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.

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.

The Tories are losing the election and the plot; Labour could yet win the election!

With the publication of every opinion poll, the chances of a Conservative victory in May become more remote.  Tonight’s ICM poll for the Guardian puts the Tories on 37% (down 3%), Labour on 30% (up 1%) and the Lib Dems on 20% (down 1%).

It appears that any immediate harm caused by Bullygate has been off-set by the Piers Morgan effect. And there is a sense that people are feeling that the alleged bully is, in fact, the bullied.

It now looks that we are heading for a hung parliament.  That’s not great for the economy, but better than having Chancellor George Osborne.

What is most fascinating about this poll are the underlying trends. The Tories have also lost ground on key policy issues, not least the economy, and also appear to be losing their campaign against Labour’s so-called death tax. Labour leads the Tories by eight points as the party with the best policy on care for the elderly.

The negative campaigning of the Tories is proving to be counter-productive. 

The possibility of Labour win in May should not be ruled out. It was always likely that, when faced with entrusting Cameron and Osborne with their financial future and that of the country, the voters would lose confidence, prefering to go with Brown and Darling.  Cameron and Osborne look lightweight by comparison.  They really don’t have it.

74 days to go: Will the campaign in Brighton Pavilion be overshadowed by the Ludicrous Left in Brighton Kemptown?

There are just 74 days to do, and the campaign in Brighton Pavilion remains as close as ever, with ‘undecided’ voters probably holding the key.  This is good news for the Conservative, Charlotte Vere, who can reasonably expect the majority of votes from those who claim to be undecided.  Whether or not they will bridge the gap between her and the Green’s Caroline Lucas, is another matter. 

Yesterday’s poll in the Argus, while giving a boost to Labour’s Nancy Platts, is generally regarded as misleading.  What won’t change is Nancy’s single-minded determination to fight for every last vote until the polls close on 6 May.  The Andrew Rawnsley ‘expose’ today will not, ultimately, hurt Gordon Brown.  Those who were not intending to vote Labour will have a further ‘justifification’ for not doing so.  Already there is evidence that people are beginning to see the alleged ‘bully’ as the one being bullied.  Attacks on Brown have been overdone and will prove counter-productive.

Ultimately, when faced with the coise between David Cameron and Gordon Brown, people will remember that (in spite of earlier dithering) Brown was the one who was decisive when it really mattered – that weekend when it looked as though the banks would crash.  All we get from George Osborne is the ludicrous proposal to sell cheap shares in the nationalised banks!

But the ‘big’ story of the week – not GB’s Piers Morgan show, not ‘Rawnsleyrot’, not Labour’s substitute for its spring conference – is the launch of  the mighty TUSC , the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which is standing in Brighton Kemptown at the General Election.  Its candidate will be Dave Hill, former Labour Councillor and parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion so long ago that even I can’t remember when!  Dave is an energetic and passionate candidate, but his impact, and that of the Ludicrous Left, is likely to be nil.

Nancy Platts is still fighting in Brighton Pavilion, but the new poll giving her a 10% lead is misleading

There is some confusion about a poll commissioned by the Brighton Argus that suggests Labour is 14% ahead of the Greens and 10% ahead of the Conservatives.  This contrasts with a poll published in December that put the Greens well ahead of the Conservices with Labour further behind.  19% say they are yet to make up their mind, enough to swing the election to any of the three candidates.

This poll will no doubt give the Labour candidate, Nancy Platts, a huge boost.  She has another reason to be optimistic – the strong performance of Labour in recent weeks.  Today’s speech by Gordon Brown was powerful and convincing, and comes a few days after his performance on the Piers Morgan programme which I understand (although didn’t see it myself) was compelling viewing and showed the real GB in a very favourable light.

The Green candidate, Caroline Lucas will, no doubt, dismiss the poll, and with some justification.  The question asked “Which party would you vote for if there was a general election tomorrow” disadvantages the minor parties.  In reponding to such a question, those who are yet to understand the particular situation in Brighton Pavilion as a three way marginal, will consider just the three main parties.  As election day approaches, and as the viability of the Green campaign is better established, voting Green will become a greater reality.

Charlotte Vere, the Conservative candidate, will probably ignore the poll.  Opinion polls always underestimate the strength of the Conservatives.  There is still an embarassment factor amongst former Labour voters who might be considering a Tory vote.  She will no doubt continue to do what she excels at, being a one woman tornado in Brighton Pavilion, and she will receive a boost next weekend with the Conservative Spring Conference coming to town.

It is the view of this blog that the earlier poll is more dependable.  Caroline Lucas maintains momentum and, with a better showing from her supporters and local Green councillors, she should still poll well.  However, don’t underestimate Nancy Platts.  She has a strong local presence and is engaging.  Mycomments made previously that she is the right candidate, wrong party may yet prove to be wrong, as Labour and Gordon Brown strengthen their poll rating.  Faced with a stark choice between David Cameron and Gordon Brown, the voters may yet throw a lifeline to Nancy Platts.