Boycot Israel over international piracy and ongoing crimes in Gaza

When Somali pirates attack ships in international waters, the Royal Navy is dispatched and the BBC rightfully condemns such piracy.

But when a peace convoy setting sale from Turkey is attacked in international waters, no though is given to sending the Royal Navy to protect fellow NATO ships, and the BBC repeatedly shows the ‘justification’ put out by the pirates.

The Israeli government says its soldiers were attacked by those on the ships.  In international law, when a ship is attacked in international waters by pirates, deadly force may be used.  No such force was used by those in the flotilla.

I am tired of listening to the lies and justification of the Israeli state, and the pitiful reaction of both the UK and US governments.

It is time for a full scale boycot of Israeli products.

David Laws shown up by the decency of Rachel Gould and Clarissa Bergonzi of Brighton

There is an excellent letter regarding David Laws in today’s Guardian from two Brighton residents, Rachel Gould and Clarissa Bergonzi. It reflects a difference in standards between two decent ordinary young women and the arrogance of Laws:

“We feel we must write in protest at the confusion of David Laws’s expense claims from the taxpayer with his sexuality.  We are a lesbian couple, each with a birth child, living together as a family.  When the Civil Partnership Act came in in December 2005, we informed  the tax credit  office, although this left us in quit straightened financial circumstances, with an adolescent and a young baby.  The reason we did this was because we wanted to remain within the law.  We also welcomed the acknowledgment of our family.”

“Others may suggest that David Laws’s decision not to be open about his sexuality is pathetic in the 21st century and does not bode ell for this government’s approach to minority groups.  About this we would not comment.  However, all David Laws needed to do was not claim £40,000 of public money.  If this were benefit fraud, he would be looking at a prison sentence. It is not of his sexuality that David Laws should be ashamed”.

I wonder if Rachel and Clarissa may also disagree with David Laws on cuts to essential services that we are likely to see over the coming months and years.  David Laws, after his short period in government, should also be ashamed of what he has put in train.

What is the point of the Lib Dems?

So David Laws has gone – the shortest Cabinet career in living memory.  Lib Dem supporters are lamenting his passing and paying some rather ludicrous tributes to him.  The most ludicrous of all was that of Lord Paddy Ashdown who described him as “Mr Integrity”. 

Mr Laws took an “holier than though” stance during the height of the expenses scandal, only to be brought low himself because of his claims. And now he tries to say it was about protecting his anonymity.  Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, writing in today’s Observer, said that this isn’t about homophobia, more “second home-ophobia”.  He goes on “…. Laws moment in the spotlight wasn’t because of a welcome difference from other MPs, but  because of a tragic similarity”.

The problem with the Lib Dems is that they have often taken a ‘plague on both your houses’ approach, not least by Nick Clegg during the Leaders’ Debate.  But the Lib Dems under Clegg have moved rightward, and the natural coming together with the Conservatives was made all the more possible by the Lib Tories like Clegg and Laws.  Laws is a natural Tory but is said not to have joined them because of his disgust over Section 28.

It now begs the question, what is the point of the Lib Dems.  They have become little more than the recipients of Tory votes with a conscience.  But even that is lost because of the likes of Laws whose appointment gave comfort to more hard-line Tories who had a distaste for the Lib Dems.

This blog called for tactical voting in the general election, to keep the Tories out.  How wrong I was.  I had always thought I would vote Lib Dem in Lewes and Eastbourne had I lived there.  No longer.  Norman Baker and Stephen Lloyd have forfeited the right to anti-Tory votes.  My advice in the future will be to rather vote for a real Tory than one cloaked in false conscience.

The Lib Dems split the anti-Tory vote in Brighton Kemptown and Hove, allowing the Tories to win.  The sad and ineffective bunch of Lib Dem councillors in Hove (if two can be called a bunch) should just join the Tories.  Their supporters should join the party that most represents their views, Labour or the Greens.  There is no point in voting Lib Dem.  There’s no point in the Lib Dems existing.

