Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Brighton goes Green again

Britain’s first Green-led council is great news, but faces challenges on cuts says Davy Jones

May 7, 2011
4 min read

The Green Party emerged as the largest group on Brighton and Hove council on Friday, winning ten more seats to make a total of 23, against 18 Tories and 13 Labour. With Labour support, it expects to be able to run the council. The result exceeded the wildest expectations of the local party, with the Greens winning 33 per cent of the popular vote across the city (Labour got 32 per cent and the Tories 29 per cent).

Traditionally Brighton was primarily Labour, while Hove was primarily Tory, making for an interesting split when the two merged to form a unitary council in 1997, and the new city of Brighton and Hove in 2000. The Green Party won its first seat in 1996 and its support has steadily grown outwards from the city centre, while the working class estates stayed mainly Labour and the posher suburbs solidly Tory.

That all changed in the general election. Caroline Lucas’s victory in the Brighton Pavilion seat was historic in many ways, not just the first Green MP in England, but the first in the world to be elected by first past the post. It was a landmark success locally too, as her support came from traditional Labour areas and even from some Tory areas. It dramatically demonstrated that the Greens had reached the key threshold of credibility locally as a real alternative to the traditional duopoly.

During the recent local elections, the city was covered in Green posters as people sensed the possibility of the city breaking the mould again. On the doorstep, there was widespread hostility to the both the national coalition government and the local Conservative minority council leadership for pushing through unpopular cuts, and support for the idea that the Greens and Labour should work together.

But after the celebrations, the hard work begins. The Greens will be the largest party and are likely to seek support from Labour to form an administration, but a formal coalition is now unlikely given Labour’s poor showing.

The Greens campaigned on a very radical programme: against the cuts; for a Green New Deal of creating local jobs for home insulation and renewable energy schemes; and for extending local democracy and participatory budgeting.

But the new Green council will inherit a Tory cuts budget that it voted against just a few months ago (while Labour abstained). The Greens had skilfully succeeded in amending the Tory budget before the election to remove the worst local cuts, but they have not yet been able to create sufficient popular support for confronting central government cuts and refusing to implement them.

The most likely scenario is of the Green-led council introducing democratic reforms and sustainability policies, while desperately grappling with the budget and struggling to avoid making cuts to the services of those who overwhelmingly voted for it.

Officially the local Labour Party has been fiercely anti-Green in recent years (though amusingly many members privately admit to voting for Caroline Lucas in the general election). Its election campaign was very negative and aimed squarely at rubbishing the Green Party. Its leadership sees the Greens as its main enemy and will seize any opportunity to make life difficult for them.

But there are good omens. Caroline Lucas is on the left of the Green Party and obviously has huge influence locally. Overwhelmingly the councillors and leading local party members are instinctively anti-cuts and supportive of working with the local trade unions. They are wary of sweetheart deals with Labour to stay in power at any cost. They want to be different and to stick to their radical principles.

Above all, the emergence of the Greens in Brighton and Hove is hugely significant symbolically, and potentially represents the first real popular political alternative to the mainstream since the GLC and left Labour councils of the 1980s. Such credible political alternatives are rare and need to be nurtured and supported by all progressives and radicals. Constructive criticism is necessary, but so too is solidarity and support as this new political current genuinely attempts to map out a new political alternative.

Davy Jones is a member of Brighton and Hove Green Party.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Universal credit isn’t about saving money – it’s about disciplining unemployed people
The scheme has cost a fortune and done nothing but cause suffering. So why does it exist at all? Tom Walker digs into universal credit’s origins in Tory ideology

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright

Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones

‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression

Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death

‘Committees in Defence of the Referendum’: update from Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte on developments as the Catalan people resist the Spanish state's crackdown on their independence referendum

The rights and safety of LGBTQ+ people are not guaranteed – we must continue to fight for them
Kennedy Walker looks at the growth in hate attacks at a time when the Tory government is being propped up by homophobes

Naomi Klein: the Corbyn movement is part of a global phenomenon
What radical writer Naomi Klein said in her guest speech to Labour Party conference

Waiting for the future to begin: refugees’ everyday lives in Greece
Solidarity volunteer Karolina Partyga on what she has learned from refugees in Thessaloniki

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism


84