Voters will not forgive Labour if the Greens come second to the Tories in Brighton Pavilion

I was sorry to see a letter from Labour’s Nancy Platts where she asks the question “Greens to come third again?”.  Of course Labour will point to their result in the last general election, and that the seat has been held by Labour since 1997.  But Labour is on dangerous ground when it points to the discredited opinion poll in the Argus saying that “the Greens (are) firmly in third place”.

There is enough evidence that the Greens are performing very well in Brighton Pavilion, certainly not “firmly in third place”.  To date Nancy has fought a clean campaign, focusing on her considerable strengths and the record of the Labour Government.  She has demonstrated her independence by distancing herself from Iraq and so on. It is unfortunate for her that she has come up against Caroline Lucas in an election where Labour is struggling and where there is the appetite for the Greens.

But voters will not forgive Labour if the Greens come second to the Tories in Brighton Pavilion.  The long term damage to Labour would be enormous and may well see Labour destroyed in Brighton Pavilion, a position from which they would struggle to recover.

The risk is the same for the Greens.  If Caroline Lucas fails ends up third with Charlotte Vere being elected, then the Greens prospects for a Westminster seat will be ended for a generation and the voters will probably take revenge in next year’s Council elections. 

The risk is greatest for Labour, and I would urge Nancy Platts not to repeat the assertion that the Greens are “firmly in third place”.  It may be that in the short term and in Brighton, Labour sees a Green victory in Brighton Pavilion as a bigger threat to its prospects than a Tory win.  To conclude that would be a profound misjudgement if it hopes to win back traditional Labour supporters like me.

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20 Responses

  1. Labour is fighting to win Brighton Pavilion. It would be dishonest to do anything else.

  2. I went along to the debate this evening at the Pavilion for the Brighton Pavilion candidates, organised by the Independent. And very interesting it was. Charlotte Vere does not appear to me of the calibre to be an MP: by and large, she had poor command of material and, bogglingly, managed to alienate a teenager who put forward a neat point about the voting age, for in reply Charlotte Vere even, er, veered off into the subject of teenage pregnancies, which has nothing to do with a sharp-minded teenager’s interest in politics. Talk about Mrs Vere digging herself a deeper hole.
    Meanwhile, as many people remarked, Nancy Platts yet again did not take part in these hustings debates although the fellow from the Independent said that she had been asked several times to come along.

    The overwhelming show of hands by the audience at the end was that it would be a hung Parliament.

    Ad man Trevor Beattie, who sat on the panel because there was no Nancy Platts, did remark, almost in passing, that Labour could spring a surprise later in the national campaign. That is, that the Tories had spent the Ashcroft money too soon nationally. And that approach is where Nick Boles went wrong in Hove last time.

    Amazing that the Tories chose Charlotte Vere instead of the fellow who stood against Alex Phillips in Goldsmid last year.

    Two weeks to go, albeit with the grey zone of the postal votes going in. Will the undecideds keep hold of the form and instead hand it in at a polling station?

  3. I agree with your argument. If the Greens do lose here to the Tories their future in UK politics will be very bleak indeed.

    Whatever the outcome, I’m certain that a fighting, campaigning Labour Party will continue to be a permanent fixture of the political scene in Brighton Pavilion. It would be a mighty shame to lose such a genuine, considerate and articulate candidate that I believe we have in Nancy Platts, however.

  4. True enough, it would be a huge setback, but we’re not contemplating defeat.

    We’re doing everything we can to beat the Tories and we need to be clear that Charlotte is our opponent, not Nancy.

    Nancy was a respectable choice of candidate and I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her; for example I wouldn’t be surprised if she is elected to Brighton & Hove council next year.

    I also agree with BPB that she could easily have won had she been standing in Kemptown.

    • Very interesting Indie debate at Brighton Pavilion last night. Caroline Lucas was excellent,Charlotte Vere game but kept putting her foot in it. But where was Nancy Platts?

