has promised not to support the rogue elements in the City Council administration.
The second reason is that both the main parties are well aware of their inherent capacity for being boring. Tedium is a very modern disease. Whereas fashionable people in the sixties celebrated sitting around doing nothing, nowadays vacuity is socially unacceptable. Unfortunately, the sort of people who pitch for public relations’ jobs tend to be the most tedious types. The grass roots activists tend to be far more interesting souls than those who are in charge of their media output. So the activists are hitting the streets now, before the election has begun properly, to warm up their lines, to liven up their twitter feeds and to get the debate started before the PR people wade in and spoil the party.
It’s competition time: who will make the most tedious tweet of this by-election? I’ll be the judge, since everybody knows that I’m not particularly beholden to my own party’s public relations policy. You can nominate any twitter account you like, whether it is personal or party, whether by an activist or an armchair warrior. Anyone can nominate anyone. I’ll post the nominations here. Hashtag: #HEG13Tedium if you’re into completely transparent communications only. The prize will be a guest post here. I’ll kick off with this strong contender from the official Labour feed, which compounds its problems with a spelling error in the second word:
There will shortly be a bye-election in the ward of Hanover & Elm Grove in Brighton, following the long expected resignation of Councillor Matt Follett. Mr Follett, a criminology lecturer at Brighton University, has moved away from Brighton, which is why the Green Party has persuaded him to step down from office. Few recent joiners to the Green Party even knew who he was, so little did he grace their company with his. If you want to represent the good folk of Brighton, you have to be one of the good folk of Brighton!
I’ve cancelled my holiday to campaign for David Gibson
I’m especially pleased to report that Brighton & Hove Green Party has selected David Gibson to be their candidate in the forthcoming bye-election. My particular pride in his selection stems from the fact that Mr Gibson is a proper Green, by which I mean he is very concerned about both the environment and social justice. He is unequivocally committed to the local Green Party’s policy of opposing pay cuts for the lowest paid workers employed by the council. Although I don’t know him very well, I have met him and can endorse his political position on that crucial issue. In other words, he isn’t going to support the rogue administration which currently governs Brighton & Hove City Council in the name of the Green Party.
The bye-election in Hanover & Elm Grove will be a straight fight between the Green Party and the Labour Party. The thieving Tory bastards will put up a candidate but won’t bother wasting any time or effort campaigning there. They might spend a bit of cash on election literature but that’s just because, for them, money is as easy to come as it is for the banking industry. The Liberal Democrats were eradicated from Brighton’s political life a long time ago. They’ll probably put up a candidate, to keep up appearances but no-one will appear on the streets of Brighton’s grooviest residential quarter in their name. UKIP can be expected to field a candidate too because they have to spend their millionaire’s donations on something. We might even get a rare glimpse of Paul Perrin pounding the streets, if his Mum lets him out the house. (If you follow that link, you’ll see that he uses the shittiest website you’ve seen this century to claim that he is a website designer.) The council has published the results from the ward in the 2011 election on its website but here they are, for your browsing convenience:
Hanover & Elm Grove was a target ward for Labour in 2011.
Only the Greens have announced a candidate so far. Labour is expected to follow shortly, possibly with Emma Daniel to give her some basic political experience before she decides which ward to contest in 2015 (she doesn’t seem to want to contest the ward she lives in). Since Mr Follett’s resignation was announced at the start of the bank holiday weekend, no date has yet been set for the bye-election.
David Gibson lives in Hanover and works in housing and community regeneration. On being chosen to represent the Green Party he issued a press release which quoted him as saying,
“I’ve been a community campaigner all my life, both locally and nationally, where I set up a national housing campaign, ‘The Daylight Robbery’, which got the law changed to end an unjust tax on council tenants which was used to fund benefits. The change paved the way for the current system where councils get to keep all of the rents paid, for investment locally. I am also a co-founder of Hanover Action for Sustainable Living (HASL).
Like many people in Brighton, I became a Green after being inspired by our Green MP Caroline Lucas and because the Green Party was the only political party prepared to challenge the creaking status quo propped up by the Conservative and Labour parties – especially after Labour lost its way under Tony Blair, took the country into the Iraq war and, in Peter Mandelson’s words, became “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich“.
