Why St James Street should not become the Gay Village of Brighton

One of the great things about Brighton and Hove is the comfortable way different communities can live alongside each other. There is little strife between communities, and this is something that we should cherished and protect.

St James Street has long been identified as an area with a high concentration of facilities for lesbian women and gay men, and many from the LGBT communities choose to live in the area adjacent to the Kemptown seafront.

Recently there have been calls to have the area designated as they Gay Village of Brighton. A community at ease with itself and with others does not require such a designation. It would set a precedent that many have resisted over many years. I recall the National Front trying to label the Palmeira Square area as the “Jewish neighbourhood” in Hove. While no direct comparison would be appropriate, it does allow others with divisive and dangerous tendencies to scapegoat and target its residents.

And by designating an area for one particular section of our community, there is the unintended consequence of excluding others who have long had it as their home or those who wish to make it their home.

I want to see the whole of Brighton and Hove being the area where lesbian women and gay men feel at home, where they may feel safe and secure, and where they and their neighbours can enjoy the distinct qualities of the diverse communities who enrich this City.

Today’s Tory Party remains remains anti-environment, anti-Europe, anti-gay, pro-rich, pro-bankers, and pro-toff.

What an interteresting time at the meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday evening. At last the three opposition parties are co-operating to defeat the shortsighted policies of the Tories (while not establishing a formal alliance).

As for the Tories, apart from Mary Mears, the Tories sounded hollow, out of date and lacking in imagination.  Even Mary sounded a but of a whinger with her ‘we were elected to run the City, they didn’t vote for your alliance’  type whinge.  She has no choice now but to reintroduce a consultative style of leadership that builds a consensus.  The alternative is more seven hour meetings filled with division.  This could be a disaster for the City, but great for the bloggers!  It remains to see if Mary can put the interest of the smooth administration of the City above party political considerations.

Fantastic news about a possible congestion charge.  Poor old Geoffrey Theobald was left singing from his well-thumbed hymn sheet, not realising that the tune has changed.  And that is the problem for the Tories.  David Cameron may say that it is a new Conservative Party, but its grass roots and many of its councillors (not to mention many leading MP’s) are stuck in an anti-environmentalist mind set.  It must be embarassing for the likes of Chuck Vere who is so clearly out of step with the majority in her Party.  Will she come out in favour of a congestion charge for Brighton and Hove?  Will she denounce those with their heads buried in the sand (like Geoffrey Theobald) on environmental issues and who want a free for all on traffic.  Will Chuck herself pledge to use public transport during the run up to and during the campaign (both in and around Brighton as well as her commute from south London?

The loony right of the Tories (the majority of the Party) remains anti-environment, anti-Europe, even anti-gay.  It remains pro-rich, pro-bankers, and pro-toff.

Nancy and Caroline have everything to gain from Charlotte avoiding the Hustings

In a recent blog on her website, Chuck Vere reflects on whether to take part in hustings in the run up to the general election. In a later post she says “You see, if I am not there Labour and them Greens will fight amongst themselves – such a bad thing?”

I imagine the hustings in Brighton Pavilion will be most fascinating, and I can see why Chuck is in two minds about attending. Following the example of Labour in 1996/97, the Tories in 2009/10 are saying as little as possible in order to avoid making mistakes.  But unlike Labour in ’97, the Tories cannot assume an uncomplicated procession into Downing Street.  Its candidates are going to have to fight house to house and street by street in constituencies like Brighton Pavilion.  Hustings will be an important part of that.  Hustings at The Calvary Church will be just one of many that will be arranged.

What Chuck Vere has to do, and what she will find very difficult given the poor organisation of the Tories across Brighton Pavilion, is to get to meet and convince ordinary residents – those who have not moved to Brighton from London in the last five years – that she isn’t just another Tory on the make.  She may be comfortable at the Withdene Sportsman and in the company of members of the local Conservative Association, but how will she get on in Crabtree Avenue, in The Dip, and in Stephens Road.  When will we see her on the Number 46 bus? The Conservative Association is not strong beyond the outlying wards.

