Earlier this week, I started my analysis of the transformed political context in Brighton & Hove following the local elections. As our direct competition for centre-left votes, I explored the implications for Labour of our success and cautioned our supporters not to view the result as a repudiation of that party. Labour's approach in the last two weeks has been measured and publicly respectful, however differently their activists may feel privately. Already, I sense an effective pincer movement between their reasoned opposition and the aggressive denunciation of our policies that the local Conservatives are conducting via the local press. We need to quickly find a voice that responds to their challenges and talks over their heads direct to the voters.
Which is why the right choice of Council cabinet is an essential pre-requisite for us to set the tone for the next four years. We announced the first Green cabinet late last week and whilst I have a couple of minor reservations, I am pleased with both the individuals announced and how they have begun to conduct themselves in their first statements on policy.
Bill Randall, our first Leader of the Council, alongside Amy Kennedy and Ian Davey as Deputy Leaders, have an established track record in leading the Green Group of councillors locally over the last couple of years. As well as a strong overview on the key issues facing the city, they are genuinely pragmatic team-players who have maintained respectful and constructive relationships with other political parties. They command respect amongst the local party and are also known as strong advocates for their constituents, regardless of party affiliation.
Amongst the remaining members of the Cabinet, we have a good mix of those councillors with direct experience of political office, alongside newcomers who have been brought forward due to their professional and private experience with particular portfolio areas. This is a sound foundation to work from. Promisingly, I know of several of our "backbench" councillors who could also do a fantastic job in these positions. I hope this first year in office provides these councillors with opportunities to shadow and assist those in the Cabinet - it won't hurt to nurture the largest pool of talent for the Green Group to select from over the course of this Council session.
One issue that is achieving some traction in the blogosphere is the notion that our cabinet could be more gender balanced - I have some sympathy with that view and would call upon the Green Council to ensure that their policies are impact-assessed to ensure that women, children and the vulnerable are not disproportionately affected by the austerity measures we are being placed under. I would also challenge my local party to bring equal representation to bear as a preferred approach in the future.
Later this week, in my final article of this series, I'll be looking at the key political issues facing the city, share my views on how the Green Council should consider tackling them and give thought to the broader narrative we should be building during our time in office.