I don’t see Labour leaving that legacy behind them any time soon, being the recent architects of so many present troubles, from bedroom tax to NHS privatisation, and being champions of cuts and austerity. I love living in Hanover; I’m active in the community and I’m also a member of the Hanover Community Association.”
In 2011, the GMB union funded the local Labour Party’s election campaign. Their volunteers flooded the streets of Brighton to deliver leaflets and canvass for Labour. They paid for an office to coordinate Labour’s campaign. However, on Thursday, Labour betrayed its most loyal supporters by publicising an attempt to to stop them having their pay cut.
Hanover residents are famous for many things: their great pubs, their community spirit, their artistic endeavours, their steep hill (!) and, not the least, for their long standing commitment to a green lifestyle. Labour just isn’t interested in this issue. Their members roll their eyes and make funny faces when you mention climate change. You don’t have to take it from me, you can ask them if they come calling on your doorsteps. After this warning, they’ll swiftly invent something to parrot but you’ll be able to spot its ugly invention for the sake of argument a mile off.
I’ll be out in Hanover tomorrow afternoon, calling on my friends and asking them to vote for Mr Gibson to keep the Green vision alive. If you want to follow the action on twitter, all parties are using the hashtag #HEG13.
Ask anyone in Britain today what they most dislike about our politicians and you will hear a consistent theme in all the answers: the political parties have strangled the process of politics, politicians put their party loyalty above all else and they cannot be trusted to keep their promises. In Brighton & Hove this weekend, this complaint echoes especially loudly. A prominent and much respected local councillor, Alex Phillips, attempted to build a consensus across the party divide between the Green Party, which she is a member of, and the Labour Party, to prevent a rogue Green administration from imposing pay cuts on council workers.
The current battle for the heart and soul of the Green Party is no secret. It is focused on Brighton & Hove, where the Greens muster most support. The struggle is dominated by what party members think about the style and leadership of one person: Jason Kitcat. It is worth noting that whilst other bloggers and the press routinely calls him the local party leader, in fact he is not. There is no local party leader. Mr Kitcat is the Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council. Those who support Mr Kitcat’s leadership say that all party members must rally around him for the sake of party unity and that he has been handed a poison chalice by being obliged to lead a minority party in times of austerity. Those opposed to his über managerialism have been growing in numbers over the last few months and now form the majority of the local party and roughly half of the local councillors.
Recently Mr Kitcat managed to win, narrowly, re-election as Convenor of the Green Group on the Council. However, immediately afterwards it was revealed that he had broken his very important and much repeated promise to his party and the Green Group. That promise concerned ongoing pay modernisation negotiations. Mr Kitcat’s administration chose to hand Council Officers total power over those negotiations and wash their hands of it. The broken promise was that the Green Group would be consulted before the new pay offer was announced. They were not.
In Italy, there was much disquiet about handing power to technocrats after a major financial crisis. Jason Kitcat’s administration has handed power over to technocrats before any crisis. His justification was that both Labour and the Tories failed to resolve the equality issues in the council pay structures and that there was nothing to suggest that he could do any better as an elected politician! Aside from the recent claim by Norman Tebbit that only marriage as traditionally defined by the Church of England could prevent him from wanting to marry his own son, it is the most bonkers statement of political belief anyone has ever heard of.
Mr Kitcat’s breach of trust unleashed a tidal wave of anger inside the local party and around the country because the Green administration appeared to be in breach of party policy by seeking to impose pay cuts. The local party convened an extraordinary general meeting which decided, by a substantial majority, to declare its support for the council workers against the administration and asked the administration to change its policy. Since that resolution was passed, distrust has continued to grow. Most party members, including almost half of the local Green councillors, now see the administration as traitors to their stated principles. There has been much discussion about what can be done to prevent Jason Kitcat from continuing to wield power in the council, so as to realign the administration with party policy.
It was in this context that Councillor Alex Phillips contacted Councillor Warren Morgan, the Leader of the local Labour Group of Councillors to see if he would support an alternative ‘candidate’ from the Green Group for Council Leader. She suggested that Labour support Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty (oddly, the local media cannot spell his name properly), who is the Deputy Council Leader. She used Twitter’s private direct messaging system to make the plea. She asked for the communication to remain private.
Her decision to make this effort has been called into question by one local blogger and some Green Party members. Essentially, they say that she’s misjudged the situation, because it is well known that Labour prefers to promote itself rather than its own policies.
That’s harsh. Had the attempt to build a consensus on the Left been successful, those councillors who would have been prepared to break party ranks would have been eulogised up and down the country. Rather than respond constructively to Alex Phillips’ private messages, Warren Morgan chose to publish them via the local Labour Party website. Here they are ~ read them from the bottom up:
Private negotiations made public
Many Green Party members regard Alex Phillips’ actions as the stuff of the politically brave. Without doubt, she has confirmed herself as true leadership material. Despite all the risks to her standing within her tribe, she has stuck true to her principles. She has chosen to support the poor over and above her party.
It’s worth remembering which principle is in play here. It’s called solidarity.
Council workers who do the filthiest job in town, the street cleaners and the refuse collectors, are currently balloting for strike action to oppose the pay offer made by Council Officers. The local Green Party has already declared its support for them (in the Extraordinary General Meeting). With a slim majority of the administration apparently unwilling to follow party policy, Alex Phillips has taken a risk to try to right the wrongs already done. Had Phélim Mac Cafferty become Council Leader, the pay offer would have been withdrawn and the negotiations restarted with full political control of them. There is no doubt about that.
Whatever the merits of her judgement call, the real eye-opener has been how much Labour relishes division, even if that means pissing on its own supporters. Warren Morgan’s motivation for revealing the private messages was to show up the Greens as divided. Every party has differences of opinion. All of them are broad churches. Show me a party where everyone agrees about everything and I’ll show you a fascist party.
Labour’s entire election campaign last time around in Brighton & Hove (in 2011) was funded by the GMB, the very union now balloting for strike action. Without GMB funds, the local Labour Party could not have fought a city wide election. Labour persistently promises to help the poor, the disadvantaged and working people everywhere. Locally, it has launched tirade after tirade against the Greens on the basis that they are the same as the Tories, that they are all middle-class, that they are politically backward, that they support cutting the pay of the poorest workers. Yet here we see Labour being given an opportunity to protect the very people who form its natural constituency and instead of immediately achieving a clear political goal – protecting their pay – instead it chose to score petty points.
The GMB is a major funder of the Labour Party nationally. It is a strong trades union which has managed to weather the storm of Thatcherism reasonably well. This weekend its leadership will be asking serious questions about its continuing relationship with the Labour Party. Many people in the local Labour Party will now be asking themselves similar questions.
For many of us Greens, the correct position is straightforward. We have a clear party policy, which supports those who fought an election against us, because it is the right thing to do by our socialist principles.
Personally, I have just landed my first ever PAYE job (I’ve been self-employed until now). Last night, I joined the GMB online. Then I realised that I didn’t have any money in my bank account but luckily my wife also supports the trades union movement and she has lent me the subscription money until I get my first pay cheque. Joining a trades union is a fundamental human right and key to progressive politics. Now that the leadership of every party in my home town opposes working people, that’s more important than ever.
The council’s pay offer, which it suggests will affect about 10% of staff, varies from employee to employee, so each offer is now being individually communicated to staff members by their managers during a 90 day ‘staff consultation’.
Hundreds of staff face a drop in take home pay, offset by one-off, lump-sum compensation packages; the council has stated that, as a result of allowance changes and the compensation, some affected staff will be better off while others have to decide whether they feel the compensation is enough to offset their overall loss. This is an individual decision.
Much play has been made on social media that individuals may lose up to £95/week, or more than £4,000 a year. However, unofficial sources have recently revealed that a reduction of that level applies to just three employees and does not take into account their compensation package, which is worth about three years’ losses.
Most staff face lower reductions and lower compensation, generally worth between two and three years of loss, sometimes a little more.
The complete picture is not this simple but it seems clear that once the compensation is gone, low paid staff will be living on even lower weekly take home pay. This has angered staff and it’s unacceptable to the Brighton & Hove Green Party, which has resolved to campaign against it.
BHGP chair Rob Shepherd said:
“The party’s made it clear it cannot support a final offer that appears to leave council staff with a cut in their consolidated take home pay. These include some of the city’s lowest paid workers and we understand how they must be feeling.
