Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Minority Report



It was good to see a dose of Sunday afternoon comedy gold as Jo Lovelock vented her spleen on the BBC Politics show and said more than she should have.

Not withstanding that Jo seems to have a poor grasp of how local democracy works - without a majority, the largest group has no more right to rule than a coalition, the simple maths of the results means that Labour has no more legitimacy to run Reading than a minority coalition. Labour got 39.8% of the vote, the coalition parties got 46.8%.

On the other hand, if Labour agreed to form a coalition with the Greens then that would have legitimacy by being a majority administration. Labour has never had any intention of doing so and Jo states quite categorically that they are in discussion with the Green Party to form a minority administration only.

She then gives away the game away about negotiations by saying that they are "mainly talking about policy". I've heard that sort of talk before.

Labour will offer some guff about shared policy objectives. The Greens will be asked to hand over a list of goodies they want and will hear nice words about how there is much common ground... but here's how it will really work:

There will be pathetically few firm commitments. There will be a caveat of subject to budget and it being fully costed. There will be a we'll see what we can do.

Why do I think so? Because it's how their negotiations with the Lib Dems were conducted in 2008. Been there done it. It why in 2009 the Lib Dems voted against allowing Labour to form a minority administration.

Put more bluntly, Labour simply cannot afford to give the Greens anything that can be put on a leaflet in Park ward as a Green policy win no matter how small which means that unless they insist on a formal and publicly available document listing in detail what has been promised by Labour in return for power, they will find that once in charge any promises made will not get a veggie sausage to show for it.

Why? Labour are terrified of losing their totemic ward of Park completely to the Greens. Sure Jon Hartley will come up with some bogus reason why he will be stepping down to dodge personal embarrassment but Labour will fight like rats in a sack to avoid losing Martin Salter's heartland ward. It means there can be no Green initiatives that can be put to the electorate.

What is also clear from the interview is that Labour cannot afford to make it seem that there are alternative coalitions available. They made up a completely bogus charge about why they couldn't work with the Lib Dems. The "some of the things they were saying about the Labour group in the run up to the local election" was not spelled out but I can say that whatever may have been said by Lib Dems wasn't in the same ball park as Labour supporters making homophobic dog whistles to Asian voters.

However, the real 'fall off the seat laughing' moment was "our door is open". Pure balderdash... well apart from the bit where Tony Page was blabbing on about the Greens prior to their meeting... with their door open.

I also love the point at which she says that she can't talk for the Greens, then tells Peter Henley: "They don't seem to interested in forming a coalition with the other two parties." Thanks Jo. I was waiting for Rob and Melanie to tell me what the Green's position is but I guess we just need to contact the Labour Party to find out now.

The real Labour plan for their minority administration is to slash and burn services on the basis that "The nasty coalition made me do it." They will not spend more money on anything apart perhaps from on their union chums and Ejaz and Rajinder for services rendered in Redlands.

It's also worth bearing in mind that if the local elections were decided proportionally, this is what the result would have been: Labour 18, Conservative 16, Lib Dems 6, Greens 5, Common Sense 1

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