Voters are not a commodity to be traded between political parties.
That’s the view of Councillor Rob Lee who heads the opposition Conservative group on Hastings Borough Council (HBC). Mr Lee was replying to the announcement yesterday that local Liberal Democrats had written to the Hastings Green Party offering them an electoral pact at next year’s elections to HBC.
“If the Lib Dems and Greens really believed in their policies they should give the whole town the opportunity to vote on them,” said Mr Lee.
Meanwhile council leader and Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Hastings Peter Chowney questions of the two parties have much in common: “The Greens consider themselves to be a radical, progressive party with a focus on combatting climate change. The Lib Dems are a centrist party that spent five years propping up an unpopular Tory government. I’m not sure what they have in common.
“I understand the Green Party has ruled out coalitions with the Lib Dems nationally because their policies are very different,” he told Hastings In Focus.
The comments from Mr Le and Mr Chowney were in response to the publication yesterday of a letter from Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats to the local Green party. In the letter Lib Dems outline a way to end what they describe as the ‘stale old two party politics’ of HBC.
Th letter outlines a plan that would see each party stand aside for the other in selected wards across the borough.
The letter from former parliamentary, council and euro candidate Nick Perry and campaign group member Paul Hunt says: “Our Campaign Group has been given authority by the Executive Committee of the Hastings and Rye Liberal Democrats to contact you as we prepare for the Hastings Borough Council elections 2020.
“As you will recall, we met in advance of the 2018 elections and, while your membership did not give agreement to any form of political compact, you expressed public gratitude for our willingness to stand aside in Old Hastings because of our joint commitment to a more diverse Council and agreement on the harbour planning issue that was live at the time.
“Since those elections, our parties have worked alongside each other in the People’s Vote campaign and in support of climate crisis action. We agree on much, including the need for voting reform and a more participatory local and national democracy. To that end, and in order to inform imminent decisions about the selection of Liberal Democrat Borough Council candidates, we now make a bold, public offer to you – to work together in the 2020 elections, to agree wards where we will stand aside for you and endorse your candidate, and wards where you will do the same for us.
“We believe that Hastings and St Leonards will benefit from new, local government success for the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party which will freshen up the stale old two party politics with a diversity of views and a particular focus on planning and environmental policies.
“There is plenty of evidence across the country – Mid-Sussex, Oxfordshire, Richmond and Broxtowe come to mind – that Liberal Democrats and Greens can campaign together to promote agreed policies and shared values and win elections.
“Over the Borough boundary in Rother District, the lone Green councilor, Polly Gray, was invited to sit with the Liberal Democrat group, which now forms part of the controlling administration, to ensure that she was able to play a full part in council proceedings. We are delighted that she accepted the invitation.
“We realise, of course, that serious negotiation and discussion would be necessary before we could jointly unveil a formal agreement to Hastings and St. Leonards voters. We look forward to your response at your earliest convenience in the hope that we can jointly offer voters a fresh alternative to party political fighting on Hastings Council.”
Ms Hilton told Hastings In Focus yesterday: “All our decisions are made by our local members…
“We share the Lib Dems wish to bring a greater diversity of voices to our local council. Elected Green councillors across the country have shown how even one or two Greens on the council can make a huge impact in their communities, particularly in cross party work.
“Earlier this year we led the call to declare a climate emergency in Hastings and will be working hard to make sure the council delivers on its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030. It is essential that the move to a net-zero carbon society improves the lives of all residents and elected Green councillors would work hard to deliver that in partnership with others locally, at county level and nationally.
“Locally Greens came second in Hastings (after the Brexit Party) during the EU elections with 18 per cent of the vote and third after Labour and the Conservatives at the last local elections with ten per cent of the vote.
“We cannot make any further comment until we have put this proposal to our members.”
Meanwhile Mr Perry told us: “We must now wait for Julia to have a full discussion with her colleagues. I hope we will be able to do business. I know that many people that I spoke to during the European Parliament elections want Remainers to work together. And that is why we have made this offer.”