67 days to go, or is it 25? With tactical voting it will be Kemptown Labour, Pavilion Green and Hove …?

Conventional wisdom has it that Gordon Brown will go to the country on May 6th. But Labour friends have hinted that, given the narrowing of the polls (Sunday Times has it down to 2 points although that is probably a rogue poll), Brown might pop in to see the Queen tomorrow in order to have the election on March 25th!

David Cameron’s speech today amounted to little more than raising the bogey of “5 more years of Gordon Brown”, which might prove counter-productive given that Labour now leads the Tories on who people trust to care for the economy. George Osbourne just doesn’t instil confidence.

The “Vote for Change” slogan is rather empty.  Change to what?  Faced with  little of substance (other than not being Brown) when coming to cast their vote, electors will go with the devil it knows (that is other than Brighton Pavilion which increasingly looks like Caroline Lucas of the Greens).

The Greens organisation is really coming together, and the blitz of the constituency this week, well beyond the Muesli Belt, is demonstrating that the Greens, by concentrating on Brighton Pavilion, will almost certainly see the election of the first ever Green MP.

With the closing of the polls, and the concentration of the Greens on Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Kemptown will return Simon Burgess as a Labour MP if other non-Tory supporters vote tactically. As for Hove ….?  My heart goes with Celia Barlow.  What I would welcome is the Greens advocating tactical votes for Labour in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove.  Should they do that, then Labour supporters would be more inclined to vote tactically in Brighton Pavilion.  I just wish that Nancy Platts (I am a big fan) was the Labour candidate in Brighton Kemptown.  With her energy, integrity and enthusiasm, she would win comfortably.

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Are Mike Weatherley, Simon Kirby and Charlotte Vere receiving any of Ashcroft’s Billions?

The Tories have come to town and focus is on Brighton Pavilion, but it is the Brighton Kemptown and Hove & Portslade constituencies that should be attracting close scrutiny because of the funding they receive from ‘Tory HQ’.  Because behind Central Office funding lurks the shadow of Lord Ashcroft.

And the question is being asked: “Does the noble Lord pay income tax in the UK?” or does his heart, and tax status remain in Belize?

The Independent today alleges that huge sums of money are being channeled into key marginal seats that David Cameron needs to win to see him elected as Prime Minister.

The Brighton Kemptown majority is 1,853 while in Hove and Portslade it is just 448, and both are in the top 50 targets. Both have received ‘Ashcroft’ money – cash allocated by a Conservative committee chaired by the billionaire Ashcroft.

Simon Kirby (Brighton Kemptown) and Mike Weatherley (Hove &  Portslade) should do the decent thing and refuse this money if it is not clear (a) whether the cash originated from Ashcroft and (b) whether he is actually a UK tax payer.

It is not clear whether Charlotte Vere’s campaign is receiving similar funding. Perhaps she, together with Kirby and Weatherley, could put out a statement to help voters make their decision, not least because Ms Vere has been so outspoken about Caroline Lucas and her expenses.

Where have all the Green Bloggers gone?

The Brighton Politics Blogger is sad. Where on earth have Brighton’s Green bloggers gone?  Caroline Lucas has a lively website, but rarely blogs about Brighton.

Ben Duncan appears to have disappeared from the face of the earth, and his promised new site has not materialised. 

Bill Randall, one of the most interesting individuals I have met, rarely shares anything with us. In fact, since launching his blog last year, he has posted just 3 items.

Amy Kennedy, once a regular and much adored blogger, didn’t blog between 27th November and 10th February, and the again nothing. Come back, Amy, even if you blog just about baking!  Your Pam Ayres impressions are missed.

Being serious, though, there is a rumour doing the rounds that, apart from Jason Kitcat (a law unto himself), Green councillors and activists are being required to maintain radio (or is it wireless?) silence in the run-up to the general election.  Is that the case?  Silence will confirm this.

Why the Brighton Politics Blogger doesn’t give interviews

In recent weeks the Brighton Politics Blogger has been asked to give a number of interviews regarding the political situation in Brighton Pavilion. Two requests were for filmed interviews – the Guardian film and this weekend, and most recently by the rather lovely Danielle Glavin for the BBC Politics Show.

Unfortunately, BPB is very shy and retiring, lacking the confidence to speak my mind. How I wish it wasn’t so. I sit here day after day, alone, sad, unloved. Can anyone suggest how I might overcome this terrible affliction. Is it time for me to come out …?

