I know it’s 21 months away from the general election, but here in Brighton & Hove, the lines of divide between the parties are falling into a regular pattern. On four hotly contested political issues in the last few months, the same divides have emerged:
Bedroom tax: Brighton & Hove’s Green-led council was the first to say it would not evict people for non-payment of arrears arising from the bedroom tax. The Green Party nationally was unequivocal in opposing the bedroom tax and arguing the need to scrap it. Locally, of course the incumbent Tory MP supports the bedroom tax. The local Labour Party candidate, Nancy Platts, opposes it. But her national party refuses to promise to repeal it if Labour forms the next government.
‘Zero-hours’ contracts: Last week, the coalition government announced a ‘review’ of the use of ‘zero-hours’ contracts after reports that one million people were forced into them. Predictably, my opponent local Tory MP, Simon Kirby, supports the review, no doubt because its terms of reference have explicitly excluded banning them.
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, the Green parliamentary candidate for Hove Chris Hawtree and I issued a joint press release calling for an outright ban, as did the national Green Party. Predictably, also, Nancy Platts publicly supported a ban, but the national Labour Party announced a ‘summit’ on the issue and argued ‘zero-hours’ should be ‘the exception not the norm’, ie. it sat on the fence and has not explained where its ‘red lines’ are between what is morally acceptable and what isn’t.
Fracking: As huge local protests mount in Balcombe, just up the road from Brighton, over Cuadrilla’s exploratory drilling prior to fracking, the same divide has appeared. The government wholeheartedly supports fracking and is issuing massive tax breaks to encourage it. The local Tory MP refuses as yet to be drawn (mindful of local rural opposition). My local Labour candidate opposes fracking. But the national Labour Party supports it! Needless to say, the Green Party nationally and all the local Green parliamentary candidates are completely opposed to it and have given huge support to the local protests. Good luck to the campaigners who are camping at the drilling site.
Rail re-nationalisation: Caroline Lucas MP has announced a parliamentary bill to re-nationalise Britain’s railways. I fully endorse this, as does the national Green Party. The Tories of course oppose it. Once more, my local Labour opponent supports re-nationalisation but of course the national Labour Party refuses to commit itself to such a ‘radical’ course of action.
For completeness, I should probably refer to other political parties (though the Lib Dems’ involvement in the coalition makes them in practice indistinguishable from the Tories).
UKIP likes to present itself as anti-establishment and an alternative to those tired of the major political parties. But in practice, of course, its policies are pretty similar to the Tories, albeit with a dash of extra racism thrown in. It supports fracking, opposes rail re-nationalisation and seems to have no policy on zero-hours contracts (though its general pro-employer stance suggests it probably supports them). The one exception to this dismal approach is that it has, in a rare moment of enlightened policy-making, called for the abolition of the bedroom tax!
All these issues are key dividing lines – real struggles, involving real people, on issues that have huge consequences for many people’s everyday lives. The coalition government and the local Tories are on one side. The Green Party and its parliamentary candidates are on the other side.
Labour is on the fence – on the wrong side of it. It remains silent or speaks with different voices locally and nationally. The local Labour candidate has taken the same position as the Greens. But everyone knows that when it comes to it, the national Labour Party will triumph over the lone voices in the party against its stance.
As for me, I hope people can see I’ve been putting my words into action – including being heavily involved in building up the Brighton People’s Assembly Against Austerity. The Brighton PA has significant support – the initial launch meeting had 400 people, and the subsequent ‘organising’ meetings regularly attract between 30 and 50 people. On 24 August, it is supporting a Mass Sleep-In in central Brighton to highlight the effects of the bedroom tax in creating further homelessness. It is producing simple anti-austerity leaflets (using the Red Pepper Mythbusters material!) and supporting local Defend the NHS campaigns. I have also been leafleting Brighton station around the re-nationalisation campaign, and supporting the anti-fracking protests at nearby Balcombe. Labour is nowhere to be seen in these campaigns, though I would welcome its involvement.
As I campaign to be elected to parliament, I want to build the broadest opposition to the terrible policies and actions of this government. But words are not enough: local Labour supporters, including its left-wingers, have to be involved in these campaigns, or they will be tarred with the same brush as their leadership.
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry