Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
The Big Interview: Brighton and Hove Labour councillor Emma Daniel
Meet Emma Daniel, Brighton and Hove’s newest city councillor.
A first-time Labour candidate, Ms Daniel won her Hanover and Elm Grove seat by the narrowest of margins with a huge swing from the Green Party.
Before being elected, she worked for 15 years in the voluntary sector and has become one of the city’s best-known voices on social networking site Twitter.
Bill Gardner talks to Ms Daniel about her new life in politics.
The Argus: During your hard-fought campaign, you were relentlessly positive and barely said a bad word about your opponents. Are you too nice for politics?
Emma Daniel: I don’t think so, no. I’m quite willing to confront people if I think an issue needs to be illuminated.
But if it’s just political people showing off I’ll just keep quiet, because I think most voters are sick of pointless point scoring. You have to give people a sense of what’s worth arguing about and what’s not.
I’m also aware that I’ve got responsibilities for people that didn’t vote for me. They’re not going to trust me if I take every opportunity to take a pot-shot at the Greens.
I also have a lot of respect for my colleagues across the parties because I know they’re trying to do a good job.
Ultimately I think my style is more about collaboration rather than confrontation for confrontation’s sake.
But I have had arguments with people over important policies and I can get very angry about issues that I consider crucial to the city.
TA: In that case, why should people vote for Labour rather than the Greens? Are there really any major differences between the parties? Or is all the posturing just “confrontation for confrontation’s sake”?
ED: The main difference is that the Labour Party are ready to lead while the Greens are much more comfortable in opposition.
I don’t want to sound like this is personal because I think my Green colleagues are decent and principled people who are genuinely trying to do the best they can.
But I seriously don’t think they were prepared to be in power. They are culturally used to opposition and that is reflected in the bad decisions they have made.
For instance, they say they will resist all cuts, but in practicality the only way you can do that is to step away and let the Government do it.
They are always stuck between rhetoric and reality.
TA: The Argus recently revealed mediators were being brought in to reconcile warring Green councillors. Why do you think the ruling party has found it so tough to stay united?
ED: I’m not going to waste energy trying to solve the Greens’ problems. But I would say it’s very difficult to be as divided as they are while trying to make decisions and manage the city.
I feel sorry for the individuals involved in these disputes but I think their problem lies in their structure.
They’re an alliance of different ideologies under an ecological umbrella, and that just doesn’t work when you’re in power. They simply don’t have a coherent policy.
One of the things that we offer is our ability to care about small issues that really matter to people.
For instance, the seafront is looking shabby. There are dead flowers in the beds along Lewes Road. The road down from the station is looking dirty and unpainted.
People have lost confidence in the Greens because they are not taking care of these things.
They have backed themselves into so many corners. They’re fighting against themselves and their activists.
I really worry for the city over the next two years because decisions that need to be taken simply aren’t being made.
TA: You spent most of your career in the voluntary sector, campaigning for better communities but now you’ve stepped away to become a councillor. Is politics the only true way to get things done? Are charities just wasting their time?
ED: I don’t think that’s fair.
My whole career was about working with national and local governments to make people’s lives better. I just got to the point where I believed there were no policies coming out to deliver that.
I felt it was time to use my experience to shape that situation.
TA: But that implies that you didn’t feel you could change things by staying in the voluntary sector?
ED: I suppose it does but I wouldn’t want to devalue the work they do in Brighton and Hove.
The problem is that the sector is being stretched to breaking point.
People are trying really hard but mostly it’s a question of trying to jump through new
hoops all the time and not moving forward at all.
I worry for my colleagues across the whole voluntary sector, to be honest.
TA: Your new ward of Hanover and Elm Grove has been torn apart in recent months with rows over new parking restrictions and the introduction of communal bins. What are you going to do to resolve the situation?
ED: In Hanover and Elm Grove the problem is that issues around parking and rubbish have completely polarised people.
This is because of really clumsy handling of the consultation and there’s now a real job to do to regain people’s trust.
It’s really difficult because people in the community have been turned against each other. I blame the Greens for that.
TA: OK, but what do you think? Are you going to support new parking zones, for instance?
ED: The fact is, the parking situation isn’t right and it needs tackling. But emotions are very high.
I’m starting from a place where people are really far apart on this, because of how badly it’s been handled. The Greens lost their heartland with a massive swing, basically because of this issue.
For me it’s a question of taking small steps.
TA: You’re a big advocate for politicians taking to social networks to engage with voters. But are people really listening? Or are you all just talking to yourselves?
ED: Twitter actually isn’t a great channel for ward work.
For me, it’s about communicating with colleagues and people who are interested in the same sorts of things.
It enables me to maintain links with people on important issues. But it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.
TA: But there are dangers lurking online for politicians, aren’t there? For instance, during your campaign you were the target of a Green blogger who made a series of accusations about you. Was that difficult?
ED: We are all learning all of the time. Some of what I received during my campaign was irrelevant.
A lot of it was based on inference, not fact, and a conversation I had while I was making toast for my daughter in my kitchen.
But the whole thing did me a lot of good actually because people responded really negatively to what happened and it tarnished the Green brand.
On a personal level it was draining and some of it was quite distressing, but I tried not to engage with it.
TA: Finally, you were already a mum and a full-time worker before you became a councillor. Have you got enough time in the day to do the job properly?
ED: Well, I haven’t watched TV since May.
It’s really tough but I’m reducing the days that I work so I get more time to devote to the ward. Often I get to bring my daughter along with me to events and so on so that makes it easier.
It’s certainly a tough, all- encompassing job - but I’m doing my best.
For more information on Emma visit www.facebook.com/EmmaDanielForHanoverElmGrove.
- UPDATE: nearly 100 flights delayed at Gatwick after Nats fault
- Farage pilot found dead at home in Eastbourne
- Gatwick Airport delays after control centre fault
- Chaos and damage as river bursts its banks
- Heroic work of the police and public recognised
Comments are closed on this article.