At the final Brighton and Hove City Council meeting before the summer break, the Green Party brought a motion to council on the TTIP Trade Tariffs deal between the EU and the US. Now it is no doubt an important issue, and one that Labour MEPs are campaigning on in the European Parliament to ensure the deal does not inadvertently pave the way for further NHS privatisation. I’d argue that the European Parliament, not our city council chamber, is the place to debate international trade deals.
It is an incident which goes to the heart of the Green agenda and their priorities. They are always the first to pick up on the latest campaign, trending on the blogs and campaign group websites, or taking up column inches in The Guardian. It’s work that is admirable for a protest organisation, but not for a political party serving all residents and every neighbourhood in the city of Brighton and Hove.
Our priorities as Labour lie closer to home. As Fiona Twycross writes, we want to eliminate hunger in our city, a relatively prosperous one in the seventh richest nation in the world, yet it is a city where eleven thousand people live in poverty, where three and a half thousand people are using one of 22 food banks in a city of 270,000 people. Appallingly, 20% of children in the city are judged to be living in poverty, in my ward that figure rises to 45%, and as a city council we regard that as “on target”. I don’t. Our target must be zero.
Our Fairness Commission won’t just look at enforcing the Minimum Wage, promoting the Living Wage, ending youth unemployment, creating new jobs and reducing the housing waiting list. It will seek to create good, secure and well paid careers to ensure everyone reaches their maximum potential, it will seek to ensure access to affordable decent housing, it will seek to eliminate poverty and hunger in every estate, every high rise and every family in Brighton and Hove.
I’ve said I won’t make promises I can’t keep as Leader of a Group aiming to take control of the council next May, but I will set out bold and ambitious goals for a Labour council to strive for. The Greens can campaign on their transatlantic trade tariff deals, Labour priorities are here in the city, on our doorstep, with our neighbours who need our help.