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.”
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?
The Labour Party Leader, Ed Miliband, praising Margaret Thatcher in Parliament last week was the final proof that proper political debate in the UK is a dead concept. Sure, there were plenty of Labour (and the only Green) MPs who had deliberately absented themselves and there was that notable speech by Glenda Jackson but the overall message was, ‘if you vote Labour, you get policies which fundamentally agree with Thatcher’s world view’. You get no remedy for illegal wars, no challenge to neo-liberal capitalism, nothing you could call socialist.
Never before in British democratic history has the dislocation between the political class and the people been so stark. It is as if there are two worlds: the paper world and the real world. In print, our politicians have queued up to praise Thatcher. Down the pub, a very different story is being told.
Though the street parties be few in number, their mere existence reveals much about the effects of Thatcherism on our society. From the end of the Second World War, there have been two major political leaders: Atlee and Thatcher. Both fundamentally changed the relationship between the state and the citizen, sorry subject. Truth be told, there were large numbers of people who seriously disagreed with the socialist project launched by the Labour government in 1945. Did they party when Atlee died? No, they did not. That’s because Atlee simply led a much bigger movement. It was never about him. Thatcher’s philosophy was always about the individual. “There is,” she famously said, “no such thing as society.“
Not any more there isn’t. We can’t blame her alone for the ruination of our community spirit. The Labour Party joined the thieving Tory bastards to rob us of it, despite the people actually voting for the Tories being the consistent minority. When a million people marched against a war, Labour preferred to stick together over some of the worst lying of the twentieth century, rather than confront the truth. The Labour MPs made a political choice between the people who voted for them and the policy diktat of US hegemonic interests. Broken, the British people went out and voted for them again. What else could they do? There are no large parties who stick their principles over anything any more. We’re left with no place to ventilate our disgust at the way large corporations rape our planet and create continuous crises in our communities.
The present state of The Left in Britain today isn’t quite so desperate as that of Christians in the Dark Ages in Europe, with only the monks of Iona keeping the faith. There are very large numbers of people who think that the filthy rich and the mega-corporations should be tracked down and forced to pay their taxes, instead of the prolonged punishment of the poor. There are other people who just want the truth to be told about the the crimes committed against us. Witness the banners unfurled at this weekend’s football matches.
No political party in Britain is prepared to keep a promise. None present a serious challenge to the worst excesses of capitalism. Any individual who sticks their neck out is victimised by the established media, as if Leveson never happened (I can’t bring myself to link to worst stories). The message is clear. Politics is now a closed shop. Only the well connected, the well established, the well pleased with everything brigade can join in. Margaret Thatcher herself will be laid to rest tomorrow but her ideology is triumphant. Shame on you, Labour Party members, for making it so.
Many many years ago, Ian Bone cleverly dreamt up the idea that we could simply all agree to meet at Trafalgar Square at 6pm on the Saturday after Maggie Thatcher died to have a party. Although the established media would have us believe that today’s bash was organised a few days ago via social networks online, in fact many of us having been waiting for it for a very long time. Monday night’s festivities arose simply because people could not contain themselves any longer at the news of the witch’s death. Neither could I. At 23 years since we were cheated, out of defeating her, by the other thieving Tory bastards, it has been a long wait.
A quick word for those appalled by our celebrations is in order. Kindly go and fuck off. Did you really think all these oaths over the years were just words? Did you think that it was okay for the government not only to shit on its own population but also to make a point about smiling whilst dropping the excrement? Did you ever give a damn? I doubt it.
