This award has five nominees, one for the three main parties in Brighton and Hove (Conservative, Labour and Green) and one for two of the fringe parties locally (Lib Dem and UKIP).
The nominee for the Conservative Party is a politician that has established himself and consolidated his position in a relatively short period of time. Mike Weatherley is the MP for Hove, elected in May with a majority of 1,868 over the sitting Labour MP, Celia Barlow. This was a good showing by Celia and the narrowness of Weatherley’s majority should not lead to the conclusion that this will be a marginal next time. Weatherley has quickly established a reputation as a hard-working constituency MP. He goes about his business with diligence and little fanfare, but he is making it count where it matters – the careful nurturing of communities of interest. He is following in the tradition of other effective local MP’s such as David Lepper, Des Turner and Andrew Bowden. Weatherley understands that an MP who neglects his core support will struggle to retain the seat in a bad year. Weatherley is a formidable politician, likely to stick around for many years to come. Hove is set to become, once again, a safe Tory seat. This is why Mike Weatherley is the Conservative Politician of the Year.
Paul Perrin of UKIP is not my kind of politician. For one, he is a member of UKIP. I am on record as saying I would prefer to stick pins in my eye than vote UKIP. But Perrin has a slightly obsessive characteristic needed to make a mark on behalf of a party that is going nowhere. Without the likes of Perrin, it would go somewhere – to deeper, if not permanent obscurity. Perrin blogs and Tweets with great enthusiasm. He is the only local UKIP activist who I can name, probably because he is the only UKIP activist locally. But his single-minded determination to fly the UKIP banner in Brighton and Hove means that he is the UKIP Politician of the Year.
Finding a Lib Dem to nominate as Politician of the Year has proven to be a challenge. There was a temptation to nominate David Watkins simply because he has been deselected by the Lib Dems, not for breaking pledges and promises (that gets you promoted in Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems), but for being basically a decent sort. But the Lib Dem who stood out for me over the last year is its candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Juliet Williams. At one hustings in Brighton Pavilion, she substituted for that constituency’s candidate on the panel. Juliet gave a barnstorming performance, completely on top of her brief, passionate, with grace and humour. With candidates like her (not forgetting some backbone and principles) the Lib Dems could avoid being trounced at all elections for the next 5 years. Juliet Williams is the Lib Dem Politician of the Year.
Tomorrow, Labour and the Greens.