In the last few weeks I have walked around a number of towns in the South East. In Eastbourne, Hastings, Shoreham and Canterbury there was little evidence of tagging or graffiti, the streets were clean and tidy, and no weeds were growing through the paving slabs.

It brought back memories of somewhere I used to know. Where could that have been? Oh, that’s right, it was Brighton.

Sadly, today the city looks like a tip, an embarrassing disgrace. Which brings me on to May’s local elections. When people go to their polling station, the state of the streets will, inevitably, be one of the factors that will decide how they will vote. On that basis, the Greens should be in for a drubbing.

However, it is more complex than that. National factors have a bearing on how people vote. This might just save local Greens, notwithstanding the appalling mess that they have created.

The Conservatives, fresh from its bruising leadership campaign, is hopelessly divided, its reputation trashed by the mini budget. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson is even now lurking on the sidelines relishing the prospect of a Churchillian return to Downing Street.

Labour, on the other hand, while having a healthy lead in the polls, has its own problem with its lacklustre and wooden leader Sir Keir Starmer, who rarely fails to disappoint. One commentator has said that all Starmer has to do to become Prime Minister is to stay alive. But let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton was well ahead in the polls, facing a candidate with strange hair, an orange complexion, and little credibility as a serious politician. Oh, how excited we were that the USA was to have its first woman president.

An opinion poll in this week’s Sunday Telegraph found that 20 per cent of former Labour voters in Red Wall seats said that they would vote for a new populist right-wing party, perhaps where Liz Truss is positioning the Conservatives.

Locally, Labour should profit from the unpopularity and incompetence of the Green administration, but it could be vulnerable to a key Conservative message – that Labour is in coalition with the Greens.

Labour needs to make a decisive break from the Greens. They have little to gain from not doing so because many of the leading Greens are unwilling to work in true coalition or to form effective alliances, housing being the exception. Labour is in danger of being blamed for the failings of the Greens.

The Greens themselves appear more obsessed with identity and gesture politics than sorting out the mess they have created. Increasingly they adopt what South Africans know as a “laager mentality”. Early white settlers trekking into the interior used to circle their wagons at night in a defensive formation against attack. This was known as a “laager”. The Greens increasingly withdraw from debate, live in their own echo chamber, and ignore constructive criticism.

Since I starting writing this column, when I have made critical comments of the administration, Green councillors have unfollowed me on Twitter. When, as a constituent, I approached the three Green councillors who represent the area I live in to raise my concern at the treatment of Dawn Barnett when she was denied the opportunity to become mayor, just one engaged constructively and defended his position. A second said that it was “a private matter between councillors” and refused to justify her position. The third referred my email to the mouncil’s press office. It was only at that point that I decided to write a column on that shameful episode.

When I raised this with a senior member of the Green Party, I was told that Green councillors don’t bother reading what I write. That is their prerogative, but how will they learn if they shut out all critical comments. In doing so they emulate politicians like Trump.

The Greens’ biggest hope is that they aren’t led by Starmer, and that they will retain their seats because of the reputation and character of their sole MP, Caroline Lucas, who continues to be widely admired and respected, able to work across the political divide.

That leaves the promise of independent candidates in each ward. Brighton and Hove currently has several independents, but only one, Bridget Fishleigh, was elected as such. The others have either resigned or been expelled from their political group.

To be elected as an independent you have to be an extraordinary character, well known in your locality, with a history of community activism. That is why it is unlikely that more than the odd independent will be elected.

So my prediction for May? Little change, not because of any enthusiasm for the parties, but because of who is disliked least. A sorry state of affairs, a bit like the state of the streets.