Labour Councillors to defect in Brighton and Hove?

We are entering the silly season where we can expect to see defections from one party to another. There is speculation that, in Brighton and Hove, the next year may see some party switches. Already in the last week we have seen former Labour councillor, Vince Meehan, come out in favour of the Greens in their successful campaign in Goldsmid ward.

Previously, in the run-up to a general election, the former Conservative leader of Hove Borough Council, Bernie Jordan, switched his allegiance to the Labour Party. He said that New Labour represented his values and policies!

At a national level, those wishing to prolong their ministerial careers, such as Shaun Woodward and Quentin Davies, both extremely wealthy and neither coming from traditional Labour backgrounds, crossed the floor and were suitably rewarded. Woodward is now Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office, and Davies is Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence !

So what can we expect in Brighton and Hove? There are Labour members who will be, I can say are, questioning whether their careers will be best served remaining in Labour. It would come as no surprise to me to see at least one Labour councillor joining the Greens (not immediately) and one even joining the Conservatives (in the immediate run-up to the General election). Joining the Greens is understandable as they are a more radical party than Labour. One could even see justification for joining the Conservatives given how right wing Labour has become.

The cause of Labour’s defeat in Goldsmid?

Are there any clues as to why Labour performed so badly in the Goldsmit by-election? Could it be the poor campaign, the imposed and uninspiring candidate, the divided Party locally? Perhaps the expenses scandal, Gordon’s leadersip, the disunity of former Cabinet members? Maybe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more young men and women coming home in body bags, or Labour’s support for the war-monger Blair as President of Europe? The recession, the housing crisis, bailing out the banks, and the consequential cuts in public funding and services?

It’s kind of hard to see why there wasn’t a Labour landslide!

Bizzarely, I had a call from a Labour friend this morning blaming this blog’s early and consistent endorsement of the Green candidate, now councillor, Alex Phillips. It gave the campaign ‘momentum’ I was advised!

Given that this blog is read by not many more than my mum and a couple of anoraks (apologies Amy and Neil), I hardly feel responsible for this latest Labour disaster. I can but dream.

Goldsmid Result Changes Brighton & Hove Political Landscape

The obvious impact of the Green victory in Goldsmid Ward is the loss of overall control on Brighton and Hove City Council. For the Greens it provided their first ever Councillor in Hove and the first time the Party has won a seat off the Conservatives. Neil Harding provides a good summary of the impact of the result on the City Council.

In the longer term it provides huge momentum for the Greens in the twelve months before the General Election. For Labour it is a disaster. It reaffirms that Labour is a party in decline in Brighton and Hove, now firmly established as the third party in the City. They lack credibility, a party associated with defeat after defeat, heading for three losses in the City in the General Election. Ironically, it isn’t a disaster for the Conservatives who had a credible result even though they lost their seat in a by-election caused by the unacceptable actions of their former councillor, Paul Lainchbury. Unlike Labour, they were not humilated.

This was the worst result possible for Labour. Labour Group Leader, Gill Mitchell said last night “The Conservatives are fatally wounded and they will not be able to get anything through the council”. To describe the Tories as fatally wounded is pure nonsense and demonstrates the mindset of Labour, still seeing the battle lines as Labour v Conservatives.

There is anger at both parties, but most particularly against the party of government. Mary Mears, a most perceptive politician, has already identified the Greens as the main opponents to the Tories. She dismissed the result as a protest vote on national issues but was quick to attack Green policies, saying that they have not properly costed their programme. That is, indeed a challenge for the Greens.

But for today, the Greens, and Councillor Alex Phillips in particular, should enjoy the moment. If the Green Party is to make the next breakthrough at parliamentary level, the hard work begins tomorrow!

Greens win Goldsmid by-election

12.02am STOP PRESS: Green 1456 Conservatives 1104 Labour 816 LIb Democrat 280
Congratulations Alex Phillips. Tories lose control of Brighton and Hove City Council. More in the morning.

Has Labour given up and gone home?

The thing that amazes me about reaction to this blog is the absolute lack of response from Labour supporters. Not one person, even those who know me, has defended Liz Telcs, the campaign that was run (or not) in Goldsmid Ward, or the reputation of the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove.

I remain, at heart, a Labour (that’s Old Labour) supporter. I am a socialist, not a Green. But frankly, the Greens offer an alternative, and show some ambition. Come on Labour Party members. Has the Party died in Brighton? Have you all given up and gone home? Have you just rolled over and surrendered?

Is there anyone out there?

PS Good luck tomorrow, Alex. A Green victory is in the best interest of Brighton and Hove.

Goldsmid By-election is a Two Horse Race

Don’t count chickens before they hatch, is an old saying. It must be very tempting for Green councillors to speculate on what will happen in the event of a victory by Alex Phillips in the Goldsmid by-election on Thursday.

Victory is by no means certain for Ms Phillips but it is clearly a two horse race between her and the Conservatives. I would encourage you to visit Alex’s campaign website. Very impressive and very effective.

