Fall out from local elections continues

As you would expect, a very robust and coherent defence of Labour has been received from Warren Morgan in response to my post yesterday. Reglar readers will know that I am an admirer of Warren. He is a very able politician, and one who is able to organise well. However, before the election I repeatedly told him (when he was predicting greater success for Labour that materialised) that his views were influenced by the excellent organisation in East Brighton, something replicated in just a few wards elsewhere in Brighton and Hove. As the Greens have advanced, Labour has become more marginalised. ‘But we polled almost the same number of votes as the Green’s, I hear the Labour Deniers plea. But you didn’t win the seats. In the first year of a Tory-led government that is slashing public services across the board you should have been able to pick up more than a handful of seats from the Tories.

In fact Warren himself talks about how close it was: “Labour scored the same number of votes citywide as the Greens – a fact. It didn’t get those votes where they were needed to win the seats, admitted. Labour was 150 to 200 votes short of winning additional seats in seven wards. It didn’t, but had it done it it would have been the largest group, just. Labour finished a relatively close second in all three parliamentary seats in the city last year, and level with the winners in terms of votes this year. Labour’s vote went up in every ward, most by 350, some by 500, one by 700. That does not paint a picture of a Party in terminal decline.”

Warren does reveal something I have called for, that there will be a wide and open review of what went wrong: “Of course lessons need to be learned both in terms of policy, organisation and message, but any debate is painted as dissent and division. Over the coming weeks and months Labour will be consulting, meeting, listening and debating, not just within our membership but with voters, organisations and others to determine what we can do better.” I welcome that open debate although having seen some comments by various activists (for which I am criticised when quoting them on this blog) I am aware that there is a wish for greater control to be put in the hands of a smaller number of individuals at the expense of ward branch organisation. Very dangerous. But good luck in that debate, Warren, and if I can be of any assistance ……!

We get an interesting Green insight from Luke Walter, one of the most able campaigners in Brighton and Hove who was unlucky to have missed election in Hollingdean and Stanmer purely on the grounds of the alphabet (something he identified several weeks ago was likely): “We understood our demographic better than Labour, we understood the kind of people who vote in local elections, we even understood their motivation for voting. In nearly all of these, Labour and the Tories got it wrong. Labour were saying ‘if you vote Green you get the Tories.’ The Tories were saying ‘if you vote Green you get Labour.’ I think we were the only ones saying ‘if you vote Green you get Green.’ The truth is, Warren and his councillor colleagues in the Kemptown constituency need to try and understand why 1000 or so voters in EB and M&B voted Green in the locals with no obvious campaigning and with the continuous message ‘Greens can’t win’ or ‘voting Green only helps the Tories here.’ “

What is impressive about Luke (something not that obvious in other parties) is his ability to be self-critical about the Greens own performance: “We Greens are also at fault. We greatly underestimated our vote in those wards, as well as Westbourne in Hove. This mistake won’t be repeated again. Reading the comments from Labour councillors and Labour supporters, it is clear the party is in a pickle, as I’m sure the Tories are as well. Weatherly should be sweating in Hove and Portslade losing six seats last Friday. The same for Kirby in Kemptown, who was beaten into third by the Greens in two sizeable wards in his constituency. If the Greens political opponents are waiting in the dark until we slip-up, they’ve got another thing coming. From now on, they can expect a more confident, more slicker and bolder Green machine in Brighton AND Hove.”

Dr Faust reprimands me, that I “need to develop a more even handed approach with your critisisms of parties.  You ask for an apology from Labour about ‘misleading’ material (which I would contest), but don’t ask for the same from the Green Party.  You say the same about claims made over recent elections, but again don’t expect any contrition from the Green Party who did exactly the same.  In both cases I consider the material put out to be par for the course tactics in trying to win votes and seats. Consistancy would be welcome.”

My dear Doctor, I have never pretended to be consistent or even-handed. A hint of bias has occasionally come through in my writings on those two-faced, yellow-belly, snake-in-the-grass, rats sometimes known as the Lib Dems. I was SO sad to see them wiped off the face of the political map in Brighton and Hove on May 5th. As for being even handed in my criticism, I don’t dish it out for the sake of it. I am critical of Labour’s use of misleading graphs in two elections in a row and the poor organisation in the City and of party HQ. Last week I did criticise the Greens for their use of a graph but their use was less misleading because of a simple factor – they WON. Labour’s claims were misleading as they claimed that, in 2010, they were the only party who could beat the Tories in Brighton Pavilion (horribly misleading and unforgivable, as would the Greens claim had they not won) and, in 2011, that they were the only party that could form an administration. With just 13 seats out of 54 that is a big ask!