“We recognise that the offer particularly benefits women who, it seems, have not been treated fairly under the existing payment structure. It goes without saying that women should be paid the same as men in comparable situations and we support creating a fair and gender-balanced pay structure. But it is not right if low paid people of either sex end up with a loss of income to achieve that balance.
“We’re also disappointed with the council administration’s decision to delegate pay negotiations entirely to council officers, meaning the administration now has no say in what’s being proposed. This is a council offer, not a BH Greens offer. If there are pay cuts on the table, they are not in our name.
“We hope that, as a result of the party’s intervention, the Green administration will find a way to take back control of the process and ensure the council will look again at any offers that result in consolidated pay losses.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said:
“Since the negotiations began, I have made my opposition to any cuts in take home pay very clear.
“I am therefore disappointed that, whilst some will gain from this process, a number will face a reduction in the money they have to live off each week.
“This is unacceptable. I know from the many constituents who have written to me about this issue that they agree.
“So too does the Brighton and Hove Green Party, whose members have voted to condemn the offer and also express dismay that responsibility for the pay negotiations was handed to council officers.
“With the support of the local Green Party, I have pledged to campaign against proposals made to workers that will lead to a loss of pay, in accordance with the local and national party’s democratically agreed anti-cuts and anti-austerity policies.”
Rob Shepherd added:
“We also condemn the city’s Labour and Conservative parties for creating the mess that the council is seeking to manage. They are quick to criticise the Green administration yet they created the problem.
“Going back decades, both parties have presided over agreements which look blatantly unfair to some parts of the workforce and especially women. Both parties permitted what look like unethical, unequal deals. And both parties were warned time and again by council officers that they needed to sort it out but they bottled it in fear of industrial disputes.
“Whatever the current state of the pay offer, it is utterly hypocritical of Labour and Conservatives to say anything other than ‘sorry’.”
“However, it’s more important that all politicians now pull together in the interests of some of the city’s lowest paid workers. These people must be at the heart of whatever we do.”
Responding to the party’s decision, council leader Jason Kitcat said:
“I very much understand and sympathise with the concerns expressed in the local party motion.
“Members of council staff have just received the council’s offer to create a fair and clear system of allowances which completes the final step of the ‘single status’ process. There is now a 90 day consultation period for staff to consider the offer, how it will affect them and respond to their managers with their views.
“I believe it is important to not prejudge that consultation, how staff may consider the proposals, nor any negotiations which I hope will follow.
“During this consultation period I am confident that the council continues to be open to any suggestions from staff and unions that could further improve the offer whilst ensuring it remains legally and financially viable.”
In the 36 hours since his party overwhelmingly voted against his approach to pay modernisation in the city, Mr Kitcat’s strategy has been to blame others. With considerable justification he blamed previous Labour and Tory administrations for allowing a labyrinthine pay structure to develop. Inside the party he has repeatedly refused to indicate what he considers the risks of allowing that pay structure to continue. This is the most illuminating remark he’s ever made on the topic:
Is that a bible I see in your hand?
He has repeatedly told Green Party members that to even talk about the reasons for the risk of a cataclysm will actually cause it to happen. He has repeatedly hidden behind the old get-out, “legal reasons.” This phrase is usually employed by journalists too lazy to explain law to their audience. “We cannot name the child for legal reasons,” is quicker than saying, “We cannot name the child because of the law protects the anonymity of children in legal matters and the judge has made a specific ruling in this case.” In the case of journalists, that’s fair enough, clearly they don’t have enough web space or TV air time to explain anything much. In the case of Mr Kitcat, the notion that him discussing legal threats against the Council or the risk of legal threats will somehow undermine the Council’s ability to defend those threats is completely specious.
Besides, the risks are well known. Briefly, they stem from the fact that staff are all paid different amounts for similar work. Since some jobs are carried out almost exclusively by men and some by women, this means that there can be claims of indirect discrimination, which employment tribunals would be only too happy to hear. The example of Birmingham City Council has been bandied about. In Birmingham, the Council faces a bill to settle the claims which is so large that it would be threatened with bankruptcy, were it not for the fact that it has large assets. It is expected to sell off some biggies, such as the NEC, to meet the payments.
