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The Green Party

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Are They The Future?

It is often the fate of prophets who have seen the future not to come into the promised land. Their place in history is assured, but is only known to historians as they look back at how events actually unfolded. Will that be the fate of the Greens now that David Cameron has signalled his party's recognition of the importance of environmental issues, now that Ming Campbell has set out his environmental tax package?

Labour has dragged its feet on the environment - ask Michael Meacher, one of Labour's former environment ministers.

So, is this the moment when the Greens go from electoral success to electoral success or when they fade away?

Certainly the Greens in the city have established a strong bridgehead of 6 councillors. In 1997 they arrived on the council with 1 seat when Pete West won a seat from Labour in the then St Peter's ward. In 2001 they took all 3 St Peter's ward seats, and then in 2001 won 6 seats across 3 wards. In the two split wards there are 3 more seats to be won, if their past achievements are a guide to the future. A possible 9 seats on the next council.

But will it happen? Council politics requires a certain sort of personality. You have to be able to enjoy or endure the endless tedium of it. That's not to say that a councillor and his or her party can actually make a difference to the life of the city. They can and do. But it's not for every one. The Green Party is a party of the young - or at least younger. It has already lost two of its first councillors (Pete West and Rik Child) who each threw in the towel. Another one will do the same this time round. (I'm reliably informed that Pete West is about to make a comeback to council politics next May - older and wiser, no doubt.)

Part of the problem is just how to mix council commitments with careers and work commitments. Young councillors not uncommonly stand down because they realise they need to get a proper job. Council politics is still pretty much a preserve of the middle aged and retired.

However, the Greens do have an indefatigible weapon in their current leader, Keith Taylor, who is the right age, has the right personality, and seems to enjoy the cut and thrust of council politics.

Keith Taylor is their parliamentary candidate in Brighton Pavilion, and is their joint leader nationally along with Caroline Lucas, one of their two MEP's.

Also, it's worth noting, that the Greens have taken to holding their annual conferences at Hove town hall.

I reckon they're here to stay - not least because Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq made foreign policy a live electoral issue, and because we continue to be bogged down in Iraq.

Blair's inability to acknowledge his gross blunder means that Labour will continue to pay an electoral price for it - at least here in Brighton.


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