With Green Party poll ratings going from 3 or 4% to the dizzy heights of 8 or 9%, the election story nationally is of a “Green surge”. So I have found myself in the national media as journalists are tasked with finding out exactly what has happened in the only place where the Greens have held real power. It even made the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 today where residents expressed some very hostile views.
I won’t rehearse what I’ve blogged about them in detail over the past two years (just click on the “Green Party” tag to read more) but for new readers I want to highlight where we are now as a city, where they have failed to deliver on their promises and why they are showing now that they are unfit for office.
The Green Party nationally promises a lot of appealing things, like rail nationalisation, set against a backdrop of permanent recession and reducing growth. However you only have to look at some of their key pledges on which they won power in 2011, with the backing of Caroline Lucas, to see why easy promises are soon scuppered by the realities of office.
The Greens promised a “zero waste city”, yet they took their eye off the ball, residents lost confidence in the service and Brighton and Hove is now 302nd out of 326 councils for recycling. The Greens blame Labour for not supporting a food waste pilot, when in fact they failed to secure funding, or Labour’s incinerator, which their own councillors have been keen to show off on guided tours.
The Greens promised a new secondary school, yet with just 100 days left to go there are no classrooms being built, no plans on the table, no site identified for a new school. A third of our city’s secondary schools are over capacity, and by 2017 we will have run out of places altogether. Results are suffering. The Greens can’t build a new school because under Tory rules it woud have to be a free school or an academy. Rather than compromise their politics they have allowed pupils to suffer.
The Greens promised to cut pollution, with a target of 4% reductions in co2. It is up 2.3%. A low emissions zone took four years to introduce, yet some of the worst polluting vehicles are excempt.
The Greens said they would build at least a thousand affordable homes in the city. The real figure with just 100 days to go is 147.
The Greens promised “to resist all cuts”, knowing that in the real world that isn’t possible. Now with the elections just week’s away, a Green Party meeting where Caroline Lucas was present has told Green councillors to vote down the Green Administration’s own 6% council tax increase Budget, or resign their seats. The lead councillor for finance, who’s job it is to propose the Budget, has said today he will vote against it. He has effectively thrown his hat in the ring to succeed Jason Kitcat as Green Group Convenor (they don’t have leaders) when Jason steps down as Leader and as a councillor in 100 days time.
No whip, no discipline in the face of difficult decisions, no coherent way of setting and seeing through policy. Utterly divided, and in the view of many in the city, utterly incompetent. It’s no wonder Caroline Lucas has distanced herself from the unpopular Green council and now campaigns as “an independent voice” in the face of a strong challenge from Labour’s Purna Sen.
A Militant-style refusal to set a lawful Budget will send a grand political gesture to Westminster, but the result will be the appointment of a set of Whitehall bureaucrats by Eric Pickles to come down and set the council Budget themselves, with awful consequences for residents and services. But it’s all about the politics, all about the elections, all about the “Green surge”, not about the poor folk who made the mistake of voting for them.
Ask yourself this, given how they have performed as a Party here, do you really want Caroline Lucas and one or two more Green MPs holding the balance of power at Westminster?
UPDATE: Seven Green councillors voted against their own Administration’s Budget proposals, ensuring they fell, and voted with the Tories not to set a Budget. It was left to Labour – again – to set the Budget at an affordable 1.9% increase, saving grants to voluntary sector groups, children’s centres and domestic violence refuge funding at the same time, using £1.2 million the Greens had set aside for the council tax referendum.
The local Green Party, and one of their local Parliamentary candidates have, meanwhile, proposed that the council funding gap of over £100m is filled using the income from selling cannabis. This is despite replacing their cannabis-advocating councillor with a candidate who said that the Brighton bombing was a “justified political act.”
The Green Administration, in it’s dying days, has committed the city council to a five year, £20m scheme to create a huge urban park, removing two lanes of the already congested road to the seafront. 25% of the money will have to be found from a vanishing council budget, at a time when the main seafront road is at risk of crumbling onto the beach.