Brighton & Hove City Council also has enormous assets. How much is the Royal Pavilion worth? It is the only Royal palace in the country which is owned by the people but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be owned by a private company. That is but one example.
Previous administrations tried to sort out the problematic pay structure but failed. Instead of showing political backbone, the present Green administration decided to adopt a new approach. It simply handed the whole process over to council officers. Thus, Mr Kitcat washed his hands of responsibility.
The morning after the local Green Party voted to campaign with the GMB against their own administration, a wildcat strike began amongst the city’s refuse collectors and street cleaners. The workers occupied their canteen. The Council hired scabs to do the work instead. Refuse began to pile up. Chaos is a word much loved by tabloid newspapers too lazy explain anything much but it is perhaps an appropriate summary of the situation. It as if there truly are two worlds, the real world and the paper world. We all live in the real world, with rubbish and recycling piling up, with a Green council hiring scabs, with a Green Council Leader apparently going rogue on his own party, with elected politicians turning to technocrats before a crisis. Mr Kitcat seems to live in the paper world, where none of these things matter, where so long as a procedure is followed everything will be fine, where the poisonous rag of the Brighton Argus is essential reading for the man about town. Here he is in conversation on twitter with @yokelbear, a much respected trades union activist from Hove. As with all of these images, click on them if you want a larger, clearer version to read more easily.
A clear case of denial
Here he is dealing with a straight forward request from the local Labour Party, who ask why he tweets rather than meet the striking workers in person. It’s a straight question and very easy to answer. Instead he fired off a link to a Brighton Argus story which talked about a strike by “bin men” in 2004:
Finger pointing skills: 8/10, Political credibility: 0/10
Here he is again blaming Labour for his problem. The link in the tweet from Labour below goes to a statement which is barely longer than a tweet and says virtually nothing. It isn’t addressed to Mr Kitcat. He could have safely ignored it but, wait a minute, here’s another opportunity to blame someone else!
Jason Kitcat tries to finger Gill Mitchell
To be fair, that thread did continue with Mr Kitcat conceding that he was responsible for the process created by the Council officers:
Glimpse of reality
The complexity of the pay structures has arisen because of the way Brighton & Hove City Council came into being. Essentially, two local authorities, with differing pay structures merged but left the already complicated salary arrangements intact. No-one disputes that. The dispute is about whether this should be sorted out by elected, accountable politicians or by officers who don’t have to face political consequences for their actions. Since Mr Kitcat’s administration has chosen let the technocrats take over, we Greens find ourselves in the absurd position of being in the same party as an administration which plans to cut the pay of the lowest paid workers.
This is intolerable. Plans are afoot to remove Jason Kitcat as Council Leader. A rebellion is being planned amongst those Green Councillors who wish to remain loyal to their party’s clear policy. Watch this space for further details.
Yesterday various fascist groups mustered their followers with the intention of frightening the good people of Brighton on a sunny St George’s Day. This was their fourth visit to my home town and, arguably, the most disastrous for them so far. Their numbers were few, their march was pathetic, they were massively outnumbered by counter-protesters. Following the fiasco of the 2012 March for England, Sussex Police adopted a different strategy, namely to separate the visiting fascists from the local counter-protesters. As yesterday’s sunny afternoon turned into a chilly evening, the police were congratulating themselves on a successful operation. From a purely policing point of view, it appeared better than last year, when they found themselves overwhelmed by the numbers of anti-fascists, lost control of their plan for the day and even failed to arrest one fascist thug whom they had wrestled to the ground.
However, that superficial analysis breaks down when the facts on the ground are examined more closely. With a helicopter, approximately 700 officers, some mounted, three dozen riot vans and various roads sealed off with large metal barricades which would be the envy of any commercial event, their advance preparation was better organised. They arranged low level barricades, behind the bannister on the sea front, into a chain of pens which were slow and cumbersome to climb over. Presumably the idea was that the anti-fascists could not disrupt the march by bursting through that dead zone. Unfortunately, the police couldn’t easily cross the barrier either. Despite declaring in advance that protesters would not be tolerated outside their various designated zones, when known fascists entered the anti-fascist zones, the police could not enter it to contain them. I witnessed a group of six flag waving fascists at 12:53pm well inside the anti-fascist zone (opposite the Thistle Hotel). Local people called across to the police to remove them but for several minutes the police just stood around as if they were little more than lollipop men. I shouted over a request that they deal with the situation but the response was, “Stop shouting!” After many requests one police officer wandered over to his side of his barricade and asked the fascists to climb over it. Looking somewhat reluctant, he put a foot on the railing and said, “Are you going to climb out or do I have to climb in?” The fascists argued with him. He did not climb in. Two protest liaison officers were eventually seen strolling up towards the illegal immigrants, as if they had all the time in the world. They were escorted away but not, so far as I can tell, arrested.
