Defending the Greens Record of Campaigning

I have received a robust defence from Green Amy Kennedy of the Green Party’s record in campaigning against the closure of post offices. (see “Greens have been conspicuous by their absence in any campaign to save any single [Post Office)”. She writes:

“When the Brighton & Hove PO closures were announced in October 2007, Greens cllrs were appalled to find that no less than four of the six doomed B&H sub-POs were located in our wards (Trafalgar Street in St Peter’s & North Laine, Elm Grove in Hanover & Elm Grove, and Preston Circus and Preston Road in Preston Park).

“Subsequently, Brighton & Hove Greens were the only political party locally to call a public meeting to try and hold Post Office Ltd to account (http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/2007/11/28/greens-fight-post-office-closures/), which was held on 6th December 2007 at the Friends Meeting House.

“The meeting was Chaired by Peter Crowhurst (North Laine Community Association), and the panel consisted of Caroline Lucas, Selma Montford MBE, David Bull (then Conservative PPC for Brighton Pavilion) Gary Herbert (Post Office Ltd), Malcolm Butler (Postwatch – consumer watchdog), and a CWU rep (sorry, name escapes me). Invitations were also issued to local Labour MPs, but in the event this offer was not taken up.

“Green councillors also organised petitions in all the condemned B&H POs (including the two in Hove), amassing several thousand signatures, in addition to supplying free template letters for customers to send to Post Office Ltd, Postwatch, and their respective MPs. We sent the original petitions to Hazel Blears MP (then CLG minister), and forwarded copies to PO Ltd and Postwatch.

“Needless to say, the axe fell regardless, thanks to the Labour government’s relentless drive to introduce “efficiency” into public services, regardless of the (not necessarily intangible) cost to communities. I have to say it was pretty ironic watching Nancy Platts running around trying to “save the Post Offices” when (if I recall correctly) both David Lepper and Des Turner voted for the proposals to close the B&H sub-POs, and hundreds like them across the country.

“We are still working to try and progress an “Essex model” at local authority level, so watch this space. And we have and will continue to picket with the CWU. So it’s not fair really to suggest that Greens aren’t doing anything to protect post offices and public mail services”.

Thanks, Green Amy. I stand corrected regarding the campaigning of the Greens.

She is right about the role of the Labour government in driving through post office closures. It truly is the Labour version of the Poll Tax. And given reference to the Poll Tax, now that was a real campaign. Not only did we ultimately get the Poll Tax thrown out, we brought down Margaret Thatcher.

Notwithstanding the activities of the Greens, Nancy Platts and others, post offices closed, remain closed and is unlikely to be a massive part of the general election. The campaign has not been successful.

That Fabulous Platts Woman

I often feel guilty when blogging about Brighton Pavilion. I still sway towards the probability that Caroline Lucas is more likely to beat the Tories than a Labour candidate. I feel guilty, not because this blog may ‘call’ Brighton Pavilion for the Greens in the Tactical Voting Campaign, but because Nancy Platts is a decent, hard working, honourable candidate.  Her misfortune is to be a Labour candidate in the 2010 General Election.

But what is so refreshing about Nancy is the obvious enjoyment she has in campaigning for election. She takes issues seriously and works hard, but does not take herself too seriously, or at least she is willing to poke fun at herself.

Last night I received a message from her in which she makes reference to the debate on this blog about campaigning on the estates. The question has been asked (not by Nancy – she does not comment on her opponents weaknesses) whether Caroline Lucas knows where Crabtree Avenue is, or whether she has ever caught the number 50 omnibus to The Dip in Hollingdean.

What Nancy has done is to post prictures of herself out and about in Brighton Pavilion. These pictures were taken in, err, oh yes, Crabtree Avenue and visiting the post office in The Dip. She signed the message to me “That Platts Woman”, a self-effacing reference to the own goal by Green Councillor, Sven Rufus (see http://wp.me/pxVNs-4b).

As always, Nancy, the more people see of you, the more people like what they see. Your intervention is much appreciate.