Con Dem Nation will see the Lib Dems wiped out in Brighton and Hove

I have been cut off in Outer Patagonia for the last 12 days.  No news, no internet, nothing.  On the way back someone told me this ludicrous joke that Nick Clegg had done a deal with Cameron to creat a Con Dem Nation, that Uncle Vince Cable was in government proposing the sale of 49% of the Royal Mail, that Norman Baker had gon into government with the Tories, and that David Miliband was standing for the leadership of the Labour Party!

Actually, I hve found the last 12 days quite depressing.  But there is one silver lining on the cloud, and I have recognised a terrible mistake I made in the run up to the election.  It all has to do with the Lib Dems. 

This blog advocated tactical voting to kep the Tories out.  In Eastbourne and Lewes I said that a Lib Dem vote was important to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street.  I was wrong.

Next election my advice to voters in Eastbourne and Lewes will be ‘Vote Tory’. I would rather have the real thing than a poor yellow imitation that lends repectability to the Tories.

Clegg is the most rightwing Lib Dem leader in several gereations, cut from the same cloth as Cameron.  It is no surprise that they make such good bed fellows.  But Norman Baker, how could you ….. ?

As for the silver lining, the Lib Dems will see their support from left of centre voters collapse.  In Brighton and Hove this is good news for the Greens who can now be even more optimistic about picking up two seats from the Lib Dems in Brunswick next May.

Join the Adam Boulton Protection Society as Alistair Campbell, the brute, upsets the Fragrant Boulton.

Did you see the exchange this afternoon on Sky News between the fragrant Adam Boulton and the Devil himself, Alistair Campbell?  Campbell was at his evil worst today, appearing on every news channel, speaking sense, being moderate, and being proportionate.  Outrageous.  And then he goes and upsets the lovely and vulnerable Adam Boulton.  The poor Diddims. Poor Adam, what has he done wrong in the last six months, ridiculing Gordon Brown, showing bias in favour of the Tories, doing his master’s (Murdoch) bidding, being partisan (and completely out of his depth) in the second Leaders’ Debate.

What with calls for the the sacking of Kay Burley, and now Boulton losing it completely, we are in danger of losing two of the Nation’s Sweethearts.   What wailing and gnashing of teeth there must be in the Sky Bunker tonight.  Can Sky News ever again be regarded as an objective news channel.  Why not rename it Fox News?

If you haven’t seen the exchange, it is worth watching it in full.  And Jeremy Thompson didn’t cover himself in glory, either: “You are being provocative, Alistair”.  As if ….!

Labour more guilty than the Greens of misleading the voters of Brighton Pavilion

A feature of the campaign in Brighton Pavilion were the claims and counter claims by the Greens and Labour Party in their election material regarding whether a vote for the other would let the Tories in.  This ‘debate’ has continued since Friday morning.  For example, on this blog, Dr Faust has commented that “the Green argument – that Labour couldn’t beat the Tory – was bollocks as well, and I am certain that more people believed them than Labour. Why should only Labour and not the Greens lose credibility from using the same argument?”.

So I thought I would check out who has said what about the prospects of the other party and what we can conclude about their claims.  Any emphasis is by me.

As far back as the summer of 2009, in ‘the brighton paper’ put out on behalf of Nancy Platts, Labour said “Voting Green will mean a Tory MP for Brighton”.  Wrong.  In a later edition of ‘the brighton paper’ distributed during the campaign, Labour claimed that “a vote for the Greens or the Lib Dems here risks a Conservative government nationally”.  Had Labour won Brighton Pavilion, it would not have changed a thing nationally.  So wrong again.  In a leaflet distributed in the last week or so, in the context of previous results in Brighton Pavilion, Labour asserted that “Only Labour can stop the Conservatives”. Wrong again.  In a letter dated May 2010, Nancy writes “A Green vote will mean the Conservatives slip through the middle”. Wrong x 4.  In another direct mailing to voters, Nancy asks “Greens to come third again?”.  On this occasion she leaves it as a question.  That is acceptable but on page 2 of the letter, as a post script, she states, “A Green or LibDem vote risks letting the Conservatives in through the back door”.  This is still just on the right side, presenting it as a possibility rather than saying that it would.  In an eve of poll card, Labour  says “A vote for any Party will let the Conservatives in”. This is a fifth example of Labour misleading voters.