Bad luck if that’s your bicycle
This incident was repeated several times before the fascist march began. On the one occasion I witnessed when the police did climb across their barrier, it looked like a training exercise performed by Dad’s Army. When Sussex Police sat down to plan their day (Operation Wheeler), did they not ask themselves how they would cross their own barrier if they needed to?
Prior to the march beginning, known fascists were allowed to wander freely around town, waving flags and chanting “Eng-ger-land”. This behaviour is indistinguishable from their method of protest on their official march. Therefore, it is fair to call it protesting. Yet they do not seem to have been arrested for it. At 1:12pm two flag waving fascists managed to squeeze through a gap between two of the blue police vans shown above so that they could confront the hundreds of people occupying the roads to the North of the roundabout by the Palace Pier. They were pushed back by mounted officers fairly swiftly. Were they arrested? I don’t know, but Sussex Police should be able to answer that question.
More worryingly, no-one in Sussex Police seems to have thought about any form of public address system. With 150 uncooperative fascists and 3,000 angry locals to deal with, the police left themselves with no method to communicate with large parts of the crowd. Instead they seemed to rely on officers barking orders to whoever was in the mood to listen. At one point I found myself in conversation with several of the local councillors and the MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, all of whom were were protesting against the fascists. One of them informed me that the police had promised them that they would have a public address system. Why was this promise broken? Surely it could not have been for want of financial resources?
Perhaps that last question should be directed to Katy Bourne, the Conservative Party Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner. She is in charge of allocating the resources for Sussex Police. Every section of Brighton’s political and social community declared its opposition to the fascists, except the Conservative Party. Sadly, the local Tories spent most of 2011 and much of 2012 concentrating their fire power on whipping up hatred against Traveller groups living on the fringes of the city, with the result that they were widely accused of racism. Their silence on this year’s arrival of the blatant racists echoed their failure to comment the year before. The combination of their refusal to condemn racism on our streets, their encouragement of racist attitudes and one of them now running the police is exactly what people most feared when the Police and Crime Commissioner posts were created. With each step, the police look increasingly politicised. Of course there are some sections of society which will never trust the police. The tragedy is that now many of us, who previously were prepared to accept that policing is a complicated job, now distrust the police because of this politicisation. The Tories tell us that operational decisions remain purely in the hands of the Chief Constable but he can no longer be regarded as independent when a politician has the power to fire him and hire someone else. The Tories could easily have condemned the so-called March for England. That they didn’t must have been a deliberate decision. It sits uncomfortably with the kindly manner the police treated the fascists in comparison to the locals.
I arrived at the seafront hours before the march began. The first thing I did was ask a policeman with a camera to photograph me and take a note of my identity. I explained that I done the same thing the year before and that, consequently, the police had been able to safely ignore various unfounded allegations made against me online because they knew that the fascists had identified someone else as me (someone who threw an empty plastic water bottle). This year the policeman I spoke to refused. I was struck by them failing to understand my request. I had to explain it and the reasons for it three times. The officer with the camera told me, “We are only photographing people where a crime is committed or there is a risk to public order.” I suggested that, as with the year before, police time need not be wasted if they photographed me again. This generated a different response, “We’ve got a problem with our batteries and cannot take too many pictures.” Police officers should tell the truth, so it’s fair to presume that this wasn’t some petty lie to get me to go away. That’s another question for Katy Bourne to answer. She can talk to the officer who refused to photograph me because his colleague allowed me to photograph his number instead:
Luckily I didn’t have a battery problem
Later on, another police officer with a camera photographed me when I suggested to the fascists, through my megaphone, that having turned around to march back to the Palace Pier, they were now facing Mecca. Then I played them the Call To Prayer, which they didn’t seem to enjoy but with hundreds of police and their barrier separating us, it couldn’t possibly have been described as a threat to public order.
