Steve Bassam to stand for City Council in Hanover and Elm Grove

Labour Peer, Lord Steve Bassam is to announce later this morning that he is to stand for election to Brighton and Hove City Council in Hanover and Elm Grove. I understand that candidate Tracy Hill will be standing down to make way for Lord Bassam.

Nominations for the elction close a 12 noon on Monday. There is a rumour that Labour Leader Ed Milliband will accompany Lord Bassam to Brighton Town Hall in a high profile move aimed to signal Labour’s intention to challenge strongly to take control of the City Concil after 4 years of Tory rule.

Bassam used to represent part of the ward when he was councillor for the old Tenantry Ward. It is being suggested that he is deliberately targeting the seat of Green leader, sorry ‘Convenor’, Bill Randall.

I understand from one of my most reliable ‘spies’ that this is meant to have been kept really secret. Labour supporters from around Sussex are expected to gather in Brighton over the weekend for the first of an ‘April Action’ weekends, led by Lord Bassam.

Steve Bassam, who I have known for many years and is clearly one of the most able campaigners in recent generation, is a controversial character. Like Marmite, you either love him or loathe him. I cannot deny that he is a formidable politician who could make a huge difference across Brighton, although less so in Hove. (Update: this was first posted at 7.15am on 1st April).

New Tory website claims that all its candidates are gay (not really)

The Brighton and Hove Conservatives have launched their new website, full of details about their candidates. The site is simple to navigate but a bit clunky when trying to see the different candidates in each ward. You can’t see all in one go and it takes two clicks to navigate from, for example, one Estate Agent in Goldsmid ward to another. But that said, it is a helpful site for those wanting to know who is standing where (and for a blogger wishing to have some sport).

The Tories have a number of bright young things standing in highly winnable seats, not least Michael Ireland who works for Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove, as his parliamentary researcher. Keep an eye on Michael, he is destined to go far. In my dealings with him I have found him to be incredibly personable and very bright. He has a big future ahead of him. His one misjudgement is to be a Conservative! Michael is standing in Hangleton and Knoll, hoping to succeed the late David Smart who passed away just before Christmas.

Standing with him in H&K is Dawn Barnett, certain to be re-elected, and Tony Janio, Hove’s own Bruce Willis. Bruce writes “My main fear is that a return of another Labour/Green Administration will bring an end to the improvements we have seen.” His ‘main fear’? Surely a more worrying fear is a nuclear accident along the Channel, a global financial meltdown, or Eric Pickles becoming prime minister. And for the record, “another Labour/Green Administration …”? I have looked back but don’t think we have ever had one ….. yet.

No details are given for the candidates in Hanover and Elm Grove. A sign that the Tories can field paper candidates throughout the city but are unable to put up a fight everywhere?

In Hollingdean and Stanmer we have Momma Grizzly herself, Rachael Bates, another of Mike Weatherley’s bright young things. She provides more information than just about any candidate, including “I enjoy going to rock and metal nights. I frequently go to the Pav Tav (usually for Guerilla Rocks) and to Belushi’s Below for Abandoned.” I have commented before that this is alien territory for this confused blogger, but I am waiting for Grizzly to offer to take me out her town to sample Guerilla Rocks which I assume is some sort of rhythm and beat combo.

Fellow candidate Rob Labs is “a preacher and co-founder of a faith group, the light house parish of the redeemed Christian Church of God, based in Brighton. I am passionate about strong family values.” I guess we won’t be seeing Rob at Pride, with or without a ticket, this year.

More tomorrow

The student vote will swing Hollingdean and Stanmer for the Greens and consolidate their position elsewhere

It seems that the consensus is that the student vote will make a difference primarily in Hollingdean and Stanmer, and has already made a difference in St Peters and North Laine, and in Hanover and Elm Grove, with Regency also benefiting from the student vote.  All this is possibly stating the obvious as these seats have high concentration of students, and all are in Brighton Pavilion where the Green’s organisation has galvanised the student vote.  In Moulscoomb and Bevendean, where Labour and the Greens have little organisation on the ground, the student vote is less influential, allowing the Tories to take seats in this tradional Labour seat.

DAP thinks that students will make the LibDem destruction even more felt everywhere, coming in poor lasts.  He thinks that the “Tories will also be hit (in M&B for example) not because Tory students will change their mind and vote left, but beacuse previously non voting students/first timers will be more inclined to vote Green/Labour because of recent tuition fee rises/high youth umemployment/low graduate employment (as will the parents of future students)”.  Perhaps, but I think that Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will be won, not by issues impacting on students, but on the record of Maria Caulfield as lead councillor for housing. 

