Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Progressive Alliance

Following the May election, assembly opponents of the Conservative mayor banded together to form the self styled Progressive Alliance, carving out all the committee chairs amongst themselves and setting out to make common cause against Boris. With 13 members in total they command a wafer thin majority on the 25 strong body. Seven months on, how are they doing?

Labour - Looking Back in Angst

The Labour group actually gained a member - Navin Shah - at the election, giving them a total strength of eight. Making up over half of the Progressive Alliance, they were naturally expected to take the lead.

However much of their time has been spent grieving and coming to terms with the May result. Like the crew of a wrecked flagship, they bob around in the water, seeking pieces of wreckage to cling to. They have an unerring instinct for grasping the lead lifebelts - issues that contributed to their demise. So we have seen unattractive campaigns such as:

Preserve the Bendy Bus

Save Sir Ian Blair

Keep the Congestion Charge Western Extension

Their most effective performer is John Biggs, who harries the mayor constantly at question time, but John often appears grouchy and bitter. For non Labour voters he is not a sympathetic figure.

Perhaps the biggest of the lead lifebelts is Ken himself. He has stopped hanging around in the audience at meetings, but in November he launched his online fightback at claiming support from a host of political and non aligned figures. The site was slow to start, with few comments and fewer articles - Prozac London would have been a better title - but it has picked up speed recently, with the resignation of another mayoral advisor and the mayor's remarks on the Damian Green controversy. No comments on the arrest itself and its implications for civil liberties, however - they're not that progressive.

Labour need to find a new candidate and some new ideas.

Liberal Democrats - The Magnificent Three

The Libs lost two members at the election, falling from five to just three, largely because their vote was squeezed by the high profile candidates of the two main parties. They have accepted the limitations placed on them by their numbers and have been careful about the responsibilities they took on.

Whilst supporting Labour on paper, in practice they have sought opportunities to distance themselves, most notably on the Western Extension with Lib Dem transport chairman Caroline Pidgeon demanding its scrapping, even whilst the consultation was in progress. This stands in stark contrast to the Labour / Green attachment to the charge.

Last week the Libs and Conservatives passed an amendment to a motion about the Met's human trafficking unit, condemning the Home Secretary's half baked proposals to control prostitution.

The Libs seem content to be part of the Progressive Alliance but don't want to be too closely identified with some of their policies.

Greens - The Tail Wags the Dog

With only two members, the tiny Green group managed to punch well above their weight in Ken's second term, securing funding for environmental projects as a price for agreeing the mayor's budget. With Ken gone and their votes no longer essential, the future looked grim.

However they have adjusted to the new circumstances remarkably quickly. Green member Darren Johnson, became deputy chair of the assembly and has chaired a couple of sessions in Jennette Arnold's absence. During one meeting he had left wing protestors thrown out of the chamber - surely a first for a Green politician.

Most meetings feature motions proposed by the Greens, which attract support from the other progressives, giving the impression that the Greens are actually leading the progressive agenda. The Greens raised the future of the human trafficking unit when the Home Office cut their funding, and it was the Greens who proposed the amnesty for illegal immigrants which caused such controversy in October.

Green leader Jenny Jones claims that she gets her way by being nice to the Labour group but the truth is that of all three progressive blocks, the Greens are the only ones who are clear about what they stand for as opposed to what they stand against.


John M Ward said...

Very interesting indeed! I have kept a copy for reference. It'll be interesting to see how matters "Progressive" progress (ahem!) in the next six months...

AdamB said...

It's much easier to understand what the Conservative block stand for - gradual devolution of the Mayor's powers to the boroughs with the ultimate unspoken goal of abolition. Is that about right?

Roger Evans said...

Adam, that's not how I see our intentions.

Of course we do believe that decisions are best taken at the level of government closest to our constituents, which in London is the borough - although a typical London borough would be seen as quite 'high tier' elsewhere in the country. Remote decision making discourages participation and leaves voters feeling disempowered, sometimes leading to extremism - a factor which has played out to considerable disadvantage in my neighbouring borough, Barking & Dagenham.

But abolition is not on the agenda, and everyone in City Hall is clear about that. Some services are best run strategically, with close attention to the differing needs of each part of London.

weggis said...

".. unerring instinct for grasping the lead lifebelts.."

Do you mean "lead" as in Plumbum, or as in Go First?

Roger Evans said...

All the examples I mentioned are clearly 'plumbum' and some of them were orignal too.