Double barrelled problems for rich, non dom Tories

These are interesting times. The latest opinion poll in the Independent has the Tory’s lead down to just 3 points.  The likelihood of a hung parliament comes ever nearer. And it is great to see the Tories in such trouble.  David Cameron has had to apologise for unfounded attacks on Ed Balls’ handling of allegations against Muslim institutions. Tory candidates, including Brighton Kemptown’s own Simon Radford-Kirby have been advised to drop their double barrel names because they are trying to avoid coming across as Tory toffs.  He is now common-as-muck Simon Kirby.  Failed candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Scott Seaman-Digby, tried to do likewise by promoting himself as plain Scott Digby.  It didn’t work for him and it won’t work for Radford-Kirby.

As for the successful candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Chuck Vere, there is no suggestion that she is really Charlotte Alexandra de Pfeffel Johnson-Vere, and certainly not related to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson also known as simple Boris Johnson. No, her problems are more serious.  She is a close associate of Zac Goldsmith.  Today’s Mirror reported that “rising Tory star Zac Goldsmith is avoiding tax by claiming ‘non dom’ status”.  Mr Goldsmith inherited a fortune from his industrialist father Sir James Goldsmith.  There have been calls for David Cameron to sack him. Non-domicile tax status lets people avoid tax on earnings outside the UK.  According to the Lib Dem peer, Lord Oakeshott, “He’s not fit to sit in parliament and must pay the millions he’s dodged to the British taxman.”

Mr Goldsmith has denied he had “dodged” tax and said, “Virtually all my income comes to the UK, where I pay full tax on it.” But he added that he had decided to give up his “non dom” status.  Because of her close association with Zac Goldsmith, Charlotte Vere should make a statement about her attitude to non doms, and she should condemn rich Tories for avoiding tax.

Great candidates, shame about their Leaders

The more I reflect on the election battle in Brighton Pavilion, the more excited I become. First, there is the certainty of have a woman elected to represent Brighton Pavilion for the first time in its history. Second, whoever wins, we will have a first-rate Member of Parliament.  All three candidates, Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas and Chuck Vere, are impressive in their own right, each achieving prominence in their particular field.  But each has a handicap to overcome – the Leader of their Party.

Gordon Brown is on the one hand an extremely unlucky Prime Minister.  Many of the woes that have befallen his government could not have been anticipated. One the other hand he has not handled himself well. He did not distance himself from Blair, and he has failed to engage with the electorate. Ironically, he has recovered when attached by the Sun over the letter to the mother of a dead soldier.  For the first time people saw the humanity of the man, and learned about his own disability – blindness. There is still a chance that he will recover further, and this would help Nancy Platts.

David Cameron is everything that Gordon Brown is not. Smarmy, privileged, born to rule. No matter how hard he tries, he just lacks the common touch.  As the election approaches, and as people see more of Diamond-Geezer Dave, they will realise that he comes across as an Old Etonian, Oxford toff.  Why? Because he is an Old Etonian, Oxford toff!  This image is magnified when he stands alongside that other Tory toff, George Osbourne.  The challenge for Chuck Vere is to ensure she does not come across as a Tory toff herself. Is she able to talk to ordinary people on the Number 46 to Hollingbury without talking down to them?

But the biggest challenge posed to any of the three comes from the leader of the Green Party. Candidate Caroline Lucas will be hard-pressed to overcome the disadvantage she faces from the Leader Caroline Lucas.  Don’t get me wrong, I have huge admiration for Caroline The Leader.  She stands out head and shoulders above the leaders of any of the other main parties.  She is bright, engaging, original, inspirational. The disadvantage to Caroline the Candidate is that as Caroline the Leader she is already being thinly spread, and that is without taking into account her duties as an MEP.  Her profile as Leader will help her as Candidate, but it also might dilute the effort that will be necessary if she is to become the Green’s first ever Member of Parliament.

Who is brave enough to call this one?

Caroline Lucas ate my hamster, Nancy Platts my goldfish, and Charlotte Vere my gerbil

Sorry about the headline, but I wanted to attract your attention!  This is the 100th post since the Brighton Politics Blog was launched on 8th June. It is odd to see what interests and excites, provokes reaction, and attracts anger. A post on politics or policy gets little attention, as does a comment on a national or international issue.  A post about Gordon Brown announcing the inquiry into the Iraq War was viewed by just 1 person!

On the other hand, if I post something about partisan politics, a comment in favour of Nancy Platts or Caroline Lucas, or even a recent defending the Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Charlotte Vere, gets loads of hits for days, even weeks.  That’s why I have used the misleading (but successful) headline above!