My dear Baron Pepperpot agrees with my take on Hollingbury and Stanmer: “The Greens in Hollingdean & Stanmer are heavily targeting the student vote. I understand they are readily campaigning at the campus, and will be there on the day. The Greens campaign in this ward has been in full flow for sometime, and is showing signs of a very carefully thought out strategy. An added advantage too is student hostility towards the coalition and the Lib Dems in particular.If someone wanted to bet me that 3 Greens will be returned from Hollingdean & Stanmer, they wouldn’t see much of a return on their stake!”

As you know, Baron, I think the Joker in the Pack is Jeane Lepper who I believe will hang on because of her many years careful stewardship of the ward. I still say two Greens and Jeane Lepper for Labour.

Brighton’s own Mr Pickwick, Christopher Hawtree, thinks that the student vote will be influential everywher: “It is not only the student vote that makes Moulescoomb an interesting area for the Greens. Look at the rest of it.” I don’t think so, it requires strong organisation on the ground, and Labour doesn’t have it, and the Greens are targeting their efforts in selected wards.

The activist with probably the best knowledge of the student vote, and someone who has received little public credit for the success of Caroline Lucas’ campaign is Allie Cannell.  He writes: “I think the best reference I have ever got was from Charlotte Vere after the general election when she said in an e-mail to the University of Sussex Conservative Assosiation something along the lines of: ‘We could have won it if the Labour vote had softened but in the end the Greens’ student mobilisation campaign was just too successful’.  I learnt a lot coordinating the campus campaign at the general election last year and it was really really successful (if only i could tell you what the sampling data said), this year we started campaigning earlier on campus and we know how to do it. I’m confident we will get a good Green vote from the students again.”  I am sure you are right.

Regarding the student vote at Brighton University, and those in Kemptown, Allie writes: “We have made some connections with Brighton students, but as you say there hasn’t been a strong campaign there as we have to target. It will be interesting to see how those students vote this time though.  There are a lot of students that live in SPNL, and H&EG too, what a supprise that they’re Green wards.”

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke tends to discount the influence of the student vote: “The Students have always been a questionable influence in the old Stanmer ward and the now H&S ward, will they place Sven “Long Hair Kung-Fu Man” Rufus back on the council,do they know how too tactical vote? or do they let Rachel “momma grizzly” Bates through the middle, she is after all an ex Sussex Uni student and that may count for something with her old campus pals, we could see Ian Fyvie out with his loud hailer!”  Now having Ian Fyvie on the Council would be something, but somehow I think he will just miss out, by a thousand votes or so!

HP thinks it is studentification’ that could be a factor.  Not on students, I think, but on those living in town centre wards who complain about car parking and noisy neighbours, blaiming it all on students. HP writes: “Of course, another way the students might swing the vote is in relation to the party that promises the most effective action to limit the spread of student houses at the cost of family housing. The outgoing Labour Govt was in the process of addressing just that issue, but then the Tories came in and buckled to the demands of their landlord mates and watered down the new rules. However, a locally implementable mechanism exists to stop family houses becoming student lets and I for one would be happy to vote for a party that has the courage to impose it (unless that party is the Tories, obviously I’d never vote for them). We then need more purpose built student accommodation in the right places with sustainable links to the campuses.”

But is any of this speculation meaningful? Dan Wilson thinks not: “Student turnout at local elections is typically very low indeed”  but Mr Pickwick senses something different now: “It seems to me a motivated student vote this time. Many were inspired by first Green MP. That was also apparent in the Lizzie Deane camapign. And that was a summertime when most political types assumed that it would be a snoozy electorate.”

Greens to win between 8 and 22 seats in May – so much for predictions!

A few days ago I asked you to make your predictions on the balance of power on Brighton and Hove City Council. I have predicted that the Greens will end up with almost the same number of seats as the Tories, between 20 and 22 seats each, leaving between 10 and 12 seats for Labour.

‘Numbers Game’ is predicting a slump for The Greens: “What is odd, is that if you add all the wards up that the Greens claim to be winning (and few non-Greens think they have a chance in a fair number of them) then they still won’t have enough seats to take the council outright. So they have a losing strategy. More likely us that they will be reduced to a rump of just eight seats, similar to their dramtatic loses in London last May.”

I really don’t think that is at all likely. As has often been said before, what happens elsewhere is no guide to what might happen in Brighton and Hove. The Greens position locally is much stronger than, say, in London.

Baron Pepperpot wrote week or so ago: “I believe the Greens will take 17 seats at the election but Patcham won’t be amongst them.” More interestingly, the Baron thinks that Queens Park will return to Labour: “I think Labour stand a real chance of winning all or some of their Queens Park seats back but elsewhere it’s looking good for the Greens.” He predicts the following seats for the Greens: Brunswick 1, Regency 2, Hollingdean and Stanmer 3, Hanover and Elm Grove 3, Queens Park 1, St Peters and North Laine 3, Preston Park 3 and Goldsmid 1.

I will post my predictions for seat in the Brighton Kemptown constituency later.

