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Green councillors vote for cuts in Brighton

Many Green Partty members are in shock at recent events on Brighton town council, reports Simon Hardy

MANY SUPPORTERS of the Green Party were shocked and angered when Green councillors proposed and voted for a cuts budget on Brighton council. Brighton is the only place in the country where Greens have a majority on the council, giving them a chance to propose a radical alternative to cuts.

But the Greens’ budget is far from radical. In order to generate more money to protect services, they proposed a two year 3.5 per cent increase in council tax. Even then, they would still envisage job cuts, though they would attempt to avoid compulsory redundancies. This still means fewer jobs for the unemployed to chase.

At the budget meeting on 23 February, Tories and Labour united to vote down the council tax increase. After their flagship policy was defeated, the Green’s slumped in behind the Labour’s cuts budget, which will slice £35 million from local services. In the entire council chamber only Alex Phillips from the Greens voted against the cuts. Phillips later made it clear on her blog she only opposed the budget because it froze the council tax.
Local Green MP, Caroline Lucas, spoke out against the vote, and the local unions tried to put pressure on Labour councillors to put forward a “no cuts” budget – but to no avail.

However even worse was to come. The motion to discuss the Brighton fiasco at the Greens’ national conference in February was understandably submitted late. This meant that a vote had to be taken on whether to suspend standing orders and allow time for the debate. But conference voted to not even discuss it after leading party members argued against having the debate on this strategic issue: what to do when in office.

Denied a chance to address the conference on this key issue, the socialist wing of the Greens, Green Left, has responded with increasing frustration. Some have resigned.

When Lucas spoke at the Occupy camp last autumn, she called for “a new kind of politics”. Sadly the Greens have failed to provide that. The one chance they had to prove they are a principled anticuts party has now been lost. What has been proven is that, once in power, they play the same game as the mainstream parties.

This is of a piece with European Greens, who have entered coalition governments. In France the Greens voted for cuts, in Germany they voted for the Afghan war and in Ireland for the bailout package. This is because the Greens are not a working class party, but defend private property and the profit system.
Socialists and progressives in the Green Party should reconsider their position and look to building an anticapitalist alternative embedded in the working class.

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