Caroline Lucas has the a similar problem, getting across to residents beyond the Muesli Belt where the Greens are particularly strong.  Caroline has momentum but not a strong organisation across the constituency.  Nancy Platts, who is running the most energetic campaign and who is seen around all wards, and understands why the bells tolling this evening at St Peter’s Church is significant, is hampered by a local Party on its knees.

The outcome of a three-way split, in an election campaign being waged by three extraodinary women, may be decided by hustings.  On that basis I would be delighted if Chuck Vere failed to show as it would give the edge to Nancy and Caroline.  However, in the interests of democracy I hope she will be there.

Cameron Squirming on that 4 letter word – Eton

I have just sat through an excruitiating interview with David Cameron on the BBC Politics Show,  Where he looked most ill at ease was when Jon Soppel asked him why, on the Conservative Party website, did it mention the schools attended by all Shadow Cabinet members when they attended state schools, but when an individual had attended a private school, the school was not mentioned.

Cameron first did not answer the question, then he said he did not understand it. He finally said that the website would be fixed.  Throughout he said there was no secret as to where he was educated. But even then he did not mention the 4 letter word, E-T-O-N.  (I suspect that when ‘fixing’ the Tory website, the comprehensive schools attended by Hague, Fox, et al will be removed rather than Eton being added). 

Clearly the Tory’s polling must suggest that the party is seen as Tory toffs: Eton, Bullingham Club, double barreled names. Earlier in the week I posted how the Tories were advising their candidates to drop double barreled names.  So Brighton Kemptown candidate, Simon Radford-Kirby is no plain Simon Kirby, failed candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Digby Seaman-Scott, presented himself  as plain Digby Scott.

Brighton Pavilion candidate, Chuck Vere, responded by saying she is simple Charlotte Vere.  (I detect she does not appreciate being constantly referred to by this blog as ‘Chuck’ – I am just trying to help her and the Tories look ordinary, everyday folk). I can confirm that Chuck Vere is not the Vere-Seaman-Digby-Weale-Chirnside-Firth IV of the Royal London Borough of Uppity Class, referred to in an earlier post!  Nor did she go to Eton.  I am sure her impressive website will give a full biography in due course.

An awkward Charlotte Vere, an out-of-date Nancy Platts, and a potential Caroline Lucas/Alex Phillips substitution

A week is, as Harold Wilson said, a long time in politics. In the last week Charlotte Vere hit the ground running and her new website is, in my opinion, the most impressive of all three candidates in Brighton Pavilion. Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas underestimate her at their peril.  However, the website does have the feel of someone new to Brighton and Hove, with Chuck, as she likes to be known, posing awkwardly at various points around the constituency. 

Nancy Platts, as always, is active in and around the constituency, being the first rate candidate that she is.  However, her campaign is demonstrating the absence of an activist base that is the lot of Labour candidates up and down the constituency.  A leaflet was put out last week that is two months out of date.  In the leafet Nancy writes: “I thought I would take this early opportunity to let you know a few of the things that the Prime Minister said in his speech at the Labour Party Conference”.  Early opprtunity?  The speech was two months ago.  Nancy is being let down by her campaign team.  It Labour can’t arrange for a leaflet drop throughout the constituency in a timely fashion, Nancy’s campaign is doomed.  She deserves better.

Caroline Lucas has visited the constituency this week, speaking at a meeting at the University about threatened job cuts.  But she still still lacks a presence in the City.  Alex Phillips has a higher profile than Caroline, speaking well at a conference on issues impacting on older people where she was ‘representing’ Caroline.  The Greens need to make a decision – if they want to win Brighton Pavilion, their candidate has to be seen beyond the usual Green suspects and students.  Perhaps they are thinking of switching candidates at this late stage.  It would explain Alex Phillips’ higher than usual profile.

And the Lib Dems, following the resignation earlier this week of their candidate, Andrew Falconer, are to select his replacement from an all-woman shortlist.  In doing so, this hopeless Party is attempting to hitch its rusty shopping trolly onto the bandwagon that is the real campaign between Nancy, Caroline/Alex and Chuck.