      • Nancy was meeting voters on the doorstep last night. Met loads of people in their own comfort zone rather than trying to drag people along to set piece debates. Much better for local democracy imo.

        Encouraging non voters to vote and undecideds to vote Labour. Finding people who want to talk about what they care about not want others who happen to ask questions care about.

        That said she is doing a hustings today! Then straight onto the doorstep.

  5. While I agree that the doorstep is crucial, a debate is a chance to see how a candidate might fare on the, ah, green seats of the Commons.

    It is not a “set piece” but meeting questions head on.

    I spoke with Trevor Beattie afterwards and asked if he agreed that such meetings reverberate. And he said that they did. They are attended by people who talk a lot, to put it crudely. This tallies with something I learnt from Jane Jacobs’s great book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It partly describes her campaign to save Washington Square from a road. If certain people in a conurbation are talking, word spreads. Hove Library is not perhaps Washington Square, but the campaign to save it was, in effect, helped by the great Jane Jacobs.

    Whether the Jubilee Library has a copy of Washington Square readily available is of couse another subject…

    • That’s good to know Robert. There was a rumour going round, not only in Green circles,that Nancy is avoiding hustings.Sorry to hear that you feel that hustings audiences are ‘dragged there’. I went of my own choice and it was a chance to see some PPC’s I’m unlikely to meet on my own doorstep ,even though I live in Brighton Pavilion.

  6. For most, but not all, Labour supporters the prospect of a Green MP is better than that of a Tory one, so I’m sure that some will consider voting Green if they feel that Labour, and not the Greens are ‘firmly in third place. However, although this is only based on walking round the streets, and talking to people, I don’t sense any real enthusiasm for the Greens – even though they clearly have a very capable candidate, who will be frankly wasted in Westminster. I detect far less posters in windows than was the case last time, and some people I expected to vote Green are staying with Labour. Of course this is not a scientific approach – just a hunch.

    The other question for me at the moment is what are the Green Party telling their supporters to do in Kemptown and Hove. They clearly run the risk of letting the Tories in in both seats – and a clear committment from them to support Labour in those seats may yield a positive response from Labour supporters in Pavilion. They same arguments as they use in Pavilion have to be applied to Hove and Kemptown – so will they come out and say ‘vote Labour’ in those seats.

    Interestingly, a Green canvasser I was speaking to this week told me he would be voting Labour, as he lives in Hove. So maybe the question should be – ‘will the voters forgive the Green Party if the Tories win in Hove and Kemptown?

    • Hi – please can we put some Brighton-based Sense into this interesting discussion?

      Every political party has a democratic right to campaign hard and fight this election with their colours, putting their arguments, views and platform to voters.

      As a Green supporter, I wouldn’t expect Labour candidates to stand down for Greens in Brighton Pavilion or us to stand down for them in Kemptown or Hove unless there were some very firm and proven agreements on both sides across a whole range of policies – and both parties had the backing of their rank and file.

      And let’s face it, that’s very unlikely…

      We have to face the fact that we disagree on a whole lot of things.

      So we should stand and campaign for what we believe to best for people, whether that’s in Brighton Kemptown, Pavilion and Hove.

      The real problem is the out-going Labour Government’s refusal to reform the UK’s divisive and unrepresentative electoral system, despite their promises to reform it when they came to power.

      If Blair and Brown had delivered what they said they would do in ‘97 and delivered a proportional representational system where every person’s vote counts then we wouldn’t have these scraps …and worse.

      Doesn’t bode very well for democratic UK politics.

      Quite worrying, in fact.

      • Both candidates have similar politics I think, in a national sense. It’s more just that one of them would count towards stopping a Tory govt, and one wouldn’t.

        First prize for most ironic username btw.

  7. If Nancy agrees with Caroline on a lot, that’s nice.

    But if Nancy does, then she’s out of step with the mainstream of her party and the Government.

    Caroline, by contrast, speaks as leader and in harmony with her party’s platform.