I tried to find Liz Telcs’ website so I did a Google search. The top result provided links to this blog! Then there were links to Ben Duncan’s blog, and then, last but not least, to the Argus archive!

Nothing from the good lady herself. If Labour was not so divided and demoralised, I’m sure that it could post even a basic website if they had any self belief.

Ben Duncan, in his entertaining blog, writes that in the event of an Alex Phillips victory: “I think we should invite Labour to adopt our local manifesto, and make sure as much of the council’s business as possible (and certainly the question of which minority party (ies) form the administration) is decided by council (and not the Tories single party cabinet) as possible”.

I’m glad that he is not calling for a formal coalition. Why on earth would the Greens get into bed with their arch rivals when they are hoping to beat Labour in Brighton Pavilion thus achieving their biggest success ever by having Caroline Lucas elected?

What should happen is the abolition of the Cabinet system at Brighton and Hove City Council which must be the least democratic of all the options available. The City should be run by all councillors, not a select few who do not enjoy the majority support in the City. The electorate have not given a mandate to any party and therefore the important decisions should be taken by full Council. It may well mean that councillors having to meet more often, but whoever said that democracy was easy?

Labour wants anything but a Green win in Goldsmid By-election

Leading lights in the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove are desperately worried about the outcome of this weeks by-election in Goldsmid ward. So concerned are they that they are privately saying they prefer a Conservative win rather than victory for Alex Phillips of the Green Party.

Most would imagine that the prize of the Conservatives losing control of the City Council would be incentive enough for Labour to wish for a Green victory in the event of their candidate being unsuccessful. But no, a Green victory will be regarded as an absolute disaster. Even though Goldsmid ward is not in Brighton Pavilion, victory for the Greens would give huge momentum to the Greens in the run-up to the General Election next year, and to their candidate Caroline Lucas.

What little canvassing has been done by Labour points not only to a close result between Conservatives and Greens, it shows that Labour is heading for a very poor result, coming a very distant third. Feedback from the doorstep suggests that Alex Phillips has been well received by voters whereas Liz Telcs is not making an impact and there is widespread disenchantment with the Labour government.

Labour has lost the ability to campaign

There was a time, in the 1980’s, when Labour was a vibrant, campaigning, grass routes organisation. Through campaigning, led by David Lepper and Steve (Lord) Bassam, the Party won control of the local Council.

The Golsmid by-election demonstrates how the Party has lost it’s ability to campaign, even in elections. Liz Telcs has worked hard (although not as hard or effectively as Green Alex Phillips). She has struggled to get anything of a campaign going, and appeals for help have fell, largely, on deaf ears.

Alex Phillips, on the other hand, has been energetic, enthusiastic and exciting. She reminds me of Labour activists of the early/mid 1980’s. Was she active then? No, she wasn’t even born then!

War in Afghanistan

Gordon Brown is coming under increasing pressure as the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan continues to rise. This week has been particularly bad and there is every indication that the numbers being ‘repatriated’, to use a Ministry of Defence phrase, (or to you and me the number of dead young men and women coming back in body bags) will continue to rise.

Listening to Ministers describing how the objective is to give Afghanistan back to the Afghans is meaningless twaddle. This is a war Brown inherited from Blair and Bush. He would be well advised to say it was ill-advised and was unwinnable from the outset. Afghanistan, even with Taliban, never posed a threat to the UK. Yes, the Taliban accommodated al Qiaida and was one of the most nauseating, repressive, anti-women regime in modern history.

But the reality is that the UK and the USA at some point will have to negotiate with the Taliban. And there are elements within the Taliban that are not anti-women and support, for example, the education of women.

Of course Brown won’t have the courage to come clean on Afghanistan. However, if he is to continue with this misadventure, he should make the objective is clear. What does victory look like? What does it mean to give Afghanistan back to the Afghans? Quite how far are the UK and the USA prepared to go in order to achieve the, as yet unclear, objectives.

As with the USA in Vietnam, it is the sight of body bags and coffins that will sway public opinion and will bring an end to the U.K.’s involvement in Afghanistan. The danger is that there will not be a planned, negotiated, constructive withdrawal, leaving anarchy, revenge, and the worst elements of the Taliban returning to power.

Well done, Tony Blair. Yet another aspect of you fine legacy.

News of the World: We don’t believe the Police

The Metropolitan Police this evening said that there was no evidence to suggest that there had been widespread phone hacking by the News of the World and that there was no new evidence to warrant a further investigation

What is unfortunate for the Met is that, after the G20 demonstrations and the death of Ian Tomlinson, the misinformation put out following the shooting of John Charles de Menezes, and the MPs expenses scandal, there is suspicion amongst the general public and cynicism amongst journalists.

The person who must be on the back foot over this is David Cameron. He was too quick to vindicate Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, now his Communications Director.

Whatever the truth, and I suspect the practice was far more widespread than will ever be established, the public will think that this is yet another cover-up and Cameron will look shifty all the time that he defends Coulson.