So how do the Greens compare? In the spring edition of ‘GreenLeaf’ the interpretation of the 2009 European elections “suggests the likelihood of a Green win in Brighton Pavilion”. In a leaflet during the campaign,  the Greens state that the “LibDems cannot win her” – correct – and that the ICM poll “showed Greens ahead, with Labour & LibDems trailing the Tories”. Again correct since they did not claim that Labour would come third.  In an eve of poll leaflet, the Greens claimed that “a vote for the Green Party really could lead to the first Green MP in Westminster”. Again, correct (even had the Greens just lost).  In another leaflet claimed that “the Green Party are favourites to win in Brighton Pavilion constituency”. Apart from poor grammar (Caroline, you should know it should have been “The Green Party is favourite to win …”), this was accurate since the bookies had the Greens as evens favourite to win.  Finally, in a further leaflet the Greens warn of Labour scare-mongering, but do state “Only a Green vote can keep the Tories out of Brighton Pavilion”.  Wrong.  This is the only example I have been able to find of a misleading statement from the Greens.

On balance, the Labour Party’s credibility will be damaged because of publishing consistently misleading and incorrect statements.  The Greens should not have made their categorical statement, but the Greens did keep the issue open. To answer Dr Faust’s question about Labour and the Greens losing credibility, Labour repeatedly misled the electorate, the Greens did so just once.  The Greens were more open in their statements, and the Greens ultimately …. won.

Having said that, it was generally a clean campaign, and both Caroline Lucas and Nancy Platts emerge with their reputations and integrity firmly intact.

Labour supporters would be well advised to follow the mature and measured leadership of Dan Wilson who has commented:  “No bitterness here. The Green campaign was well won and I offer my sincere congratulations to Caroline and the Green team. I think it’s also worth noting too that no bitterness is coming out of Nancy’s core campaign team or from Nancy herself. I strongly disassociate myself from any comments that don’t show grace in defeat. But yes, Labour in Brighton Pavilion has lots of reflection to do and plenty of decisions to make. Best done quietly, and in private, over the next few weeks and months, I think. Looking ahead to next May, we must crystallise our vision for Brighton, run bravura, positive campaigns and make sure we’re rooted firmly in our communities. Negative comments laced with bitterness don’t help us much. I’d say we’re down but not out. Not yet. And again, best wishes to Brighton’s new Green MP, Caroline Lucas”.

Next year in the local elections I hope we can avoid the ‘numbers game’.  The Green Party is in the ascendency, Labour has its work cut out to recover,  I hope both parties will put forward positive visions for Brighton and Hove and let the voters decide which vision they want.

Where now for Labour in Brighton and Hove? First it must get over its bitterness

Thursday’s election saw the Labour Party lose all three parliamentary seats in Brighton and Hove, seats they won in 1997 and held in the subsequent two elections.

The results were close, but not close enough.  These defeats come on the back of devastating local elections in 1998.  The Party now faces further humiliation next May when all seats on the City Council are up for election.

So where now for Labour? The three candidates, the impressive Nancy Platts, the demoralised Simon Burgess, and the determined Celia Barlow, will no doubt be extremely disappointed.  All three have worked hard, and when selected would have had reasonable expectations of winning.  Nancy was unfortunate to be up against Caroline Lucas in an historic election and breakthrough for the Green Party.  Simon lacks the killer instinct to win, and (unlike Nancy) was unable to inspire enthusiasm amongst his supporters.  Celia’s fighting instinct came through to limit the Tory majority to just 1,868.

In Brighton Pavilion, Labour risked its reputation and credibility going all out in saying that th Greens could not win.  They were wrong and those who remained with Labour because of this tactic will be unlikely to stay with Labour when they really wanted to vote Green.