(In case there is any doubt amongst those other than my four regular readers – Warren, Christopher Hawtree, Momma Grizzly, and Doris Day – I am not anti-Labour. I voted Labour on May 5th. I just want to see Labour get its act together. I am also aware that there is a suggestion that there is a ‘snitch’ in Labour’s ranks, someone who is passing me information. In fact, there are almost a dozen Labour activists with whom I am either in regular contact with or who DM or email me regularly, along with several Tories and several Greens. No Lib Dems, alas).

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12 Responses

  1. the reason the Greens did so well along the Lewes Road is that they have so many students there and are are very well organised in getting them to vote…..which unlike many other residents in the City is not that hard to do

    Trouble for the greens is they are already introducing the crazy policies that I was worried about…..was it a dozen pitches for travellers in the City that I readin the Argus……this will be their undoing………also talking to my friends who work in the voluntary sector they are worried about this budget review the Greens are doing…..charities have already made commitments based on the moeny they get from the council which was promised for three years and this may change in the next few weeks…..not a great way to do business

    Shame I thought they would have been better than this…but they are just politicians after all….that’s why so few of us vote now and students are still the optimists in this world

    • Oh, yes, The Argus. The local bastion of fair and balanced reporting.

      • Also the paper that could possibly say that they ‘won it’ for the Green Party in 2010, with their endless love-in with Caroline.

    • No policy decisions, official council press releases or statements related to actual council operation can be made by the Greens until after Annual Council on 19th May. So I would treat any press stories with suspicion until 20th. The Conservatives remain in power until then.

  2. Funny to now hear Labour members talking about the disproportionality of the seats awarded compared to the votes cast. First past the post really does suck for third parties!

  3. @Jon

    Yes indeed, and they even had 13 years with large majorities to reform the electoral system……why don’t Labour get it? They are just too ‘conservative’, I only hope they wake up to this, soon.

  4. @grumpy old man

    Well you certainly live up to your name. I hope most sensible people would agree that official sites for Travellers are a good thing. And I don’t think any charities or voluntary organizations need to worry about the Greens’ decision to review the Tory budget. The whole point of this is to avoid cuts to such organizatons, who I believe have been invited to contribute to the review, as have Labour.

    • The Green Party is committed to running services ‘internally’ whenever possible. Voluntary organisations and charities should be worried about that.

  5. The first time that I met Luke Walter, in the vicinity of a buffet table, he flicked an iphone from an inside pocket with all the virtuosity of a stage act and, all the more so, clicked on some new hot statistics from somwhere, perhaps Suffolk, maybe Australia, or elsewhere: the point is that he has a tremendous ability not to only to collate data but to make it real.

    He can work a screen but also understands the pavements, and grasps that the future is the thing: no time to be rueful over Hollingdean.

    And of course I did not disagree when he remarked that people now realise I was right over Rottingdean

    I am surprised that the Blogger has not analysed the Rottingdean figures The further detail could be even more fascinating

    I am writing a very long account of the Election, so do not want to dissipate thoughts here too much..

    • With the top Green 1200 votes behind the lowest Tory (the duellist) and Labour still second, I am struggling to see Rottingdean and Coastal as having gone anything other than pretty much completely to form. Tell me why I’m wrong.

      In Central Hove, by contrast, if you’d pulled your fingers out earlier you might easily have taken both seats.

      Patcham, though, was a good result for the Greens.

      • And Westbourne.

        Add together the Labour and Green votes in Rottingdean, and that shows it is not as Tory as it’s painted. And those are the basic votes.

        Hove Park could be more interesting than it looks.

  6. ” I am aware that there is a wish for greater control to be put in the hands of a smaller number of individuals at the expense of ward branch organisation. Very dangerous.”

    Oh good grief. The reform debate hasn’t even started and already it is being portrayed as some Stalinist move towards central planning and control. No (and at the risk of sounding like the dreaded Maggie herself) no, no.

    Strengthening the Labour Party, organisation, membership, campaigning, policy making at every level, from the branches through to citywide organisation where we (and forgive me if I’m getting your analysis wrong, BPB) lack the strategy and resources of the Greens to make our votes count in the wards where we can and should win seats, and in wards where votes are needed to win back Parliamentary representation.

    Where three members and a dog meet in splendid isolation at a branch meeting, give them the support and involvement of other members citywide to build their branch up. Where campaigning organisation is lacking – the same. Where branches lack the media/printing/design skills needed for effective communications – give them that central support. Co-ordinate and clarify Labour’s message citywide.

    Any citywide leadership will be put there by representative democracy through branch and constituency elections, it won’t be imposed or engineered by a small number of individuals. I think that’s how the Greens do it but as they seem to escape any scrutiny here we will never know….

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