Personally, although I didn’t know who took my milk away when I was in infant school aged five years’ old, that theft represented the beginning of my relationship with the political state. I had enjoyed that milk. When Thatcher came to power in 1979, my sister and I regarded her as a figure of fun, well worth mocking with impressions of her voice. The comedy soon wore off. This is hardly the place to remind ourselves of the enormous list of evil policies she killed our communities with but, living in Brighton, one aspect of Thatcherism, became particularly hated: she was a complete bigot. She refused to recognise that anyone had the right to be gay and introduced legislation aimed at creating an atmosphere of homophobic hatred. She was also a racist. Back then it was easier to tell whether someone was a racist or not because of South Africa’s Apartheid regime. Racists could not bear to see anything hurt the racist state. Thatcher consistently championed it and worked hard to undermine the campaign against it. Her calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist isn’t criticised because it is wrong (it wasn’t) but because it was spectacularly mistimed ~ he was released from prison a few months later and led his country through a mostly peaceful transition.
Although she lost office, her political ideology did not lose power with her downfall. Every Prime Minister since has been a Thatcherite. Despite neo-liberalism being widely discredited as responsible for all the deregulation which has led to the present economic crash, you’ll have step away from the main political parties in the UK to find anyone proposing to abandon it. Therefore, those of us who party today know full well that Thatcher won her class war against us. That pain is too great to bear. We deserve a holiday from it. Today is our holiday. Today is the day we get to pretend it is all over. That’s why this song is now heading for the top of the charts:
Today’s party is our chance to have history hear us. No-one wants any trouble. We just want to sing and dance on Thatcher’s grave. Since she won’t be having a grave, we’ll make do with the flagstones at Trafalgar Square instead. After all, it was on them that her success was broken during the poll tax riot.
Today’s news that Margaret Thatcher has died has converted a regular Monday into a wall to wall party zone. Of course, the main bash will kick off at 6:00pm on Saturday in Trafalgar Square. In the meantime, here’s some music to help us get in the mood. As if we need any help! What a very happy day. Even the sanctimonious politicians bleating about respect (which has to be earned anyway) cannot spoil the euphoria now gripping almost everyone who lived through the 1980s.
To be honest, I wasn’t that keen on the music of the 1980s (with some notable exceptions). The lack of songs celebrating the 1980s does reveal how little there was to like about that decade. That said, it seems appropriate to use the music from that time to mark the passing of the spiritual leader of the thieving Tory bastards.
Brighton & Hove City Council has become the first local authority in the UK to provide both the political will and the cash to abolish the bedroom tax. By doing so the Green Party has put a clear choice before the electorate. Voters can choose between their policy of refusing to evict anyone because of the bedroom tax, as if this new government policy did not exist, the Labour policy which is unclear and the Tories who deny that the bedroom tax even exists.
“Two thirds of the households hit in Brighton and Hove are home to someone with a disability, and families of soldiers serving our country who will have to find extra money for their son or daughter’s bedroom, and foster families helping children in need of a home.”
Obviously, that’s no longer true, because the local Greens have declared that no-one will be hit by the government policy. Councillor Liz Wakefield, the Chair of the Housing Committee in Brighton and Hove, said,
“The so-called ‘spare room subsidy’ is yet more immoral and harmful legislation from this morality-free coalition government.
As Greens, we cannot throw people out onto the streets just because they’re unable to pay it. I will therefore be bringing proposals that seek to ensure no household will be evicted from a Brighton and Hove City Council owned home as a result of ‘spare room subsidy’ rent arrears accrued solely from that household’s inability to pay this unjust bedroom tax.
The so-called bedroom tax legislation is not only morally wrong and a cause of great potential hardship, it is also unworkable in a city with a long waiting list for smaller properties.
The council cannot downsize households on the scale required by the government, nor would we want it to, and we should not be prepared to evict hard-pressed families, the disabled and other vulnerable people purely because they are unable to pay this unjust levy on a home they either cannot or should not have to leave.”