Predicting Green gains in Preston Park and Hollingdean & Stanmer in May’s local elections

Yesterday Luke Walter made some really interesting observations about changing demographics in areas outside the town centre (see yesterday’s post).  He noted that Green supporters from the town centre wards are moving to more outlying areas which could result in electoral gains for the Greens in areas such as Hollingdean and Stanmer.  (For the record, Luke is standing in Hollingdean and Stanmer for the Greens). 

As you would expect, Labour activists have responded.  Dan Wilson, the thoughtful Labour candidate in Regency ward has written: “I don’t disagree with Luke’s view of how Brighton and Hove is changing. But I would note that his critique of change relies on Labour being in govt. I think a coalition at Westminster combined with a Tory council locally is a salient difference on the doorstep in 2011. It’s a precarious situation out there. Clear anti-Tory sentiment, I sense a lack of clarity of where the Liberal support will land, massive numbers of Green/Labour switchers. And who knows what they will do. Good canvassing for us lately but proving hard to crystallise the Labour vote as ever but it is so different from a year ago and the run up to the General Election. I am quite surprised the Greens aren’t doing more to protect their flank.”

My prediction is that the Green vote in Brighton Pavilion will harden, resulting in comfortable Green wins in St Peters and North Laine, Hanover and Elm Grove, and Regency.  I also think that the Greens will pick up at least one extra seat in Preston Park in addition to the one already held by Amy Kennedy.

Hollingdean and Stanmer is harder to predict, but in each election where a party has momentum unexpected results are achieved (as with Amy Kennedy in Preston Park last time). I suspect that H&S will be the ‘breakthrough ward’ for the Greens this time, defeating established Labour councillors.  I have previously said that ousting Labour’s Jeane Lepper is the big ask, and I doubt whether all the factors are there for this to happen.  She will survive because of Labour’s relative strengthening in the polls but more importantly (and this is why I single her out) her reputation in the ward which others underestimate. I think H&S result will go 2 Green and Jeane Lepper.

The Greens may well strengthen their position in Patcham and even Westdene, but I doubt whether they will run the sitting Tories even close.

So in Brighton Pavilion, my prediction is the Greens returning 12 councillors, the Tories 6 and Labour 2.

  • Hanover and Elm Grove: 3 Greens
  • Hollingean and Stanmer: 2 Greens and 1 Labour
  • Patcham: 3 Conservatives
  • Preston Park: 2 Greens and 1 Labour
  • Regency: 2 Greens
  • St Peters and North Laine: 3 Greens
  • Westdene: 3 Conservatives

In the next couple of days I will share my predictions for Hove and Brighton Kemptown (including a sensational prediction for Rottingdean Coastal!).

Doorstep Brighton 14: Labour for Brighton and Hove – not an endorsement but the launch of an impressive new website

I am grateful to Warren Morgan for alerting me to Brighton and Hove Labour Party’s new website Labour for Brighton and Hove.  I am delighted to say how impressive it appears. It has some welcomed links, for example to the blogs for the campaigns in Hanover and Elm Grove and in Queens Park. Both are very readable websites and the candidates should be applauded for them.  (It has been noted that this blog is not listed under ‘Friends of Labour’.  Remember, I called for Labour votes in both Brighton Kemptown and Hove at the general election. I remain a friend of the Labour Party as well as a friend of the Green Party).

I was disappointed that Tracey Hill decided to blog about Caroline Lucas’s home. Tracey should be told that a basic rule of campaigning is not to stoop to the level of attacking your political opponents.  It suggests that you are sectarian and small minded, and is an important factor in helping me to decide how I will vote.  As Thumper (not John Prescott) in Bambi said: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”.

Warren has pointed out that the website still has more features and content to come, but that the Party wanted it to go live now.  Of course websites do evolve as content and new features are added.  I am sure that this website will continue to improve.  However, I think that some changes need to be prioritised.  For example, the profile of Celia Barlow that appears in the ‘Candidates‘ section fails to mention 2 things. The first is where she is standing (I assume from reports that it is Central Hove), and secondly, in the very full write-up of her achievements, being elected to Parliament in 2005, being the first of the new intake to make her maiden speech, being a member of a Select Committee, being appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary, it fails to mention that she is no longer an MP. A slight, yet important, omission, I would suggest.

On page 2 of the ‘Candidates’ there is the happy, smiling face of Brian Fitch.  A legend returns, but the question is where?  His write up fails to mention where he is standing.  It does say that Brian “has a reputation”. He sure does.  On this occasion it qualifies it by saying “as a man who gets things done.”  And I was overjoyed to see he has campaigned on issues such as ….. bus services.  The main thrust of his campaign is “to save the No 5 to Hangleton which is under imminent threat of being scrapped” (I made that bit up.  The No 5 is not under threat but be assured Brian continues to save it).

