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Wanted – young candidates in Brighton and Hove!

By Mathew Beech

Local councillors have an image problem.

Catherine Roberts, 25, of Applesham Way, Portslade, said that they’re “out of touch with real people and quite privileged”.

James Brammer, 42, of Henley Road, Brighton, described them as “old, white males”.

And pensioner Barry Smith, from Coldean, said that they “push use aside like we had no say in what they propose”.

A widely held view is that local authorities, including Brighton and Hove City Council, are full of white, middle-aged or retired men who are in it for their own gain.

The political parties are aware of this. And with the youthful Green Party’s success in the local elections in Brighton and Hove last year, the Greens’ rivals are trying to do something about it.

Councillor Andrew Wealls

The Brighton and Hove Conservatives, who work in 16 of the city’s 21 council wards, held a review after losing office to the Greens.

One idea to emerge has been to invite even non-party members to consider becoming candidates in the next local elections in 2015.

They hope to attract working men and women, families and those involved in running local clubs and societies.

The aim is to boost voter turn-out and give themselves a timely boost in the polls.

Councillor Andrew Wealls, who led the review of selection processes, said: “The modern Conservative Party is the party of all the people and we are determined that our candidates are representative of all communities in our great city.”

Fellow councillor Graham Cox, chairman of the Brighton and Hove Conservatives, hopes that the move will reinvigorate the local political scene.

He would like it to encourage those who hadn’t previously thought that politics could be for them.

He said: “Wouldn’t it be great if we had the people who run the youth clubs, who are school governors and run other clubs and societies involved.

“It would be a really good thing and would bring more people back to local politics.

“Currently the voter turnouts are between 30 and 45 per cent so it would benefit all the parties if we can get more people involved.”

Councillor Gill Mitchell

All three political groups on the council are making a concerted effort so that their parties and prospective councillors better reflect the city.

The Labour and Co-operative Party wants to welcome new members as it looks towards the 2015 elections.

Gill Mitchell, the leader of the Labour group, said: “We always look for different voices with real life experiences.

“We want people who want to make a difference to join our party and then put themselves forward for the local elections.”

The two traditional political heavyweights seem to be responding to a new threat posed by the Greens with their triumph at the 2011 local elections.

The Greens’ victory in Brighton and Hove gave them control of a council in this country for the first time.

Some regard them as being more representative of the city as they include many younger faces and different sexualities.

Lianne De Mello, the political assistant to the Green group of councillors, sees it as an advantage for the party and believes that the public may find it easier to relate to their members.

She said: “We are a quite diverse party and our members reflect this.

“They put themselves forward so we have got diverse councillors and have a few young councillors like Jason Kitcat and Alex Phillips.”

Councillor Jason Kitcat

She said that there were still two main barriers preventing potential candidates from standing whatever their political leanings – money and time.

Miss De Mello said: “The challenges to councillors are the allowances of £11,000.

“The time needed to be a councillor means it is basically a part-time job, with the thought you could have it alongside another position.

“But not many jobs let you take a Tuesday afternoon off here and there or every Thursday afternoon.

“This means that, for people working, it has been something they don’t usually consider.”

It may be hard to introduce new and younger faces to politics because of the nature of the role of councillor. But the traditional political parties are keen to do so to shed their out-of-touch image.

The political landscape is changing in Brighton and Hove, as shown by the rise of the Greens, and that demands a positive response.

As former Prime Minister Harold Wilson said: “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

 

4 comments to Wanted – young candidates in Brighton and Hove!

  • Valerie Paynter,

    Young, middle aged, old, white, sky blue pink…makes no difference. Politicians are about each other and scoring points in the main. And they are all ordinary people who ultimately defer to officer ‘expertise’ and carry the can for their mistakes, misjudgments and failings.

    The only councillor worth having is one who is a problem solver who is willing to mediate on behalf of residents. This does not require a political party. In fact, an independent cllr has to actually work more and get more results for residents. No party to hide behind and go along with.

  • Dave

    If you want people to be involved in politics you have to have a system that engages them. The system in place at the moment has been created by the big parties in order to do the exact opposite, to keep the parties in power without having to engage with the general public, only the press and corporations really matter to them.

    No point scrabbling for crumbs when no one is eating at the table!

  • Hucklepickleberry

    What is needed in Brighton and Hove are born and bred residents, who know their town inside out. They should be the councillors. We need a Brightonian Party, where the indigenous population are treated with respect and given their rights in a town which caters for everyone else, except its indigenous people.

    Brightonians are the ones who are not consulted on matters, yet have to bear the brunt of mistake after mistake by incomers who want to make a name for themselves politically and use the local indigenous population as “cannon fodder” through their endless quests for career-boosting and unrealistic environmental goals. Career climbers and those who choose to live within our city are not Brightonians until they have lived here for 25/30 years: they remain merely “grockles” until then (except those younger who were born here).

    Only after a length of time observing what is happening and what works, can you base judgement on what has gone before, what is good and needs keeping, and what needs to change. We had a brilliant transport system up until the 1980s when incomers altered the road system, leading to a disasterous situation, for instance.

    Give Brighton back to the Brightonians. We don’t want the likes of KitKat and his wife governing us. He said he moved here for a “career move” and she indicated the Brightonians would be an inbred society without incomers’ involvement. He spoke of his career goals and she spoke of her disdain: Brightonians are not inbred, in fact they have been one of the most transient societies for hundreds of years and the population is made up of many nationalities, including her own countrymen and women. These two alone, need to apologise to the Brightonian residents. Either they and other councillors must put their residents first and not their own careers, or resign.

  • Clive

    It’s true that too many people in local politics – particularly if they’ve been at it for a while – think first and foremost of what will annoy their opponents. But the answer isn’t more independent councillors, if only because almost nobody votes for independent candidates when they do stand. People like their party labels, because then they at least know roughly what they are getting for their ‘x’.

    It’s also true too that some of the current crop of B&H councillors have been elected after fairly short periods of residence in the city. But frankly, if the electorate of the wards in question thought that this was a disqualification, then they wouldn’t vote for them. Democracy, innit? Born and bred Brightonians aren’t the majority, and there is absolutely no reason why their view should count for more (or less) than anyone else’s.

    Ania Kitcat’s comment was made in response to a slight upon new arrivals in the city – anyone else might have said something similar in anger.

    The charge of careerism is often bandied about, but without a bit of careerism in everybody’s makeup none of us would ever get out of bed, and then where would be?

    A survey a few years back indicated that most coucillors worked a 29 hour week for their fairly meagre allowance, which may indicate why most ordinary people (ie not weirdo political obsessives) of working age aren’t exactly queueing up to do this. So if it wasn’t for the wierdo political obsessive careerist incomers the whole system would collapse.

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