Nominate your community campaigner

I recently blogged about the lack of any meaningful campaign against the closure of post offices. From the responses received, comments made to me, and my own observations, we seem to have a generation of politicians who lack an understanding of what campaigning is.

Dan Wilson, in support of Nancy Platts, said: “There has been activity in Brighton: Nancy Platts has been supporting the CWU campaign against Royal Mail privatisation and post office closures” and provides a link to Nancy’s website

Nancy is quoted on her website as saying, “Recently, I was pleased to join colleagues from the CWU and support their campaign against the privatisation of Royal Mail. Unfortunatly, as you can see, the elements were against us. It’s such an important issue that we braved the rain nonetheless.  Post Offices and the Royal Mail are at the core of our communities and I oppose anything that weakens their important social role”.

The picture she has posted underlines the point I am making – a trade union banner on the seafront (in appalling weather). Being photographed on the seafront is not campaigning. It is a photo opportunity.  A campaign would have been gathering signatures outside a threatened post office for days, even weeks, galvanising local people (not party activists) to form a campaign group, and then allowing them to lead it, true community empowerment. Nothing short of this is tokenism.

Scott Redding talks up the Greens record on post office closure, that “not just in Brighton, but around the country, Greens have campaigned against post office closures. The first two pages of hits describe Green campaigns in Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancaster, Leamington, Leicester, London, St Ives, Stroud and Sutton”. Impressive, Scott, but not in Brighton. We have had so many post offices closed and the Greens have been conspicuous by their absence in any campaign to save any single one of them. I don’t expect Caroline Lucas to take the lead (I am often told by Green friends that she is fully occupied in Brussels and as Party Leader), but where have the local Green councillors been? Bill Randall understands activism, but do many of the other Greens?

I go to community meetings where both Green and Labour councillors display a stunning lack of awareness that scoring party political points off each other is one of the great killers of enthusiasm for the party political process.

What we need are exmples of true community activists who can pull together a good community campaign. Would anyone like to nominate a good example?

Post Office Closures

Having just spent the best part of half an hour queueing at my local post office (I know I got off lightly), my mind turned, as it does, to the general election.

In addition to Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, etc., the closure of post offices will be a heavy weight around the necks of Labour candidates.

This is an issue the Greens should clean up on, but tthe Party’s lack of campaigning instinct has let them down to date. A million signature petition would have been in order.

Perhaps Labour should admit it got this (amongst other things) badly wrong. Re-opening closed post offices should be in the top ten commitments for a Jon Cruddas administration!

Reflections on the Green Party Conference

A political earthquake, shaking the political landscape of Brighton to the core? Well not quite. But it will have given a boost to the Greens as they target Brighton Pavilion at the next general election. The conference made it to the BBC national news, just, and there was some coverage locally. Having several hundred Green activists, some of whom took part in a “mass leafleting” of Brighton Pavilion constituency, will have provided some momentum.

But this was hardly the launch pad Caroline Lucas needs to help her sweep into Parliament.  The Greens need to maintain a higher profile, focusing on issues, being seen out and about. (But please, Green Amy, not the Stassi-style tabard I saw you sporting at the Conference!  What were you thinking?).

What was noticable over the last 4 days was the profile of Nancy Platts. She has been out and about, meeting people, Tweeting until her poor fingers had turned blue. Boy, does she have an interesting life? Well, no actually. A tad overdone, Nancy. I like the policy issues, I like the accounts of meeting residents, but I can give obsessive references to food a miss. Take it as read, we know you cook, you get take aways, you go to the Napier, you eat greeny type food. But please spare us the detail! (For the record I cook a mean roast).

The election campaign is serious stuff, but I for one am really looking forward to the campaign between these two impressive women, Caroline Lucas and Nancy Platts.

Tactical Voting: Why we need to settle our differences

The Conservatives are planning to put an end to universal benefits, devolving administration and benefit levels to local authorities.  They argue that it costs more to live in Essex than it does in Cornwall, and a 17 year old does not need the same as a 30 year old.  Local discretion will be allowed.

This would be the end of universal benefits as we know it. The amount devolved to localities will not maintain the same value as the current benefit levels, and so the ‘blame’ for cuts in benefit will be the respoonsibility of  local politicians rather than national government.