The response through public comments and private messages has been great.  Thank you.  I have been impressed by the engagement of both Nancy Platts and Chuck Vere, and disappointed by the silence from Caroline Lucas and her election team (all adding to my sense of her being aloof).  On the other hand, it could suggest that she is more discerning than Nancy and Chuck.  As one correspondent has put it, that this blog is “not very original. Your blog is not kept up-to-date. It is pretty dull to the average person. In fact it is just not very good”, or as another said that it is just “twaddle”.  If this is the case then Caroline is wise to ignore a blog that is “superficial, snide and irrelevant”!

Having said that, the readership on a daily basis is now surprising me, and it is very gratifying to have items picked up on other blogs, referred to at public events, and quoted in other media.

Over the next six months the focus of this blog will be on the general election campaign, and those seats in Sussex that might return non-Tory MP’s. There will be a definite focus on Brighton Pavilion, and I look forward to getting your views on the campaign, the key issues and the performance of the three main candidates.

I want a hung parliament

The poll in today’s Observer (by Ipsos MORI) has the Tory lead down to just 6 points.  If this was replicated at a general election, the Tories would have just 9 seats more than Labour and we would have the first hung parliament since 1974.  If the gap narrowed to 5 points Labour could be the largest party in the Commons!

In today’s Observer, Tony Helm, the paper’s Political Editor, writes: “Among Tory MPs and candidates a new nervousness has been evident since early in the month. One Tory candidate noted a recent wave of hostility on the doorstep towards George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, who announced in October that the Tories would freeze public-sector pay as part of necessary economic austerity measures”.

This is great news, and poses a challenge to David Cameron.  The approach to date of saying little, committing to nothing, with him and George Osborne sailing effortlessly into Numbers 10 and 11, is no longer credible. On the occasion when Osborne did speak out, the real face of Cameron’s Conservative Party was revealed.  And people don’t like what they see. It is the same old Tory Party, determined to cut jobs and services.  With Osborne proving to be so unpopular, will Cameron stand by his friend or will his ruthless personal ambition result in Boy George getting the elbow?

I want a hung parliament because Labour does not deserve a further term. They didn’t deserve this term. But the Conservatives would be the worst of all worlds – its natural instinct to cut given cover by the need for ‘pragmatism’. With a hung parliament each and every MP will have greater influence, and will be held accountable as the Commons will regain some power lost under Blair.

A hung parliament: things are really looking up!

The Lib Dems are an irrelevance in Brighton and Hove

I was asked the other day why I never mention the Lib Dems in this blog.  I do, actually, having called for tactical voting for the Lib Dems in Lewes (for Norman Baker MP) and in Eastbourne, to name just two areas.  It is true that I completely ignore them in Brighton and Hove because, putting it quite simply, the Lib Dems are a joke in the City.

Recently, all parties on the Council were asked to be part of a campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer. Women representatives of all parties took part, along with the Mayor, Cllr Anne Norman.  That is all except the Lib Dems who were represented by a male councillor because they don’t have any women on the Council.

Boasting just two councillors (and neither are much to boast about), the ‘third Party’ has yet to select parliamentry candidates in any of the three Brighton and Hove seats.  I may be wrong on this, but if they have it shows just how ineffective and invisible they have been.

In Brighton itself, the Lib Dems have not a single councillor and look unlikely to gain any for the foreseeable future. The Lib Dems have ceased to be a national party and should accept that in areas such as Brighton and Hove they are an irrelevance.  I hope that they don’t field a candidate in any of the Brighton and Hove seats, and urge their supporters to vote either Labour or Green. It will help to ensure that non-Conservatives are elected, ideally from all three seats.

In defence of Charlotte Vere

In recent comments to this blog, an issue has been made of the fact that Charlotte Vere once had a nanny for her children and had holidays in Switzerland and Barbados.

While maybe not intended, there is an element of sexism in these comments. I have yet to see negative comments made of a man who has made it to the top should he have a wife at home looking after young children or if the mother of his children is working and they jointly employ a nanny. No, it is only women who attract comments if they have a nanny.

And so what if she has had holidays. Good luck to her.

The issue here is not about nannies and holidays, it is about need, and whether that need can be met regardless of ability to pay.

I have no difficulty defending Chuck Vere in regard to these criticisms. However, if in her campaigning and support of policies that directly or indirectly limit the potential of women to achieve their aspirations, get education and training, pursue a career, because of the absence of or restrictions on childcare, then she can expect this blog to single her out for criticism. But that criticism will be based on policy not gender.

At the heart of this debate will be public funding, and as a Tory candidate she will face close scrutiny regarding support for Tory cuts to the poorest and most marginalised.

Perhaps Chuck Vere will make an early commitment to unambiguously support free or affordable childcare.

The Brighton Pavilion campaign, with three strong women candidates in Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas and Chuck Vere, will attract sexist criticism. On the other hand it will inspire a generation of young girls that candidacy for high office is something open to them. For this this blog thanks Nancy, Caroline and Chuck.

Some thoughts for Nancy, Caroline and Chuck

Here are some of my thoughts about the three candidates in Brighton Pavilion.

