Westbourne, Kitcat, Bassam and Randall: This is the week that was

And what a week it has been – the 100 Year War between Bassam and Kitcat, Bill Randall becoming Mayor-elect, and campaigning in the Westbourne by-election. Where to begin?

The Westbourne by-election takes place on Thursday and the main three parties have continued to campaign hard, in spite of the terrible weather. All parties seem to have become quietly pessimistic, although the Tories are perhaps the most confident. Some Labour activists are still displaying bravado, and I imagine that young Harris Fitch will respond with a forecast of a Labour landslide (similar to that he achieved in Rottingdean Coastal, no doubt).

I think it is still probably too close to call, but from the soundings I have taken, the Green vote is solid and not impacted by the debate regarding the budget. Electors know that it is the Tory-led Coalition that is imposing the cuts from on high, and Louisa Greenbaum has proven, once again to be a strong candidate who is capitalising on being the local candidate who stood in the ward in May.

Unhappiness with the Tories nationwide is offset by a strong candidate in Graham Cox. For someone with the quality of being absolutely singleminded and determined to achieve in whatever he does, Graham has remained relaxed and balanced, and has developed a personal vote beyond the Tory ranks.

Labour has campaigned hard but (and this isn’t an anti-Labour position although I will no doubt be accused of this) this is not the right moment for a Labour revival to begin. Nigel Jenner, while competent and hard working, is not the stand out candidate. That is shared between Louisa and Graham. The Labour Group on the Council remains, largely, invisible, in the eyes of the general public, and the Labour campaign has not set the by-election campaign on fire.

Which brings me on to Higgs bosom, or know locally as the Kitcat Bassam Particle. Never before in the field of Twitter conflict, have so many tweets been sent so often, by so few. For days now this (yawn) fascinating debate raged. It has been hard to follow, on occasions even by Jason Kitcat and Steve Bassam themselves. Bassam has shown all his qualities as a street fighter, making it tough for the Greens by throwing accusation after accusation, challenge after challenge. Meanwhile, Kitcat has patiently answered all, well almost all, of the points raised by Lord Bassam. Jason Kitcat continues to impress in his role as the Cabinet Member for Finance.

I have to say that I don’t think that Twitter is the right forum for such an in-depth and ongoing debate. I will offer the services of this blog, once again, for the different budget positions to be set out.

I have just two further points on this debate. Firstly, other than Warren Morgan and to a lesser extent, Craig Turton, Labour councillors remain invisible which is a shame. A strong opposition from the left to the Greens would add to the political discourse locally. The second point is that Lord Bassam has been allowed to get off with the most remarkable rewriting of history. Under Labour, including under his leadership, the Council made huge cuts, closed more toilets and put up rates/council tax far higher than the Greens are proposing, but no one refers to this record.

And finally for today, leadership. The Leader of the Council, the much admired Bill Randall, is to stand down in May to become the Mayor. This is a largely ceremonial role and carries nowhere near the power he now enjoys. Some has suggested he is being ousted. Nonsense. Others say he is jumping to avoid difficult times. Even more nonsense. I understand that he never intended to serve a full term as Leader. Perhaps he didn’t believe this humble blogger who predicted before May’s elections that the Greens would win 23 seats and be the largest party. Forming the first Green administration and coping with the level of cuts imposed by government will have taken its toll. But Bill has managed the process with competence, charm, and good humour. There will have been a cost and he is looking older than his 36 years (that’s a joke, Momma Grizzly. He is too old for you).

As for his successor? I’ll return to that after Thursday’s by-election.

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22 Responses

  1. ‘Meanwhile, Kitcat has patiently answered all, well almost all, of the points raised by Lord Bassam. Jason Kitcat continues to impress in his role as the Cabinet Member for Finance.’

    While to those whose spectacles are less green-tinted than the blogger Kitcat has come across as petulant, snippy and glib – and always far too ready to reach for the ‘L’ word when the going gets tough.

  2. I noticed I had been dropped from your tags, even when mentioned in you post – but now not even a mention.

    A shame as it seems that ConLabGrn really are much of a muchness – give or take 3.5% on council tax.