Although the bedroom tax emerged from the moral pit the Tories live in, they fiercely deny that there is such a thing at all. That’s because gave it a different name originally. The tabloids renamed the removal of the ‘spare room subsidy’ as the ‘bedroom tax’. Most people regard anything from any level of government which removes money from a household as a tax. The entire country is debating the bedroom tax, using those words, right now. The government knows that it is hugely unpopular. That’s why they have made a series of concessions, for the parents of armed forces personnel, for foster carers and for the parents of severely disabled siblings. Despite the conspicuous nature of the debate, the local Tory MP for Hove, Mike Weatherly, has publicly denied that there is such a thing as a bedroom tax:
Tory MP for Hove, Mike Weatherly, denies the existence of the bedroom tax
What planet is this man on? Which star does it orbit? Who does he think he is kidding? Is he so much of a pedant that when someone asks him to put the hoover round, he says, ‘I don’t have a hoover. I don’t know what you’re talking about. Hoover is the name of a company, not a product. How could I put it anywhere?‘ Probably that’s a bad example. He’s probably got a top of the range Dyson.
Last month Brighton & Hove City Council – the first Green-run authority in the country – passed its budget for the next year.
It contains loads of great measures: keeping all the city’s children’s centres open, almost doubling the homelessness budget, establishing a hardship fund for those city residents pushed to the wall by council tax benefit cuts, a 4% year-on-year reduction in the council’s carbon emissions, putting this council at the heart of the fight against devastating climate change, to name just a few highlights. More info on full budget as adopted, for anyone interested, can be found here.
But its adoption also saw the Government’s massive cuts to public services in the city become a reality: so I voted against it. Mine was a vote against the Tory cuts programme that is so decimating our communities, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable. Although it meant I voted in the same way as the Tories, and at the same time as them, I certainly didn’t vote with them!
In a nutshell, this budget comes in the context of the nastiest, deepest attack on local government – and by implication the thousands of people who in this city alone rely on its services – ever.
This year alone saw a £10.7m reduction in government funding for locally delivered services in Brighton and Hove – one of the deepest cuts (7.6%) faced by any council in the country.
Next year it’ll be even worse. And so the year after that. Indeed, according to the Local Government Association, councils just won’t exist in their current form by 2020, so severe are the Government’s planned cuts to them.
And of course it’s the least well-off, those who pay least Council Tax and receive most council services, who’ll pay the price.
The budget approved last month puts these cuts into practise, and, coming on top of cuts to benefits, Legal Aid for immigration and benefit cases, support for victims of domestic violence, mental health services, the privatisation of much of the NHS, and so on, these cuts, to my mind, represent just another salvo in the Government’s ongoing vicious war on the poor and most vulnerable – and, while I am full of respect and admiration for my friends and colleagues who reached a
different conclusion, I felt a vote for the budget was, in a meaningful way, a vote for this programme of cuts – and in that context I felt I had to oppose it.
What we are witnessing is nothing less than a deliberate and nasty programme of victimising the poor and most vulnerable: and the cuts to this council are part of that programme.
This budget, while being by far the greenest and fairest budget possible in the circumstances, has been drawn up in this context: it implements these cuts, locally.
I think councils can only keep on helping their most vulnerable local residents, if they just refuse to do the Government’s dirty work for them. I won’t do the nastiest Tory government in history’s dirty work: that’s why I voted against this budget, despite it being the most green and fair budget presented to any council in the country.
Infographics are all the rage these days. Some of them eloquently explain complex subject matters in a more accessible form, such as this one on inequalities from The Guardian, some dress up simplistic information so as to make it seem more impressive. Katy Bourne, recently elected as the first Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, fell into the second category when she decided to list the achievements of her first 100 days in office. Her infographic, below, amply damages the old adage that a picture can be worth a thousand words. In this case it can’t even justify the fewer than 100 words in it.
Less than 100 words of information, after 100 days
All Police and Crime Commissioners are obliged by law to produce a Police and Crime Plan. Therefore, Katy Bourne can hardly claim that her fulfilling her basic job description is much of an achievement. Perhaps if she had produced two or three…? Seriously though, it takes a competent reader less than ten minutes to digest her ‘Plan’. It reads like everything else in public life since Blair invented the verbless sentence. Perhaps she discovered the Laughing Bhudda’s mission statement generator? In other words, it says jack shit.
