The Green Party took control of Brighton and Hove City Council as a minority administration in 2011. This was much-vaunted as the next step in the Green breakthrough which began when Caroline Lucas was elected to Parliament the year before.
After their local election success, she told the BBC:
“There really is a sense now that the Greens are a real alternative and once you get that first foot in the door in Parliament, that obviously gives us more credibility and people have more confidence in voting Green.”
If that sense ever existed, it has evaporated in the two intervening years.
Cllr Geoffrey Theobald, Leader of the Conservative Opposition in Brighton & Hove, reported last year on unpopular Green plans to raise taxes and waste taxpayers’ money funding the unions. More recently, JP Floru wrote for us about the chaos the administration had caused in the City.
By May, the writing was on the wall and Caroline Lucas was protesting against her own party’s spending decisions.
Such chaos has borne ugly fruit for the Green Party.
A ComRes poll at the weekend found that they have slipped into third place in the city, behind Labour and the Conservatives. While the fantasy of a Green revolution proved superficially attractive, two years living with the reality has alienated the electorate in this supposed stronghold.
This isn’t just a cautionary tale, it’s two cautionary tales (we always like to offer a good bargain at ConservativeHome).
The first is for voters who might be tempted by left wing utopian politics. As the people of Brighton and Hove will tell you, this is a pie in the sky. All the promises might cost the Greens nothing to make, but they cost the taxpayer a heap of cash and plenty of disruption to implement.
The second is for ambitious small parties: be careful what you wish for.
UKIP may not share the Greens’ views, but they share the hopes and challenges that come with being a small party trying to stage an insurgency. Understandably they hope to secure a new batch of council seats next year on the back of the European Elections. Looking at the current polling, they will probably do so.
But they should be wary of doing too well. Perhaps the worst thing that could happen to UKIP would be to take control of a District or Borough council next year.
Spending the year before the General Election learning how to run it could be less of a positive experience than they might imagine – as the Greens have so vividly demonstrated.