    Council taxpayers – even after inflation – are paying almost twice as much as a decade ago – the council are taking an extra £60,000,000 a year from us – I don’t see £60million worth of additional council services being delivered each year – do you? does anyone?

    The council needs to, and can, make huge cuts – to its costs – without touching services, that extra £60million is clearly not being well spent.

    The greens may be happy with a Brighton city centre empty of traffic, and so bereft of shops, restaurants, etc in their brave new year zero – and conservative and labour may be happy to watch it happen. But I am not.

    Brighton and Hoves future prosperity depends on bringing money into the area and coping with what that entails, not a short sighted strangling of the golden goose through anti-car, anti-visitor and even anti-resident cost increases.

    Shop voids show that the city is already on a downward slope, now is the time to start to fix it – Labour and Conservatives letting the Greens screw up just to score political points in the future is a cynical betrayal of the people of the city.

    • We agree on some things then. But what can Labour do? The official opposition are conspicuous by their absence in much of this debate. The Labour group are making a certain amount of noise but have to tread carefully as the accusation of knee-jerk oppositionalism is never far from Kitcat’s grasp. Under the cabinet system, anyway, the other two parties can wave their arms and jump up and down as much as they please – nothing will change.

      Just be thankful these guys (they are, mostly) aren’t in control in an economic upturn – one finds one’s imagination unequal to the task of picturing what ideologically-driven whimsy would find it’s way into policy; and at what cost.

      • The problem labour and conservatives have is that they have both been part of creating the situation in the first place.

        It was Labour that massively ramped up council tax – I would be less annoyed if there was something to show for it. Over the years thats £100mill’s extra the council have taken and spent… If there were some gold plated white elephants around the city at least we’d see what we got for it…

        Conservatives timidly tweaked the budget back to some kind of stability, but showed no signs of reversing anything and had their own ‘super director’ pet project to add to the heap.

        Greens come in and, again, leave all the expensive debris previous administrations pet projects in place and go on to launch yet more of their own. The losers in all of this, and the ones who involuntarily have to foot the bill, are the council taxpayer and other city residents.

        Brighton needs to fix its parking problems, encourage new local businesses (especially, but not exclusively among the young unemployed) – and be more attractive to big business head office/clerical operations.

        And in one message I have said more than I have heard from the other candidates in the entire campaign… (Except maybe Pip Tindall – she had some substance – even if I disagreed with it).

  3. :”Unhappiness with the Tories nationwide….”? I don’t know which planet you’re living on at the moment, but according to YouGov and various other polsters, the Tories have overtaken Labour by at least 7 points since before the veto saga.

    The LibDem vote has collapsed and there’s very little affection for Greens any more on the Westbourne doorstep..

    I was not going to comment on your blog any more since you stopped being a neutral blogger, but your comments are too biased not to be challenged.and don’t reflect the reality of what’s happening out there in the real world.

    However, I do agree with your stance on Graham Cox. He’s not only a strong candidate, but in my opinion (for what it’s worth) an exceptional candidate.

    I wish all the candidates all the best for Thursday and hope the electorate choose the best one.

  4. You can’t beat the swing. If as Linda F says the Tories are 7 per cent above Lab nationally we can expect the Tories to romp home next Thursday(quite a surprise from the start position’s perspective) but who could have predicted Cameron would risk our EU position to save a council seat in B & H?

    Bassam has beaten Kitcat hands down. He has sown seeds that question the competence and even loyalty to the city of the Green administration. Hitler knew the power of propaganda and so does his lordship-he is an expert communicator.

    But it was Labour(John Prescott) who saved the Albion’s bacon(sorry Tony-gefilte fish). So Labour is more credible about being loyal to Albion and thus to the city.

    Lola shows Labour are back fighting for street votes and will now probably come 2nd That will be enough to challenge Greens in future elsewhere.

    Greens need lessons in presentation and could possible hire Lord Bassam as a consultant?