And a small word of advice to Caroline Penn (see page 4 of ‘Candidates‘, when posing for election photos, try to avoid the appearance of being in a poll-dancing club.

I am pleased to see that Simon Battle is hoping to make a return to front-line politics. I have worked with this former councillor and admire his work, particularly in achieving the pedestrianisation of George Street.  (As an aside, I was appalled when David Milliband said that he was withdrawing from front-line politics after his defeat by Ed for the Labour Party leadership. Clearly David doesn’t think that being an MP is front-line.  I think candidates in local elections, one and all – even Lib Dems - are in the front-line. David is such a typically arrogant New Labourite believing it is his birthright to hold office and to be leader. I’m still so glad he lost).

All in all, congratulations to Labour for this new resource.  Do take the time to have a look at Labour for Brighton and Hove

Political Awards 2010: New-Comer of the Year

In a year dominated by the general election, it is quite hard for a new-comer to make his or her mark.  There have been very few individuals who, newly arrived on the Brighton and Hove political scene,  have made their mark. In fact, there is just one nominee for this category, and therefore is the winner.

As a result of the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster, her European seat became vacant and was duly filled by the second person on the Green Party list from the last European elections, Keith Taylor.  Keith had been a long-standing, if uninspiring councillor for St Peter’s and North Laine.  Keith resigned from the City Council to take up the European seat.  The by-election was keenly fought by Labour and the Greens.  While the seat was won by the Green’s Lizzie Deane (who has disappeared without trace since her election), it was Tom French, the Labour candidate, who stood out as the outstanding candidate.

Tom was hard-working, charming, energetic, and won plaudits from all parties.  At a time where charismatic individuals are largely absent from the ranks of Labour, Tom was a breath of fresh air.  He is my New-Comer of the Year.  Labour needs to find another dozen or so candidates with similar qualities if it is to avoid a heavy defeat in May, although it is probably too late.

Just one word of warning to Tom.  Being the latest ‘bright young thing’ is great while it lasts.  But no matter how well you perform, time will mean that you will not always be young, and you rapidly lose the image of being the new kid on the block.  My advice is to remember your roots, the people who supported you when you set out on your exciting journey. Neglect your core base at your peril.  For the local elections, you have chosen to abandon (as some see it) St Peter’s and North Laine, as well as Hanover and Elm Grove,  in favour of Queen’s Park .   Take some time to mend fences.  You will never be bigger than the Party.  The Labour Party needs you to succeed and I wish you well.

Hanover and Elm Grove – they will weigh not count the Green vote next May

Councillor Bill Randall is a disappointment to me.  That is, Bill Randall as a blogger.  Just 4 posts in almost a year.  But as a ward councillor and Leader, sorry Convenor, of the Green Group on the Council, Bill Randall never fails to impress.

Thanks to Bill, the Greens have made Hanover and Elm Grove a fortress.  In 2007, faced with the indomitable Joyce Edmond-Smith, the Greens could reasonably have expected to retain their two seats, but they went one better and won all three.  Joyce, as I have said before, was Labour's leading green, often out-greening the Greens.  Yet she became a victim of the Labour collapse.  Bill Randall topped the poll with 2,182 votes, followed by Georgia Wrighton (2,102) and new-comer Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett (1,945).  Joyce was fourth with 1,321 votes.  The scale of the Green majority was surprising.

Since then Labour has been stuck firmly in reverse gear, and in May there will be no point counting the Green vote.  Just weigh it.  The only down-side for the Greens is the possibility that both Vicky and Georgia may stand down in May.  The loss of two young women councillors (from which ever party) is something to be regretted.  I hope that one or both will reconsider and stand again.  However, if they don't the Greens will still stroll home.

Don’t let Lib Dems defect to Labour or the Greens

What would you do if you were a Lib Dem councillor in Brighton and Hove?  Faced with a backlash against that party in next May’s local elections, do you rely on your personal vote to see you home even though the tide is very much against your party?

At the last locals, Joyce Edmond-Smith, a long-standing and highly respected Labour councillor in Hanover and Elm Grove, faced the Greens who had momentum on their side.  Joyce was Labour’s foremost green activist, with a better environmental record than many Greens.  She enjoyed a large personal vote, well-deserved and hard-earned over many years, but it wasn’t enough to save her and she was beaten by 624 votes.

David Watkins and Paul Elgood bear no comparison to Joyce when it comes to a personal vote.  Brunswick and Adelaide has a highly transient population and turnout is traditionally low.  Last time turnover was below 28%.  Being a Lib Dem councillor can’t be much fun at the moment.

So what do you do? I think that there is a chance that they will either not stand again so to avoid being beaten, or they may cross the floor and join either Labour or the Greens.  Their applications should be rejected.  If they really find the ConDem coalition distasteful, they should have taken a principled stand at the time.  Any defection now will be opportunistic and self-serving.

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