Sunday was a strange day for those of us who often vote Labour, watching the Party or at least its leadership, both locally and nationally demonstrating how it seems incapable of standing up for its own values. Nationally Harriet Harman claimed that because the Conservatives have beaten Labour twice in General Elections, that Labour MPs will not vote against the Conservative policies on cutting benefits. Whilst she now appears to have stepped back from that position, nevertheless her grasp of why people have not voted Labour and the confidence with which she seemed to be sure that colleagues would not oppose these policies appears to be misguided on both counts. My own view is that Political Parties do need to do more to work together in the interests of the Common Good, being willing to vote together where the policies match their views, rather than always voting in opposition to one another as a matter of principle. However this particular issue does not come close to one of those situations to suggest that choosing to have 3 children rather than 2 is financially motivated in all but a small number of cases is bizarre. Arguably in a society where birth rates are falling to disturbingly low levels this is the opposite type of strategy to adopt. More locally in Brighton & Hove, the Labour Councillors appear unwilling to acknowledge any sense of responsibility for their actions in creating a vacancy in the office of the CEO. They appear unable to appreciate how angry some of us are, over their so far unexplained decision to spend estimates of around £400,000 to sack and then replace Penny Thompson. That they did this 5 weeks into their new administration, far too quickly for any form of meaningful due process or analysis to have taken place and then agreed to sign a confidentiality clause which they are claiming prevents them from saying anything shows how poor their judgement really is. The greatest frustration I have over this is that when they announced that Penny was to go, that instead of opening up a discussion about the best structure for the Council moving forward, they simply outlined the process for replacing the CEO on a like for like basis. The premature dismissal of senior officers, with large compensation packages has happened far too often in our Council over the past 10 years. Do these ‘representatives’ not know the history of the Council? Residents have ever right to feel very upset about the costs if not the actions being taken in their name. I was involved in a twitter discussion with 3 Party members on Sunday, one of whom argued that saying nothing when employees leave jobs is how such issues are always dealt with by employers, and challenged me to show her differently. It took me nearly 10 minutes to find an example from Barclays in the last week. I still await a further response from her now I have met her challenge! Whilst that was going on, the leader of the local group, Warren Morgan was explaining in his blog why a progressive alliance at the next general election between left wing parties would be wrong:
The progressive alliance is a chimera, a myth. Increasingly people don’t identify with the political labels we do. Left or right, progressive or socialist, these are terms which rarely come up on the doorstep. We can retreat to the comfort of our banners and our badges, or we can use our values to reach out to those who somewhere lost faith in our ability to deliver for them with an offer that is new, a vision that connects and a plan that delivers for them.
It is a wonderful quote, but one that apart from the first sentence supports, not challenges the idea of parties cooperating on matters of common values even if it is at the expense of their individual identity. In the decision to fire Penny Thompson it was Labour who proposed the action, whilst the Conservatives, the opposition group abstained, failing to challenge Labour on this issue of trust and accountability perhaps because it was they who last sacked a CEO, at that time at a cost of some £700,000! So locally as well as nationally Labour are prepared to form an alliance with Conservatives, but not with Parties that share their policies! Perhaps Labour and Conservative parties have more in common with one another than they do with the Common Good.