  5. I’d like to echo comments by Linda F and Zombie, regarding the general feeling on Conservatives at this point in time. Cameron’s strong leadership has seen the Conservatives shoot ahead in the polls, and damn right, too.

    This will certainly bode well for Graham Cox, Conservative candidate for Westbourne, on Thursday. He certainly deserves it. Not only is he an excellent candidate, he’s a genuinely nice guy, too. I couldn’t think of a better person for the job than Graham.

    • Cameron was correct to decline to agree to this specific set of treaty changes, but to say that in doing so he showed leadership is either shockingly naive or an attempt to apply lipstick to a squealer. He vetoed because he was terrified of what one wing of his own party would do to him if he didn’t, and to avoid being forced into a referendum that would split the coalition and the Conservative party asunder. It was a sign of weakness, not strength.

  6. the question you do not ask is, who will be the new leader of the council when Cllr Randall goes?

    Kitkat….God help us all

  7. I see no evidence the Tories are ahead by 7% nationally. Where does this come from? They have been overtaking Labour fro the first time in 12 months I grant you but only by 2% max.
    Also this has not be born out in practice. Both polls for Feltham and Heston had the Tories on 30% or above. In the event they got 27% and Labour were about the same ahead of where the same polls had put them.
    I will bet it will be a case of who is better organised at getting the vote out. Expect a turnout below 20%.
    Kitkat would never be chosen as leader he is to far to the right of the group and has past form pissing people in the party off with his antics!!!

  8. Prediction for Westbourne (based on the low opinion the Blogger/s have of me) :

    Labour candidate – 6,900,001 votes

    Wait who else is standing?

    Yea right

    Generic middle class green candidate – 6,900,000 (very close however no cigar tonight old boy)

    Conservative candidate – 20 votes

    Get on betfred and put it on now.

    Anyway merry Christmas and I will see you all on polling day! Good luck

  9. Good to see the Lib Dems out in Westbourne today – so not completely dead locally. Effect on the outcome will be minimal but it may remind a few die hards to vote for them rather than flirting with Labour or Green, and so helping the Tory cause.

  10. I reckon Amy Kennedy to replace KillBill, yes lets get some of that straightlaced schoolmistress vibe going!, I hear all the Greens are moving nervously about the stage, like a virgin’s awaiting the Sultan.

  11. The decision on who replaces Bill in May is something that requires a great deal more thought than who is the most popular in the party. This is in many sense the first great test for the party as it has to consider who is capable of leading the group but also of providing leadership in the city. It was clear from the debate in Parliament on Travellers and subsequent questions in the House that the performance of the Council is being watched and scrutinised far from here. That means that no quarter will be given to us by the Government if it looks as though it will strengthen the hand of our Council. Whoever takes over needs to be able to provide leadership to the group, to show themselves a statesman and sage to the electorate across the city and play a smart game in interaction with Westminster. If such issues are ignored the price could be very high.

    • No one part of an administration that tried to enforce ‘meat free mondays’ is fit to lead the city.

      We will just have to put up with whoever we are presented with.

      • Hi Paul, I have no allegience to the Greens, but we have a city that has a number of challenges currently (as evidenced in much of your earlier comments) and no doubt others ahead. It is vital that whatever our views about who should be running the city, that we accept that for the next 3 years it will be the Greens. They need to avoid choosing the best candidate for the party, over the needs of the city as a whole. That is why I believe this is the greatest test for them to date.

    • No brainer chess move: Geoffrey Bowden

  12. I do wonder if Bill isn’t keen to spend more time running ‘Brighton Seaside Homes’.

    The (so called) voluntary sector can be *very* rewarding once you are no longer a volunteer…

  13. Kitkat is right of th majority of the group, that is why he relishes being cutter in chief so much!
    As for his murky history, I remember him covering himself in less than glory when he atempted a coup against Tracy Dighton the party’s external comms chief. He is certainly one to easily loose friends, perhaps that’s why he was so keen for his wife to be on board too. Funily enough Tracy’s partner is now Councillor Matt Follet. I wonder whether he has forgiven Kitkat’s past discretions?

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