That’s hardly surprising, since she had very little to say before the election. The only departures from bland say nothing politics were in an interview with me, when she claimed that the public in Brighton had a liberal attitude to drugs and that she thought that policing should reflect local needs. Despite being frequently asked about that ~ a wild position for a Sussex Tory ~ she has chosen to ignore all the questions, as if she never said such a thing, yet she hasn’t denied the veracity of the interview either.
Knowing that a Tory was bound to be elected, Sussex Police started the cuts early, so Ms Bourne didn’t have to raise the tax after her election. In exchange, she rehired the existing Chief Constable. That was her big chance to stamp her policy portfolio on the job and she blew it. She tells us that £1,625,000 has been “allocated” across Sussex. That means practically nothing. The money hasn’t been spent. I tried to discover who this money has been allocated to but that information does not appear to be in the public domain. Not much room for scrutiny there then. Without scrutiny, there can be no praise.
Katy Bourne has relentless attended meetings, much as she did before her election. No policy initiatives have emerged from these meetings. During one of them, she told a friend of mine that she had to be addressed as, “Commissioner Bourne“. I’ve been following her political career and this seems to be the only initiative so far: clarifying her proper title. You’d never guess she was a Tory would you?
Most absurdly, she lists the number of followers the official account had on twitter after 100 days. The number is pathetically small. It’s only a couple of hundred more than little old me. By the time of writing, with a bit of self-promotion from her and those who steer her in the Conservative Party Head Office, she’s bumped it up to a couple of thousand. Well done her. Call me churlish but I reckon if you paid me £85,000 a year, I could probably rustle up more followers in the first three months.
She also gives the numbers subscribing to her weekly email newsletter. That’s more a measure of how many press agencies there are in the country than anything else. Neither this nor the twitter follower count have the slightest relevance to policing. The Tories have discovered social media but have not yet discovered what it is for.
Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered with an infographic in these circumstances. If there’s no news, there’s no news. However, she’s the boss of Sussex Police and I am only a humble blogger so rather than moan, I’ve decided to help her out by producing a more honest infographic for her.
The real facts and figures
All the election candidates wanted to encourage more people to report crimes of domestic abuse. Katy Bourne chose to do this with a campaign (read, press releases) and a 24 hour tweetathon. Elsewhere, in her official literature is says that, “this activity resulted in a marked increase in the reporting of domestic abuse incidents across the whole Christmas period that the campaign was running.”
Did you see the relevant figures for the marked increase in the official infographic? No, neither did I. That’s because they don’t exist. Apparently, prior to the campaign, Sussex Police received about 40 such complaints per day. Possibly that figure might normally be higher during the Christmas period when any lawyer will tell you, the sudden assembling of families leads to much more conflict (there is an surge in fork stabbings, for example). Presumably, calling the increase “marked” is more dramatic than giving the actual figures. I’ve asked Katy Bourne for the figures. If she doesn’t provide them, I’ll stick in a Freedom of Information Act request. Then we’ll see what she means by “marked“.
Update paragraph: 4th March 2013 (same day as original post): Ms Bourne pointed me to two web pages, which were not linked to from the blurb about her first 100 days. Here is the first page and here is the second page. These pages make it clear that reports of domestic abuse rose by more than 50% during the tweetathon. Many bloggers would just delete the paragraph above but I prefer to leave in situ. It looks like I was wrong, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the picture isn’t quite as clear as all that. The increase only relates to a short period of time. It is possible that what might have got reported at other times, got squeezed into the tweetathon period. We won’t know one way or another, until we see the figures for the whole year. It’s also worth highlighting that the figures related to what was reported rather than what the police saw fit to record as crimes. However, I got my facts wrong. For example, the police receive an average of 55 calls about domestic abuse each year, not 40 as I said above. Why didn’t Mr Bourne include this success in her infographic?
She also reports that she has, on eleven occasions gone to work at seven in the morning and has, on an unknown number of occasions, been at work until three in the morning. Credit where credit is due. Not many Tories know what a full day’s work is.