What do I really think of Nancy Platt’s defence of Labour’s record?

My dig at New Labour for its legacy in increasing the number of  lap dancing clubs, reduction in public toilets, libraries and, of course, post offices, has provoked a spirited response from the rather wonderful Nancy Platts who left a comment under that post providing a fuller picture of Labour’s record.  Do I agree with Nancy.  Of course I do and I feel that I was rather unfair in my characterisation of Labour’s record.  So, to rebalance the debate, I am repeating Nancy’s comment in full:

“I think I ought to balance BPB’s post with some of Labour’s achievements. What about over 3,000 Sure Start children’s centres and the fact we’re on target to deliver one in every community by 2010? Free childcare, the rise in child benefit, extended maternity leave, paternity leave, flexible working, emergency time off for carers. What about the million pensioners lifted out of poverty, Winter Fuel Payments, free bus travel, free TV licenses, free eye tests for older people?

“What about 149 new hospitals, £96bn investment in NHS, over 80,000 more nurses, 38,000 more doctors, 4,500 more dentists (and remember all the dental schools the Tories closed?), shorter waits for treatment, GPs open longer hours, walk-in healthcare centres, free prescriptions for cancer patients, our cancer pledge to see a specialist within a week of diagnosis, free health checks for everyone in England aged 40-74.

“What about the fact education spending has doubled since 1997, 36,000 more teachers, 172,000 classroom assistants, better exam results, more young people going to university than ever before, the job, apprenticeship or training guarantee so young people aren’t left on the dole as they were in the recession under the Tories?  What about crime dropping by a third thanks to over 16,000 more police, neighbourhood policing and our Community Support Officers?

“What about over £20bn investment in rail, the Crossrail project, high speed rail – more passengers are using our trains than at any other time since the Second World War – over a billion last year. 

“I think it is right to challenge and ask for more, to campaign for a fairer and more equal society but ask yourself this – would all this have happened under the Tories?  It’s a Labour MP that will campaign for more and a Labour government that will deliver more.”

Well said Nancy. Your response characterises your many strengths, not least your passion!  Of course none of the above would have been achieved under a Tory government.  An ideal result in the general election would be a small Labour majority that would force the Executive to listen to its back benchers. 

One of the areas that Nancy did not defend Labour’s record during the financial crisis which was, largely excellent.  The voters will weigh this up and when compared to the excitable youth that is George Osborne, they will realise that the economy is safer in Labour’s hands.

Who would be the best MP in Brighton Pavilion? Nancy, Caroline or Charlotte. Too close to call.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon debating with a friend the question as who would make the best Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion. The outcome of the election in this constituency is far from certain, and any one of Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas or Charlotte Vere could still make it to Westminster.

When it came to the best constituency MP, we agreed that Nancy had the edge over her two opponents. Like David Lepper, she has a strong base within the community, has made a personal commitment to Brighton and Hove, and would thrive in her role within the constituency.

Charlotte might find the parochialism of Brighton and Hove a bit suffocating, and she would be torn between her life in Brighton and that in London. During the campaign she has shown energy and enthusiasm, but sustaining that for the next 15 to 20 years is perhaps too great an expectation.

Caroline would be least likely to put in the hours necessary to be a worthy successor to David Lepper. As Leader of the Green Party, national campaigning and media commitments would inevitably detract from the role locally. This has been the weakness of her campaign to date.

However, when it comes to being a Westminster MP, Caroline has the experience, ability and stature to make far and away the greatest impact of the three. As she is likely be the only Green MP, she would have the platform that would allow her to demonstrate the abundant talent she has. She would be a breath of fresh air in the Commons. Charlotte Vere would be more at home at Westminster than Nancy, which places her second.

Nancy would be the best constituency MP, Caroline the best Westminster MP. Charlotte is, perhaps, the best all-rounder!

The Legacy of New Labour, great if you are into lap dancing and gambling; shame about the post office

Latest government figures show how Britain has evolved under new Labour. Since 1997 the number of lap dancing clubs has increased by 1,150%, betting shops by 39%, and casinos up 27%.

On the other hand public libraries have reduced by 6%, police stations by 8%, schools are down 10%, swimming pools 21%, and public toilets down 23%.

And then there are post offices, down from 19,000 in 1997 to 11,500 today, a drop of 39%. This is the legacy of new Labour. Not a lot more needs to be said.