    There’s no getting away from the fact that a Labour vote – even here for Nancy – is a vote for Trident, tuition fees, privatising the NHS, foreign wars and banker bail outs.

    Exactly why a Green MP would be a more powerful beacon for progressive politics – rather than just another backbench Labour MP who would be whipped into line.

    • The Labour Party is a broad church. Rather unlike certain minor parties, Labour politicians are not required to sing from the same hymn sheet.

      I am confident that Nancy Platts – a first time candidate and our only local candidate – would vote against all those unpopular developments. Except I am sure she would agree that recapitalising the banks was essential in order to protect millions of British people’s savings.

      You seem to neglect the fact that Caroline is also accountable to her party. She is not an independent voice. As a party leader her main loyalty is to her party. Therefore, I believe Nancy Platts has more freedom to represent the actual interests of Brighton Pavilion constituents.

      • Why do some Labour supporters often start hinting at insults towards other parties, when their logic is questioned?

        Anyone who’s met Caroline would know she’s not beholden to anyone but her beliefs and policy positions – look at her MEP voting record.

        The reality in the present day Parliamentary Labour Party is very different, with frequent three line whips and expulsions or unhappy resignations if you don’t toe the line e.g. Clare Short.

        All Labour MPs are whipped, unlike elected Greens eg Green MEPs, Scottish Green Parliamentarians, GLA members, councillors – who constitutionally remain free to vote as they wish and are not whipped.

        While Nancy as an MP might make one or two high profile rebellious stands – just as former Labour MP David Lepper did in opposing the Iraq war, I’ll wager she’ll fall into line on most controversial issues – just like David did – (in his case Tuition fees, Foundation Trust hospitals, ID Cards etc).

        Caroline in contrast would have far more freedom to promote a radical agenda in good conscience, with the backing of her party, and for an economic agenda that would avoid the financial regulatory mistakes of recent years.

  8. Wait a mo Alexander Craven, you’re saying that Nancy Platts, as a first time candidate, would rebel against what, in a best case scenario, would be a razor thin Labour administration?

    *Despite* the pressure of the Whips?
    *Despite* the crucialness of each vote?
    *Despite* the dependency first time MPs have on the power and structure of their party and the threat of being replaced with another candidate come the next election?

  9. The election of one Green Party MP to parliament will not create a seismic change in British politics. That’s just a basic fact. To put things into perspective: one Green MP would be about as useful as one RESPECT MP and far less effective than 60 Liberal MPs.

    As Caroline is a party leader, I do not think it is unreasonable to say that she would have to balance the party interest against the interests of her constituents. Nancy is not a party leader – she has one agenda and that is to solely represent her constituents. If that’s an insult to Greens then I think a change of username is in order, Brighton Sense.

    I think there is a strong misconception about the power of the whips. Most of it overstated by the Morning Tsar. I can point to about 50-60 MPs on either side who consistently rebel against the party line. To suggest that Nancy Platts would be incapable of rebuffing the whips is (I won’t say insulting) quite mistaken. She is a woman of enormous integrity and vision, who has already identified support within her own ranks.

    Only a Labour MP can keep a Tory government out.

  10. Alex,

    If Nancy has support in her own ranks then why the hell did Compass snub her and give a platform to Caroline Lucas at Labour’s Autumn conference in Brighton last year?

    Why snub your own local candidate for an opposition candidate? Clearly Caroline has many admirers within Labour ranks, particularly in the left-leaning Compass group.

    • Compass is a think-tank, Luke. It is risible to suggest that a think-tank has more influence over government and within political parties than an elected MP.

      Please try harder.

      • Compass has a number of MPs who are considered influential within Labour ranks.

        If Nancy can’t find favour in a group like Compass, then she may struggle to have any influence in Parliament at all.

  11. When people of the left start arguing about who invited who to whatever meeting or that and what that means… I remember why the right has dominated the olitics of the past 170 years

    Splitter!

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