The story that the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove has chosen its new leader unopposed as part of its AGM is clearly good news for Dan Yates. In one sense the decision was a purely internal one, the party continues to be the largest party in the city and therefore the one that leads the Council, even though it does not have an overall majority. So that means that Cllr Daniel Yates is now the Council Leader. On Saturday the weather was lovely and a reasonable number of Labour Councillors were out canvassing. I asked them why they were canvassing bearing in mind there are no votes to be cast in the city this May. The answer was that they are preparing the ground for next May when every Council seat is up for re-election. This perspective chimes with the news report here which explains amongst other things that Councillor Yates explained
“Over the next few months Labour will begin developing the manifesto that we plan to help us take majority control of the city council next May for the first time in nearly 20 years. We will be fighting to win the hearts, minds and trust of every resident of the city and, given the great Labour results across the city in 2017, it is clear that residents have a growing confidence that Labour are best placed to deliver for them.”
I appreciate that asking members of an organisation what is going on internally is a perfectly legitimate request which I chose not to make on Saturday. I was aware that Warren Morgan had resigned as leader of the Labour Group and it did occur to me to ask who would take over from him or when that process would occur. However such thoughts did not press heavily on my thinking. I wonder if the team of canvassers out on Saturday would even have considered mentioning they were just about to elect a new leader, and that they were mostly of one mind who it should be. It may seem that such an issue was of no relevance to me, or indeed that it was none of my business. However if the party are serious about winning hearts and minds and trust, it seems that inviting local residents to know what is likely to happen and who is likely to win their internal contest would be one strong way of winning trust and gaining our interest.
The truth is I have voted Labour most of my life, but in recent years have been happy to vote Green for my local MP because Caroline is a first rate MP (as was her Labour predecessor) and so when it comes to local Councillors I tend to consider the people standing for election and vote for those I have most confidence in, irrespective of their party. However if Dan Yates has the potential to change the Labour Party, then who he is and why he was about to be voted for, could sway my thinking regarding next year. By the same token his role over the next year is not just preparing for the next election, it is running the city and I hope that he will have the confidence to do that in an effective but collaborative manner. We need a strong Council, whether it is run by a party with an overall majority, or a wafer thin majority. One of the reasons why the local Labour Party lost some of my support was when it was last in power it was arrogant and heavy handed in its approach. My views as one elector are irrelevant, but it does seem interesting that we are now about to enter our 16th year of a minority administration in our city. Almost as if my views about the strength and competence of the Labour Party are shared by others!