Is party politics beyond redemption?

When even the best Labour councillors are hamstrung by a dysfunctional Party and Yellow is yet another shade of Blue — then you find Greens are not necessarily good for you…

I joined a proudly socialist CLP in 2016, when we all saw the Party moving to the left. I was Vice-Chair in the 2017 election, pleased to be working for a CLP that was building a diverse, socialist council. Our parliamentary candidate, Peter Chowney, ran with a manifesto that out-greened the Greens, and proudly endorsed Jeremy Corbyn as our next Prime Minister.

It was the year of the Progressive Alliance and we had a number of events in town where members of the Red, Green and Yellow parties came together and discussed tactics (see header image), agreeing easily that getting the Tories out was everyone’s first priority. I had several meetings with leaders of other local parties which went well, except that the then leader of the local Greens could not seem to grasp the difference between a lefty CLP and Labour’s obstructive central administration.

She could not forgive Labour candidates and MPs not openly supporting Green wins in places where it was clear that long-standing MPs would be proscribed by the party if they did so. In fact, The Party was liable to suspend not just MPs but whole CLPs if they heard them briefing for another party, an action that would be against Progressive Alliance principles. We did what we could, staying quiet in constituencies where another candidate might oust the Tories, working with other parties on strategies and canvassing where Labour was the best bet, but that wasn’t enough for Hilton.

I put it down to political naivety, and got on with the task in hand. I left the Labour Party a few years later when the increasingly intolerable Party administration suspended our delegate, Leah Levane, in the middle of the Party Conference.

I have been watching in horror as Keir Starmer, the Tripartite Commission’s neoliberal plant, destroys the remains of the left in Labour, but I was startled this week to see Hastings named on the growing lists of those monster, right-wing Labour councils the Party has been building.  I know the rump that remains of Hastings and Rye Labour Party has some dafties in it – in fact, we’re not entirely devoid of daft councillors but I can’t see how anyone could call HBC a right-wing monster.

A Skwawk too far?

Skwawkbox – one of the lefty blogs hurling brickbats at Hastings this week.

Not being in the Party now, I don’t know the “back end” details of this story, but I do know that we still have some decent councillors, and they don’t deserve that.

HBC Leader Paul Barnett

Barnett was the Chair of Hastings and Rye in that 2017 election, and along with our parliamentary candidate, was a vocal supporter of the Corbyn movement. You can see him behind the banner here, marching in support of the RCN nurses in a local trade union rally earlier this year.

Hastings Demands a Pay Rise banner

The first speech I heard from him as Council Leader was at the Hastings Demands Better meeting held by the trade unions last year.

Paul Barnett, HBC

Read about Barnett’s ‘Demand Better’ speech here.

HBC Deputy Leader Maya Evans

Anyone who doubts Maya Evans’s socialist credentials should ask themselves why Starmer’s Labour refused to local members’ wish to endorse her as Labour’s parliamentary candidate this time around. Maya is the peace activist who famously read out names of the dead at the cenotaph after the Iraq War. If anyone thinks she’s too cozy with the Tories, take a look at the way Hastings Tory councillors reacted when they heard her standing up for refugees at a meeting on the beach last year…

Careless reporting from the left

As anyone who’s paying attention to politics (rather than to the mainstream press) knows, it is true that the current Labour Party administration is hell-bent on destroying the remainder of the Corbyn movement’s presence in the party. It’s going further than that – it’s wiping out any elements that aren’t solidly right wing.

Ben Sellers, a former Labour Party activist – 23 May 2023

It’s a hard task persuading the politically naïve that this is happening, and it’s a great shame that our efforts to do so are undermined by careless reporting from the left.

Greens are not socialists – I know that as an ex-member myself – the socialist caucus the Green Party once had did what I did, and moved to Labour either when the Party chose Ed, rather than David Milliband as leader, or when the next leadership contest gave us a chance at a real democratic socialist. Some may have returned to the Green Party now, but by no means all. Greens are not predominantly socialist, and nor are they necessarily brilliant councillors, as Brighton have discovered in recent years.

Hastings Greens won their first borough councillor on the back of a nasty episode when a right-wing plant accused every Jewish socialist on the council of anti-semitism, and they “won” their second when a party-hopping councillor left the Labour Party after being the subject of a council Standards Hearing for publicly slandering a colleague for personal gain, in the year that the Green Party leadership advised members “to do anything” to get council seats.

Pots and kettles

I daresay the newer green councillors might be innocent of the Green Group’s earlier manipulations and yes, they are popular with some people but HBC’s current leadership did not deserve the national-level bad-mouthing they’ve had from the Green Group’s leader this week. As for the accusation of Labour Councillors voting with the Tories, the Green contingent on HBC are exhibiting a very short memory indeed.

Margaret Thatcher tinted green

Click here to read about Hastings Green councillors’ anti-socialist politics.

And here’s a comment from Paul Barnett only last month…

Yes, HBC have reverted to a one-party cabinet for now, but only after an incredibly difficult year, in which they appear to have been sabotaged and misrepresented by Green councillors on the one hand whilst on the other, they struggle to work under the shadow of a Labour Party that is liable to penalise councillors doing anything that looks like cross-party working. Is giving up on a multi-party cabinet a sin in those conditions? I think I would have done the same thing.

And as for the accusation that they used the Mayor’s casting vote to win their card – well, some mayors are more political than others. I last saw Hastings Mayor, Margi O’Callaghan, outside the Magistrates’ Court, supporting local refuse operatives who had been arrested for, er, standing on their union’s picket line.

Click here to read about (and listen to) Hastings defending arrested trade unionists

You won’t find solidarity in party politics

I’m glad I left Labour, and I do not in any way support its current leadership. I ask my fellow citizens to recognize that it’s intolerably difficult for our Labour councillors to do anything useful under Labour’s banner, especially under an extreme Tory government. I can also categorically say that I don’t support the Greens in my town. When British Greens say they can’t understand why they aren’t doing as well as the Green Parties of other countries, they should look to their own members’ behaviour for the answer.

I begin to wonder whether my former comrades who are now Labour Councillors, and who are committed to doing their best for their town, should consider “doing a Liverpool”. Standing as independents next time around may be the only way to release the political power I know they personally have.

Let’s opt for independents next year

I know there are various projects to form a new, democratic socialist alternative but I don’t yet see any of them developed enough to win under our current system. I also note that many people are working on election reform. I hope that happens, and that a new, genuinely democratic socialist option will rise and become a clear option in the next few years.

Either way, I am praying for some decent independent council candidates to vote for next year. There must be people out there who can get their heads round supporting workers, fighting austerity and defending the environment, people who can do that without bad-mouthing anyone wearing a different colour whenever things don’t go one hundred percent their way.


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