There will be plenty of twists and turns before the Brighton Pavilion campaign is settled.

Lib Dems give up on Brighton Pavilion as candidate stands down

I am grateful to Green Ben Duncan for breaking the news that the Lib Dem candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Andrew Falconer, has quit the race to succeed David Lepper. The only thing that has surprised me about this move is that the Lib Dems had a candidate at all. 

I watch politics in Brighton and Hove quite closely but have to admit that I had no idea whatsoever that the Lib Dems had selected anyone.  In fact, only last week I searched the internet, including the Lib Dems Brighton and Hove site, to see who the candidate was, and even the website had not been told about Andrew Falconer’s selection.

The Lib Dems in Brighton and Hove are a joke, holding just 2 seats on the City Council.  What will they do now?  Hold a joke ‘open primary’ like the Tories? S lect a woman in order to elevate the camapign to a level playing field?   Select a charasmatic, public figure to represent them, someone like …?  Actually, apart from Uncle Vince Cable the Lib Dems don’t have anyone known outside their own front room.

I hope the Lib Dems won’t waste their time fielding a candidate, even a token paper candidate, in Brighton Pavilion. They should concentrate their efforts in constituencies such as Lewes where they have a sitting candidate in Stormin’ Norman Baker, and Eastbourne where they have the best chance of beating the Tory Nigel Waterson. The Lib Dems could encourage their supporters to vote Labour or Green in Brighton Pavilion and Labour and the Greens should reciprocate being encouraging their supporters to vote tactically for the Lib Dems in Lewes and Eastbourne.

Charlotte Vere defends Zac Goldsmith’s non dom status with grace and humour

I must admit that, even though she is a Tory, I am gaining some affection and admiration for Brighton Pavilion candidate, Charlotte Vere. In a post yesterday I was critical of David Cameron and the Tories (nothing unusual there – perhaps some would regard the post as a cheap shot!).  I laughed at the attempt by double barreled Tories for trying to appear more common.  (It is amazing how many claim to have been brought up in Council estates!  Clearly a breeding ground for double barreled Tories). 

But I also attacked mega-rich Zac Goldsmith for his non dom status.  To her credit, Chuck Vere posted a stout defence of non doms and her friend Zac Goldsmith in particular.  A brave move.  She also responds with grace and humour.  She has that in common with Nancy Platts.  I have no idea whether Caroline Lucas is blessed with similar grace and humour: she is yet to demean herself by responding to this blog!

But back to Chuck Vere. In case you don’t read comments left on this blog, here is what she posted:

“I was a Finance Director for a couple of years and so, as a bit of a nerd, I have a better than average understanding of tax. I even understand the non-dom system which has been in place for donkey’s years – and no, Labour didn’t get round to changing it and have left it too late now as they whimper away from power. The Conservative will change the non-dom system by requiring all non-doms to pay an annual fee of £25,000. Non-doms per se aren’t a bad thing – they are just people who consider themselves domiciled in another country. And that is a very difficult thing for even the tax man to define!

“However, non-doms contribute a huge amount to our economy, principally tax on their UK earnings, so whilst it may require further work, the system should be changed only with careful consideration. Back to Zac, someone I have campaigned with and someone who I consider a friend. I have never discussed his tax affairs with him, but judging from an email I got from him yesterday the truth of the matter is that he has not inherited capital, which is still tied up in trusts which were set up by his father. He does however have a, quite substantial, income from the capital on which he pays UK tax like we all do on our income. He also donates more money than you and I will see in a lifetime to charities and environmental causes.

“I am OK with these arrangements, many of which he can’t change anyway, and feel that morally he is on very solid ground. I am sorry to see this type of low grade campaigning against Zac from the Liberal Democrats. I believe they are probably getting very worried in Zac’s constituency of Richmond Park.

“Best wishes Baps, Charlotte Sarah Emily Vere (according to my passport – my parents were clearly influenced by the Brontes!) “