In conclusion, Ms Bourne says, “These first 100 days have been a whirlwind of activity and so much has been achieved.” Shame she couldn’t tell us what.
The short answer is, of course, that the Prime Minister, David Cameron is himself an ex-Bullingdon Club member. He’s not the only thieving Tory bastard who has risen from their ranks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson were also members.
Ostensibly a dining club for those who like to be especially ostentatious about their wealth, the Bullingdon draws its members from the college campuses of Oxford University. It is self-aware of its socially unacceptable nature and usually books restaurants under false names. The destruction of property seems to be its main wish in life. New members have their accommodation trashed. Restaurateurs have their premises smashed up. They’ve made the news again because someone has confirmed to the press that their initiation ceremony still involves burning a £50 note in front of a homeless person. Never before did Cameron’s claim, “We’re all in this together,” be such a deliberately offensive lie.
What possible contribution does this sort of behaviour make to our civil society? This is outright criminality. Why are these people never prosecuted? The name of the money burner has been bandied around in the press. Why hasn’t he been arrested? Why haven’t all of them been arrested? It is illegal to destroy money. We could easily prosecute them. Then they’d get expelled from university. I doubt that would prevent their rise to the top. Scum always rises to the top.
This weekend the Green Party is having its spring conference, in Nottingham. Understanding the role the media needs her to play, Natalie Bennett, gave a speech about our approach to politics. The media has lapped it up. Why? The answer lies in the fact that Green political fare is markedly different from the dishes on offer from mainstream parties. Firstly, as soon as she opens her mouth, it becomes obvious that Ms Bennett is an Australian. Is this the first time a UK party with electoral success has chosen an immigrant to be its leader? Soon after she began her speech, she called for Ed Miliband to apologise for the last Labour government’s decision to launch the Iraq war. The other party leaders seem incapable of mentioning this subject at all, despite the fact that a clear majority of the British people think we were wrong to go to war, because it produced little more than bloodshed. She made the serious point: why does Mr Miliband think it appropriate to apologise for Labour’s immigration policy but not for the illegal killing of children in our name in foreign lands? Surely, there cannot have ever been a more stark proof that the Labour Party is fundamentally right-wing in its 21st Century incarnation.
Until we get that apology, activists in various movements (peace, green with a small ‘g’, animal rights et cetera) are unlikely to ever trust Labour again. Previously, many of these people were solid Labour activists. Now they work against the party of the red rose. Does Labour not want these people back on board? Does Labour really benefit from harbouring war criminals in its ranks? Every Labour activist I’ve spoken to about this says something along the lines of ‘I agree, it disconnected our party leadership from our grass roots, we must never make this mistake again but it will be too complicated to remove party membership from those who just governed our country.’ Why? What’s complicated? Launch a disciplinary process and kick them out. Simple. Perhaps Labour will find it easier when Blair and the rest of them are in the dock at the International Criminal Court. We’ll get them there one day but if Labour has to wait for that, its eventual apology and expulsions will lack even a shred of credibility.
Not content with pointing out the military distinction between the Labour Party and the rest of The Left, Ms Bennett, bigged up another new cause, which is itself nowadays a somewhat unusual event. In the first student occupation in many years, undergraduates at Sussex University have taken over one of their university buildings in protest against the University’s decision to privatise its catering and land management functions. The University’s policy doesn’t directly affect the students at all but they have chosen solidarity with the employees affected, in preference to their own education. This is rapidly becoming something of a cause célèbre in the South and I’m pleased to report that local Labour activists have joined the Greens in supporting the occupation. Ms Bennett is pleased to associate herself with Occupy Sussex. Mr Miliband remains silent on the issue. Could it be that the photograph at that last link has worried him. It is hard not to see the massive banner emblazoned with one word: “COMMUNISM”. Lately he’s been borrowing the language of the Occupy movement but isn’t that only because he thought the thing had run aground? Perhaps the youth waving a red flag (2:52) in this video scared him off?
