The Brighton Argus reports today that the Brighton and Hove Green Party has called in mediators to deal with growing rifts within the Green Group of councillors, following a vote at a General Meeting earlier this week.
In one respect, though, the Argus has in my view seriously misunderstood the issues. It talks about different political strands within the Party – so-called watermelons and mangoes. But actually that’s not the point: you mediate between individuals, not political positions. The obvious implication of the use of mediators is that there are some councillors who, for whatever reason, do not find the Green Group a safe place to be.
And the implications of this for a party that claims to “do politics differently” are devastating. Greens have been proud of their lack of internal structures, arguing that you need to seek consensus and allow individual conscience free rein in almost all circumstances. In Brighton and Hove, for the first time ever, that rationality has come up against the dirty realities of power politics, in which it is necessary to take difficult decisions in the face of acute economic problems. And frankly – most of all with the decision to delegate conduct of pay modernisation to officers – it has shown itself to be wholly inadequate to the task.
Democracy, ultimately, is about collective responsibility; it is about debating decisions and accepting them once made – with proper structure and process to ensure that those decisions are both inclusive and adhered to. It means that Councillors and others do not opt out of collective decisions on anything other than the most serious issues. To do anything else means that ultimately, you are not doing politics – you are in the rationality of what Aneurin Bevan famously called the emotional spasm.
Increasingly, the phrase Thatcherite Individualism is being used to characterise the behaviour of some individuals in the Brighton and Hove Green Party. They -the Green Party generally – appear to be wholly oblivious to how closely their political method mirrors the rationality of free market economics, with its emphasis on the personal rather than the collective. Mediate by all means, but without an acceptance that “doing politics differently” has failed there will be no way forward for this party.