Sunday, 17 June 2012

Working with Independents

Terry, Charles and Edgar - The Valley Independents
The Green Party forming a group on Kirklees Council with the Valley Independents has taken us up to 8 Councillors and we are now officially recognised as a 'major group' on the Council. The threshold of what constitutes a 'major group' was set at 7 in around 2003 by the larger groups and I always thought that this was designed to exclude the Green Party. At the time we were close to winning Kirkburton (and remained 'close' till 2007) so winning 6 seats for the Greens seemed to be reasonable in a just a few years but getting to 7 might take a bit more time. So I don't think the 7 seat threshold was just plucked out of the air, it was designed to preserve the power of the larger groups and the support they were able to call upon.

It would be wrong however to think that the Green Party working with the Valley Independents is simply a marraige of convenience. I do know that the term 'Independent' can cover a range of political views. My Grandad, on my mothers side, was an Independent Councillor in Newcastle under Lyme and he was a Daily Express reader with views probably not too distinguishable from a Conservative. Though we have worked with Conservatives on Kirklees in the past it would  be totally inconceivable for us to feel comfortable working in a group with them or people who to all intents and purposes were Conservative in all but name. The Independent Group leader Terry Lyons had been a Labour Party member and Edgar Holroyd-Doveton (who has his own blog) is a former member of the Green Party before he moved to Kirklees. So we were not dealing with any 'Con-dependents' here.

We spent the best part of the last year working together on the budget and other issues. So we have built trust and dialogue to better understand where we were both coming from. We both rejected the 'Party whipping system' and therefore the use of 'Party discipline' on dissenting members. A respect for difference of opinion was shared and therefore if on occasions we disagreed it would not necessarily be a huge issue. Consensus, mutual respect and leadership by consent, as opposed to coercion, were at the heart of this partnership. Following the local elections when the Greens won in Kirkburton and the Independents in Holme Valley North this took us over the magic 7 threshold with 8 Councillors. Another thing that bound us together was our shared experience of being elected largely through our own efforts regardless of the national swings to and from the larger parties. It makes getting elected harder but once you're there you should be more resilient to the ups and downs which effect the larger parties.

 The 3 wards we each represent share a common boundary so over a wide area of Kirklees  people are now used to electing representatives who are not party of the big 3 parties.Providing real choices for people is important and showing they are not constrained by traditional parties is empowering to communities freeing them from the paternalism which often characterises the larger parties.

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