On issues of poverty, employment, even the economy, Nancy Platts has the advantage. This is her bread and butter. She is working tirelessly, being seen at events and meeting residents every day. She has the advantage of living on the constituency and enjoys increasing name recognition.

Caroline Lucas, for all we know, might have an equally strong track record as Nancy on , but she is not known for it locally. Other than being the leader of the Greens and an MEP for the south east, she isnt really getting through locally. As leader of the Greens she is excellent, but that is a mixed blessing. She will have increasing name recognition but she is and will be distracted and taken away from Brighton Pavilion.

Will the result be all about green politics? I doubt it. Nancy would be well advised to avoid trying to out-green the Greens and the Tories. No matter how good her green credentials are, and they are impressive, this is an issue where she will come third. She should let Caroline and Charlotte slug it out, hopefully from her perspective splitting the green vote.

Caroline Lucas is yet to counter the allegation of being remote and distant. She isn’t even doing the simple things right. For example, when writing to residents in Brighton Pavilion in her capacity as an MEP, she still uses a London address rather than one in Brighton Pavilion. It isn’t a big thing but it all goes towards creating an impression.

As for Charlotte, it is very early days. The open primary was, stating the obvious, great for her but does not seem to have given the Tories the ‘bounce’ they may have hoped for. She is in Brighton today looking at properties to rent or buy. This will give her an advantage over Caroline Lucas. With just 6 months to the election she won’t have time to draw level with Nancy Platts in this respect.

Class-wise, Charlotte is no Mary Mears or Maria Caulfield. She may struggle, as might Caroline, in Hollingdean and other estates in the constituency. Digby Seaman Scott tried (unsuccessfully) by becoming plain old Digby Scott. Perhaps Charlotte might try something similar. How about becoming known as Chuck?

Charlotte Vere’s selection is threat to Caroline Lucas

Sometimes I get it wrong, sometimes I get it wrong BIG time. I got it wrong big time over the Tory selection in Brighton Pavilion.

First of all, congratulations to Charlotte Vere on her selection. And I aologise for labelling her and others as ‘lame donkeys’. It was a cheap shot and unworthy.

Within hours of her selection I received a very gracious message from Charlotte. So again, congratulations and apologies.

Her selection is excellent news for Brighton Pavilion. It guarantees a woman Member of Parliament for the first time in its history.

The election campaign itself will be fascinating with three extremely able women candidates in Nancy Platts (Labour), Caroline Lucas (Green), and now Charlotte Vere.

The contrast between the campaigns to be run in the 2 Brighton seats could not be greater. In Brighton Kemptown the three main parties are likely to field men who will aim (and are already trying) to out do each other in pursuit of the gay male vote.

Green issues, amongst various social issues, are likely to dominate the Brighton Pavilion campaign.

But class issues, cuts in jobs and services, and poverty are likely to feature prominently as well.

The selection of Charlotte Vere will, ironically, weaken Caroline Lucas’ campaign (to the advantage of Nancy Platts) given Charlotte’ credentials as an environmental campaigner and her close relationship with Zac Goldsmith.

Right of centre environmentalists can stay true to form by voting for a green Tory. The green vote is in danger of being fatally diluted.

Brighton Pavilion: I apologise for getting it so wrong

Charlotte Vere has been selected as the Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion. Throughout the process I had predicted a one horse race with Tory insider Digby Scott certain to win. He had had a head start and was well resourced. In the event he was knocked out in the second ballot.

Charlotte Vere is the first woman Conservative ever to be selected in Brighton Pavilion. It makes the Brighton Pavilion fight even more fascinating with three strong women candidates: Labour’s Nancy Platts, Green Caroline Lucas, and now Tory Charlotte Vere.

Congratulations, Charlotte. Please accept my apologies.

Brighton Pavilion: One thoroughbred and five lame donkeys

Tomorrow is the so-called ‘open primary’ to select the Conservative candidate for Brighton Pavilion. I have spoken to 3 people who applied for tickets but have heard nothing. I personally didn’t even bother . In an earlier post I said that the ‘open primary’ is closed to most people, either through advertising wrong phone numbers or wrong email addresses.  It has been a shambles, deliberate or otherwise.

The reality is that this is a one horse race. Digby Scott was was out of the starting stalls and had a substantial lead well before the other five candidates even knew they were shortlisted. Some have yet to find the starting stalls.  Little has been seen or heard from any of the other five, although the only local candidate, Andrew Wealls, was seen leafletting in Regency Ward.

Even if you have, somehow, managed to get a ticket for the Grand Hotel tomorrow night, don’t waste your time.  This is a stitch up. This time tomorrow, Digby will be the candidate for Brighton Pavilion, and he will be able to continue his slick campaign that he launched in October while five lame donkeys were still enjoying the last of the summer sun.