Councillor Sven Rufus is normally a wise owl. As a seasoned campaigner he downplays the prospects of his party, the Greens, doing particularly well in Hollingdean and Stanmer where he is a candidate. But he just doesn’t get the Jeane Effect! He writes: “I’m ever grateful for your certainty it will be a good result for the Greens – but I do disagree with you about why we won’t/can’t take the third seat. You constantly tell us that there is a strong personal vote for Jeane Lepper, and that will carry her across the line. I wonder what you base that on?” The Ghost of Nobby Clarke plays down the importance of a personal vote: “Personal votes didn’t help Messrs Bodfish & Burgess 4 years ago did it in Queens Park?”.
Tonight I will explore the concept of a personal vote. Where you have a councillor who is diligent in their case work, and who has been around for many years, as in the case of Jeane Lepper, constituents will vote for the person rather than the party. Jeane will have helped many hundreds of residents of Hollingdean and Stanmer with what some activists might dismiss as pavement politics. Where there has been a noisy neighbour, Jeane will have intervened. When someone’s son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter, has not got into the school of their choice, Jeane will have written a letter, even represented them at an appeal. She will have lobbied on planning applications, helped with housing applications, even raised issues about dog shit and bent lamp posts. For individual residents, these issues matter, and as an effective councillor (as opposed to high profile) she will have made a difference to the lives on several hundred individual households.
It is that history and record, to answer the Wise Owl’s question, is what I base my forecast on. The Lepper name, too, will help enormously, since David Lepper was an exceptionally diligent constituency MP. He may not have set Westminster alight, unlike his successor, Caroline Lucas, but he was (is) well known and highly respected by ordinary constituents.
So what about Queens Park? Why did the personal vote not save Ken Bodfish and Simon Burgess. The answer is simple. They represented an administration that had become arrogant and detached from the lives of ordinary people. They were seen to have been associated with, even responsible for, many ill-fated initiatives from the mayoral campaign, schools admissions, and the Council house debacle. Their prominence as the successive leaders of the Council over-shadowed anything they may have done as ward councillors. Other leading politicians have not neglected their own constituents (I don’t think Simon did). Other good examples are Mary Mears, Maria Caulfield and Bill Randall who work conscientiously on case work and who come across with humility and not the arrogance that characterised (perhaps unfairly some might say) the Queens Park Mafia.
Steve Bassam was another who knew where his base lay. An exceptional case worker, he may have become a very divisive figure in the town and within Labour, but he never came anywhere near losing his power base in Tenantry Ward even though it was, I understand, the heartland of Militant. If Hangleton and Knoll returns to Labour, it won’t be a clean sweep. Dawn Barnett, who knows every household down to the name of their late and much missed pet dog, will stick in there like chewing gum on your shoe. Labour will just not be able to get rid of her, and the Greens will not be able to get rid of Jeane Lepper.
Who else, current or former councillors, would you say is/was a great ward councillor whose personal votes would see them through, thick or thin?
Filed under: Council Elections 2011 | Tagged: Bill Randall, Caroline Lucas, David Lepper, Dawn Barnett, Hangleton, Hollingdean, Jeane Lepper, Ken Bodfish, Knoll, Maria Caulfield, Mary Mears, Militant, Nobby Clarke, Queens Park, Simon Burgess, Stanmer, Steve Bassam, Sven Rufus, Tenantry | 14 Comments »