Labour’s central problem with all the popular protests against austerity is that the policies being adopted by the thieving Tory bastards and their Liberal bedfellows are essentially extensions of Labour initiatives. Public services are to be cut and replaced with private outsourcing. Where Labour didn’t start these policies, it embraced them. Where it found them absent, it created them. The Labour activists I talk to here in Brighton all say their political choices under Blair and Brown were wrong, although they didn’t realise it at the time. Hello?! What sort of political argument is that? ‘Please, we made mistakes but it was only because our political judgement was wrong at the time and hey, we’re nice people really, honest. Apart from that illegal war thing.’ Back in Bramber House on the Sussex University Campus, undoubtedly the students are pleased to be receiving the intellectual support of the local Labour Party. Meanwhile, the local Greens are donating money to them, to ensure their occupation and campaign against privatisation continues. That’s a neat political choice. Which do you prefer? Nice words or notes you can buy food with?
Ed Miliband made a speech to Labour’s Autumn Conference last year. Despite his professionalism, presumably he must have been running short on time. Why else would he fail to mention environmental issues at all? Satire aside though, it is clear that under his party is disinterested in resource depletion, in energy issues, in tackling the cost of our carelessness. Labour’s attitude to this pressing matter in the face of the predictable catastrophes to come is very telling.
Labour’s strategy on uncomfortable topics is silence. Witness their failure to even acknowledge the NHA Party in the forthcoming Eastleigh by-election. The National Health Action Party candidate, Dr Iain Maclellan, is a retired ex-Royal Navy medical officer and, as it happens, was also a member of the Green Party. The Greens couldn’t afford to stand a candidate in this by-election so Dr Maclellan asked to stand for the NHA party instead. If he doesn’t win, he has said that he will return to being a Green Party activist. He’s got the support of the Greens. He’s got the support of doctors. The NHA Party exists to defend the NHS. That used to be Labour’s job. Rather than acknowledge their abandoning of the jewel in the crown of our civil society, Labour issues press release after press release which doesn’t mention the NHA Party at all.
What sort of message does this send out to the electorate? Since when did failing to mention important issues become an acceptable political strategy? The answer lies in what Blair did to British politics. Under his stewardship, the Labour Party lost all sense of its internal democracy. The leader became all. Blair was able to dominate his party because previous leaders had destroyed the Left within the party. Without that backbone of discipline to hold the party to account, Labour found itself with only the Prime Minister to turn to for leadership. When Brown came to power, the media branded him as ‘Stalin’. If he was Stalin, Blair was Lenin!
Mr Miliband can talk the talk but he cannot walk even one step of the way towards truly progressive politics. His hands are tied up by history. Until he is able to apologise for Labour’s cuddling up to the corporations, for the Iraq War and for all the other ways which New Labour chose to support the worst excesses of capitalism, he has cut himself off from the body of progressive debate in the country today. Mr Miliband is a leader in name only. He’s got his name on that brass plate outside his office door but he doesn’t have ideas on his table. There’s nothing new in his political sack. He’s sticking at what Labour knows best, which is concerned with endless material growth as a remedy for income inequality. Unfortunately, the debate has moved on, but Labour is stuck in the past. The only reason to vote Labour is out of fear of what the Tories will do to us if we don’t. Some choice!
There’s two types of political leadership. There’s the type most appropriate to a military situation, where power and influence lies with the actual leader. Then there’s the other type, the more complicated abstract type, where the person is less important than the principle.
The Green Party can hardly be described as being in love with the concept of political leadership being concentrated into the hands of one person. For many years, the party didn’t have a leader at all. Instead, it had 12 speakers, any one of whom could legitimately speak for the party to the press. The trouble was, the press couldn’t cope with this approach to public relations. Befuddled, the established media simply ignored the Green Party, rather than struggle with its über-democratic approach to political engagement. Eventually, the party decided that reportage was more important than purism and changed its constitution so that there were… two speakers! The press still didn’t want to know. Then, with a heavy heart, the party decided to have a single leader and it burst into the national political debate.