This is just one of the clearest reasons why we need to settle our differences and agree to tactical voting. A Tory majority after the general election will be a disaster for the poor, for local government, for the voluntary sector. I’m scare, very scared.   Tactical voting isn’t a game. It is about protecting the welfare state and defending the poor.

Sven Rufus clarifies comments

Yesterday this blog was critical of Sven Rufus for comments he had made as part of the debate on tactical voting in Brighton Pavilion. He has posted a response but I thought it would be right to give his response a higher profile:

“A couple of things – no complacency here. The Greens could lose, but Labour won’t win, that is all I was saying.

“As for my ‘that Platts’ woman’ comment – it probably sounded better in my head at 7.15 this morning than it does in text in the cold light of day – it was meant to be jocular/flippant, not disrespectful and apologies if I got the tone wrong.

“I respect Nancy as a campaigner and for her commitment as I understand things, but I can do that at the same time as holding the party she represents in contempt, and acknowledging the certainty (in my mind) that Labour can’t win. Either way, my point remains that she has been an absentee candidate round here in Hollingdean, as much as you would have claimed the same for Caroline on Crabtree Avenue. Maybe I’m wrong, but then maybe you were too. It just strikes me as bizarre that you change your putative tactical support so quickly on such a flimsy basis.

“Oh and I do sometime refer to men as ‘that xxx bloke’. Juvenile maybe, but no disrespect.

“If just had a long and heated debate with an ex-Labour councillor from Adur which reminded me why I’m in the Green Party. I would once have assumed that I would always be a Labour voter, but the party I looked forward to throughout my youth has gone, maybe with John Smith, and never mind the tribal football team mentaility that politics can slip into, I genuinely can’t understand how any true Labour supporter can still stand by the party that has presided over the decade in which this country became the most inequitable that it has ever been. I want the right social outcomes and they won’t come from Labour at present”.

An Own Goal by Green Sven in Brighton Pavilion Tactical Vote Campaign

Like buses, you wait and wait and then three come along all at once. So too with the Greens who are clearly upset by recent posts on tactical voting in Brighton Pavilion. I have been bombarded (in a more or less peaceful way) by Ben Duncan, Amy Kennedy, and Sven Rufus, amongst others.

Green Ben thinks I have been unreasonably harsh on Caroline Lucas and the invisibilty of Green activists, saying that it is, after all, the summer holiday season.

Green Amy characteristically puts up well argued, reasoned arguments and provides evidence of Caroline’ activities.

Green Sven has not helped Caroline’ cause by assuming that Labour voters will easily switch from Labour to Greens at a general election and, more damaging, referring to Labour’s Nancy Platts as “that Platts woman”.

Firstly, never underestimate how difficult it is for life-long Labour supporters to change. The Greens can’t be complacent about an automatic tactical vote for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion. Complacency in this respect, bordering on arrogance, could be the Greens Achilles heal. Remember what happened to the Greens in the recent Norwich by-election.

Secondly, the use of the phrase “that Platts woman” does smack of the sexism attached to the criticism of  Thatcher who was often defined by her gender. It never happens to male politicians. When did you last hear reference to “that Blair man”, “that Brown man” or even “that Rufus man”.

The Greens are supposed to offer a different politics but in this respect Sven has scored a terrible own goal.

Treat your opponents with respect. Disagree on policy, fine, but respect Nancy for being a person and candidate of principle, integrity, and commitment.

Tactical Voting in Brighton Pavilion

Join the debate – should it be Labour’s Nancy Platts or the Green Caroline Lucas who should receive tactical votes in Brighton Pavilion.

Nancy is the stronger, local candidate, principled and hard working. But she lacks a strong local organisation as Labour is dying on its knees.

Caroline has a  high profile nationally as Leader of the Greens, but lacks a local presence and profile. She, too, appears to lack a strong organisation on the ground.

After the Goldsmid by-election, this blog was on the verge of calling the contest in favour of Caroline Lucas, but now is uncertain. That is to the credit of Nancy, and an indictment of the Greens.