In the final 100 days before the local elections and the General Election, during which time the most difficult Budget in council history has to be nogotiated, things are likely to get somewhat heated.
In some respects, they should. Faced with another £23 million in cuts to local council services, people should be angry. With thousands of families relying on food banks and people in work being kept afloat by benefits, we should be speaking up. There are those who say there should be much more passion in our arguments, not less.
For many though, the conflict of ideas and confrontational debate that is a feature of our democracy is a real turn-off. Bickering, blaming and sound bites are not what people want to hear. They want answers to the challenges they face every day. They want hope that, despite everything, the future might be a little better for them and their families.
In the next four months there will be plenty of this kind of thing in Brighton and Hove: “We have seen time and time again in recent years that, in their desperation to seek petty party political advantage over the Green Party, Labour are willing to put much needed investment in the city’s infrastructure at risk.” (from a Tory cllr). Yet time and again in the Council Chamber the Tories accuse Labour and the Greens of being in cahoots. As well as in competition.
Of course the Greens never waste an opportunity to portray Labour as being equally in cahoots with the Conservatives, part of the “austerity alliance”, something it is hard to get across to Labour colleagues from elsewhere who believe Labour and the Greens should be natural allies, not rivals.
So expect a hundred days of “Labour is just like..” with Greens and Tories alike blaming us for the cuts. That they choose to attack Labour, rather than each other, indicates who they think are the favourites to win. Last May’s election results in the city would certainly back that idea up, though of course we are not complacent.
I’m going to try to stick to my New Year’s Resolution to do far less of the “yah boo” politics and much more of the “this is what we want to do for you and our city” kind of politics.
We have already begun that, with our ten point Contract With Brighton and Hove, pledges on safety and tackling violence against women, ending youth unemployment, improving tenant’s rights and doing more to help local small businesses. There will be much, much more in the weeks to come on a range of policy areas.
I will continue to highlight where I think the Greens have got it wrong and why I don’t believe the Conservative alternative is the right choice for the city, and I will be forthright about the challenges and difficult choices facing the city, but I will be positive about the opportunities ahead and the aims and goals we are putting on offer to Brighton and Hove at the local elections in May.
I believe the public do want to see some passion from their politicians about the failings and inequalities we see around us, but they want that passion directed into positive solutions, not negativity and blame. And one more pledge, if elected in May there will be a change of tone at the top.