19 May 2019
Zoe Nicholson, Leader of the Green Group, Lewes District Council
On Monday 20th May, one of my first formal acts as Leader of the Green Group, the second largest party on Lewes District Council and the official Opposition to the Conservatives on Lewes District Council will be to put myself forward for election as Leader of the Council.
When the results of the elections rolled in and the papers printed that the Conservatives, with 19 elected seats, expected to appoint the Leader of the Council, people would be forgiven for thinking that it was all over. Well, it doesn’t have to be like that.
Whilst the Conservatives remain the largest party, they do not have an overall majority, which means that if all the opposition parties work together as a combined force for good we collectively have more seats than the Conservatives - and can take control, as a cooperative alliance. For the next 4 years, the Council will be run by the party or parties who win this Leadership election. It is a single moment in time, at about 6.30pm on Monday 20th May, that we, local Councillors, can show those that voted in the local elections and those that did not that we can overcome our differences and work together
Over the last 2 weeks since being elected I have met and talked with all the leaders of the opposition groups, have listened to what matters to them and developed a proposed allliance agreement that is fair, balanced and critically where leadership is shared and rotated.
On Monday when I put myself forward for Leader of the Council this is the platform I will be standing on, at its heart is the desire to use the trust that voters placed in all of us wisely for the good of all. It’s a platform that is based on a deeper knowing that no one of us has the answers to the complex problems we face but together we might find them. As with all difficult and challenging things; it takes courage to step forward to lead, and I truly believe that we all have the ability to do this.
Some of my fellow Councillors are saying we should wait, that we don’t need to do this on Monday, and that is true we could. But we didn’t fight an election to wait another day or month or year to represent our communities interests in power, we all stood for change, for taking responsibility now, for taking action now and as the clock ticks on social injustice, environmental disaster and belief in our ability to make change, we simply don’t have the luxury of time.
Over and over again people told me that they are longing for a new way of doing politics, and are inspired by those that work hard for their local communities.People told me they were voting Green because they want a fresh voice, hard working councillors, that put people, place and planet above party politics.
We potentially have another four years of uninspiring, damaging policies brought on our District, with an array of opposition parties moaning and mud slinging in the background, while the business as usual, Conservatives get on with the important job of being in Cabinet making all the decisions.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the things that you and I care about; litter on our streets and parks, dog mess on our pavements, the inability of the council to answer a phone promptly and deal with your issue first time, safety on our roads, the air pollution affecting all aspects of our health will not get actioned. That the the problem of access to a home that is really affordable and sustainable where you actually want to live will not get solved; that the number of people one pay cheque away from homelessness or in emergency accomodation will keep rising. You would be forgiven to thinking that the 11 years we have left to halt the devastating impact of climate change will be completely wasted as our Tory administration pays lip service to the work the Council could lead to make a difference in its work and in major developments like those planned in Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven and Lewes. Frankly you would be forgiven for giving up on local politics altogether, but it doesn't have to be like this.
Together we can work with principles of openness, fairness, welcoming the diversity of our different political programmes and working together to build one that works for everyone. We can welcome disagreement and work through it for the interest of all.
Wish me luck, as I do feel intrepid in this next step, but I know I have the support of many people who are willing us on to bring this alliance of people together. If on the evening we do not garner the support of all of our colleagues then let us move forward knowing that we tried, and we will keep on trying to bring together people for a bigger vision, a fairer, greener future.