With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Green MP Caroline Lucas

Green MP Caroline Lucas

First published in Argus columns

When I was little I always wanted to be part of a cult.

The lure of secret handshakes, hidden lairs and, most importantly, a raffish outfit (always with a cape) was too much for any boy to resist.

But now I’ve got older I’ve realised that the cult life is really not for me.

All those expeditions, all those membership fees, the monthly newsletters – all require structure (yawn) and a great deal of administration (double yawn).

And as much as I like Little John and Max the Invincible, they’re not to be trusted around money.

So, inevitably, my cult dreams were down in their infancy, not because of a lack of imagination but because I couldn’t be hacked to run it.

See everyone knows it’s lonely at the top.

No matter what the industry, quite often the only solace comes from friends, family and staring at an empty glass on a Friday evening.

But imagine if your job had no security and you were judged not by colleagues surrounding you on a daily basis but thousands who have never even met you.

Such is the reality of politics.

At least in business there is a safety net.

Once you get a job it’s pretty difficult to lose it.

If you get promoted there’s virtually no way you can then get sent down the tree.

And if you’re over the hill or deemed surplus to requirements, at least there will be redundancy payments on offer.

But in politics there’s none of that – no career development course, no cuddly HR team and definitely no end of year bonus.

The role is simply defined – put yourself forward to stand, hope that a few people agree with your views or your party name, and then take up office.

That is until said people decide they no longer agree with you, the party decides they need a younger, fresher you, or if you’re lucky, you step down on your own terms.

There is no guidance on what the job entails – it’s like Britain’s Got Talent where those brave enough are crudely judged by the masses in a matter of seconds.

Given the perilous nature of the job, it’s no wonder that those interested flock to the safety of a cult.

Only we don’t call them cults, we call them political parties.

Given the general feeling towards our elected members, quite why we insist on being quite so couth in terminology is surprising.

But just like my episode with Little John and Max the Invincible, there are a heap of problems that come with being in a cult.

Most notably, that your fate rests on other people’s shoulders – most of whom nobody in the outside world knows.

See, locally the toll of this cultish political outlook is evident in all three political parties.

The Conservatives in Brighton and Hove have been split for a long time with those on the east of the city not seeing eye to eye with those in the west.

Throw in the pressures of Ukip growing their power base and an increasing feeling that they cannot win the council or keep two MP seats, the Tories are finding motivation hard to come by.

The same cannot be said for the other two major parties in the city.

Ever since they were virtually wiped out by the Green machine at the last local elections, Labour has been going through a programme of “deep self-analysis”.

Basically, that means “we’ve got to change”.

As a result, a few feathers have been ruffled – most notably in Mouslecoomb and Bevendean where an investigation is underway over the selection of the local election candidates.

A lot has been said on this subject, but it seems the cracks are still there, signifying that not everyone in the grassroots of the party is supportive of those in charge – particularly if it means their democratic voices are withdrawn.

Then there is the situation in the Green Party.

What was once mangoes vs watermelons has now become an entire fruit salad.

A party which once was united around a winning feeling and an extremely popular leader is now appearing to crumble.

Members on all spheres of the party have expressed their deep-dissatisfaction with how things are run internally.

And only last week even Caroline Lucas, the party’s only MP, came under criticism from some Green members over how much money was used on the her election campaign in 2010.

It was alleged the campaign was propped up by central party funds and not declared locally.

But in reality, what was claimed was rather weak and will probably be overlooked by any investigating body.

What it does do is create uncertainty and show that where previously the Green foot soldiers were united behind their leader, now they are more dissenting.

Given that all three parties locally are on rocky footing, next year’s double-whammy elections will certainly be interesting.

At least everyone is on an even footing.

But the cultish displays only underline why many decide they don’t want to get involved in mainstream politics.

With friends like these, why do you need enemies?

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