The Green’s first leader was Caroline Lucas. She was, at the time, a member of the European Parliament. Once she was party leader, us Greens in Brighton persuaded her to stand for the Westminster Parliament in one of our constituencies. She won the subsequent election, becoming the first Green anywhere in the world to win a first past the post election. She served her two year term as party leader and then stepped down from the post, so that someone else could become party leader, with the hope and expectation that this would raise someone else’s profile enough that they might get elected. Last year, the Greens elected Natalie Bennett to become party leader. Her political strength lies in the ideas she stands for and arises from the people in her party. She came down to Brighton last week, to sit in on one our local party’s monthly general meetings. She answered questions and took feedback for half an hour and then we returned to our normal business. Can you imagine Ed Miliband only commanding a local Labour Party’s attention for a few minutes and then just being a bum on a pew for the rest of the evening? Neither can I.
Labour’s ideological issues do not trouble the party because it expects to win the next general election. There’s an old saying in British politics ~ opposition parties don’t win elections, governments lose them. Miliband’s crew knows that this government looks set to lose the next general election. Therefore, they do not need to unpack the problematic policies they have. All they have to do is sit tight, say as little as possible and slide back into power. That’s their election strategy. That and a combination of media management to ensure that their leader is not photographed again with any yellow fruit.
However, Labour may be in for a nasty surprise. The two party system we have cannot continue forever. Sooner or later, the inherent stagnation in the political debate will poison the relationship between our the people and these parties. Already various smaller parties are snapping at the heels of the bloated giants. On the right, UKIP looks certain to wreck the chances of 30 Tories at the next election. Although UKIP probably won’t win any seats, they have the power to prevent the Tories from ever winning a majority again. The Tories know this and have started to appeal more and more to the Right. Thus, one of Cameron’s first political decision was to order his party’s MEPs out of the centre-right bloc they traditionally sat with in the European Parliament and into the far-right bloc. No matter that they are now allied with some of the nastiest elements of the far-right. The Kippers (UKIP) also know that they can achieve their political strategy by constantly appealing to the right of the Tories. Thus, they have come out against same sex marriages even though this has nothing to with the European domination that they most fear. The Kipper’s political strategy is engineered to achieve their objectives, not power. This is a novel approach to British politics and has generated much frisson on the Right. On the Left, Labour has lost seats to people it regards as completely outlandish, such as the indefatigable cigar chomper, George Galloway, and the incredibly popular peacenik, Caroline Lucas. Rather than appeal to the people who prefer radical politics over a bland competition for managers of capitalism, Miliband’s method for tackling this problem is to ignore it and pretend it will go away.
Is ignoring your opponents really the best way to win an argument? Is failing to address the most important issues of the day, the best way to tackle them? Whilst the Labour hierarchy has created oceans of clear blue water between its shores and ‘the land of the Greens’, is there anything more than a trickling stream between them and the other privateers who pretend to politic with each other?
The choice for the public is increasingly clear. Either you can choose one of the big two parties, who compete for your vote on the basis that they are each the best managers of our capitalist economy, or you can pick another party which wants to change our country in a radical manner. With increasing disillusionment at our corrupted body politic, more and more voters are turning to the other parties instead. Whether the NHA Party can win the Eastleigh by-election remains to be seen but their very existence in that battle proves the point. They are not the Monster Raving Loony Party, they present a serious political argument. Sooner or later Labour is going to have to engage with other parties on The Left, in a constructive manner. The alternative is that they stumble on, like a dead man walking. Their journey to the political grave is likely to resemble the much feared fate of a feckless end in an old folk’s home. Some unions will provide the feeding tubes, some of their rich friends will wipe away their fecal smears, some of their elder statesmen will rewrite their history books but essentially they will stop contributing to the intellectual process known as the national conversation. Unless Labour changes its attitudes to its erstwhile comrades, they cannot hope to ever again provide the inspiration necessary to invigorate political life.