After the march, the police allowed some fascists to roam around town looking for fights, just like last year. Predictably, there were outbursts of violence around the town well into the evening. Some people blame the violence on Antifa, who were out in strength. However, Antifa only exist to prevent the fascists from taking to the streets. They don’t demonstrate on their own. Had the fascists not been given a licence to demonstrate wherever they wanted, there would have been no trouble. They were even escorted to a bar in West Street to enjoy a drink! The police showed the Antifa activists little mercy and repeatedly attacked them. At one point one of them was wrestled to the ground because he refused to take off a face mask. Yet I saw plenty fascists covering their faces. Again, it is now very hard not to see the police as a politically motivated force, much as they were in the Thatcher years. Further proof of police bias to the far right comes from the fact that Sussex Police paid for at least one coach to bus the fascists to the start of the march. I’ve been on plenty of demonstrations in my time but I never heard of the police sorting out protesters’ travel arrangements before. This is another question for Katy Bourne to address.
On the plus side, Brightonians excelled themselves in their mockery of the fascism. Unsatisfied with screaming abuse, all manner of creative counter-protest dominated the day. The top prize for sheer good humour goes to the new EDL. If you follow that link, you’ll see that it doesn’t go to the racist English Defence League but instead to the English Disco Lovers. Already they are close to their stated aim of being the first result in online searches for the EDL. Their disco danced its way along the seafront all day and proved the value of good humour as a challenge to hatred. After some of the fascists had been bussed out of the town centre by the police, I went off to speak to them. It would be inappropriate to reveal the details of that conversation now but suffice it to say that we can be confident the fascists will not dominate St George’s Day in Brighton next year. 2013 was their final march. Watch this space and the EDL website for more information. The English Disco Lovers appear at 0:53 in this video:
Yesterday should have seen all of Brighton united against fascism. Of course, no-one could have been surprised by the Tories’ attitude but the real shock of the day was seeing the local Labour Party’s official tweeter attempt to make political capital out of the fact that the Green Party administration of the City Council had previously declared itself supportive of the lawful right to protest. Early on in the afternoon, @BHLabour, tweeted, “Businesses closes and residents terrified as @BHGreens proclamation that we are a city of protest brings March for England to our city #labour“
Brighton & Hove Labour Party’s official twitter account created division instead of unity
This tweet was met with a storm of protest from all sorts of people, including several prominent Labour Party members and local trades unionists, many of whom could not be described as sympathetic to the Green Party, such as Caroline Penn. Ever since 1936, whenever the fascists have taken to the streets in Britain, everyone else has put their differences aside and united against fascism. Aside from the nonsensical nature of the tweet (the fascists came to Brighton before the Greens won power in the city), much offence was caused by it. Who on earth was on Labour’s Sunday shift on twitter last week? It wasn’t just a single tweet. Here’s another, at 2:26pm.
Another divisive tweet from the Brighton & Hove Labour Party
And another, at 3:48pm:
Labour insists on division
The decision to allow the march was made purely by Sussex Police. There is no mechanism for a political party to “apply to have march banned.” It wasn’t just three divisive tweets. Here’s another at 4:44pm:
Will Labour explain its policy on the law on protest?
Did the Labour Party ask Sussex Police to ban the fascist march? No, they did not. By 7:18pm, the local Labour Party seemed to have come to its senses. It offered this apology:
Brighton & Hove Labour Party makes first apology
Some people complained that this apology appeared to attempt to shift the blame onto those offended. Seeing the logic of that, Labour offered another apology, at 7:46pm:
Brighton & Hove Labour Party falsely claimed that it had removed offending tweets
At the time of writing this blog post, the first tweet has been removed but the three subsequent tweets, shown above, which make similar points and cannot be described as in the spirit of unity are still on twitter, for all the world to see. The Brighton & Hove Labour Party has a proud tradition of opposing fascism. It has long been involved in anti-fascist movements and must understand what unity means. Its insistence on abandoning unity against fascism is a very sad development indeed. Recently the local Labour Party suspended one of its local councillors (Anne Meadows). Will it now suspend its twitterers, who have chosen to create division rather than unite against fascism?