The reaction of local Labour leaders shows the Party in a poor light, and is unlikely to win it friends amongst those Labour and Green voters whose loyalty Labour needs to retain.  Leader of the Labour Group on the City Council, Gill Mitchell, is quoted as this being “get real time” for the Greens.  She claims that Labour will be building on the electoral base and that Labour has “strong local representatives who will get things done in the council”.

Who does she think will be believing her dillusional thinking at this time?  The Greens have so much momentum going forward, and the Green councillors (of whom I have been quite critical) are, member for member, far more impressive than their Labour opposite numbers.  If Labour want to make a positive impression locally, they need to have leadership that can inspire, rather than this tepid lot who are yet to recover from 2008 rout.

Labour are in danger of coming across as poor losers.  Former Brighton Pavilion MP, David Lepper, could not have been less magnanimous in the face of his Party’s defeat.  He said: “I believe it is a good move for the career of Caroline Lucas but bad for the party across the city.  I think they expected to win by more votes and citywide they came fourth.  With a hung parliament, a new election could be only six months away and Caroline will have to defend a very small majority of 1,200”.

I disagree with his bitter analysis.  Regardless of the majority, the Greens won and he should have acknowledged the Green’s historic breakthrough.  Should there be a second election later this year, I would predict a majority of 5,000 plus as scores of Labour voters vote for the policies they support – those of the Greens. 

I was most disappointed at Mr. Lepper’s snide comments regarding Ms Lucas’ personal abilities: “I also think she will find the transition from MEP difficult and has to from the politics of grand gestures to the politics of everyday problems”.

Such bitterness is hardly going to inspire traditional Labour supports (like me) to return to Labour.  Faced with a choice of a party full of sour  recrimination, or a party which is full of confidence (and which is opposed to Trident), the choice is not that difficult.

Labour needs to get its act together.  At the next election, I want to see a Labour victory, and from Brighton and Hove I want to see two Labour and one Green MP’s returned.  To my Labour friends I would say, have a moment to mourn your defeats, but then come out fighting.  The opposition for many of us is the Tories.  You seem to think it is the Greens.  Continue like that  Labour will be all but wiped out in Brighton and Hove next May.

Can the Green Party follow where Caroline Lucas is leading? I have my doubts.

What next for the Green Party? Having made its historic breakthrough by electing Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion as its first Westminster MP, it needs to decide where it is now heading.

In Caroline Lucas the Greens have a photogenic, telegenic superstar, highly, highly competent with a single-minded determination to succeed. She has taken the first steps to make her party electable.  Gone are their Principle Speakers, in is a single Leader (her). Environmental issues are treated as equally important and intrinsically linked with the economy and social justice.

But is the Green Party a one woman show?  At the moment, yes, and Caroline and her immediate team must enjoy every moment of this amazing victory.  But the Green Party needs to ensure that it has more, many more, equally impressive individuals. Sadly, some of the Green candidates left a bit to be desired, and the Party did not make the hoped for breakthrough in Lewisham or Norwich.  And there are some policies that some activists hold on to as if they were in possession of the Holy Grail.  For example, the issue of drugs, and decriminalisation in particular,  threatened to upset Caroline’s campaign over the last weekend.  The Greens great strength, of not whipping its councillors, could prove to be its undoing.

Locally, the Greens have an immediate opportunity to build on this success.  Just as the election of Alex Phillips last year provided momentum for the campaign in Brighton Pavilion, so too could Caroline’s election be the springboard for the Greens targeting Brighton and Hove City Council in next year’s elections.

What do they have to do? Recruit, recruit, recruit.  Do so on the back of Caroline’s election. Don’t be passive, get out there.  Get 200 activists out in each of the next four weeks.  Visit every home in Brighton Pavilion and in target wards in Brighton Kemptown and Hove.  I would expect a ‘thank you’ leaflet or letter from Caroline through my door within the week.  Get a street contact in every street in each target ward.  Make sure that the Party’s 13 councillors are seen from now until May 5th 2011 out and about.  Some are incredibly hard working, but some don’t inspire too much confidence.  The campaign for the City Council starts now.

With Caroline Lucas in Parliament, and a Green-controlled Brighton and Hove City Council, that would make very interesting politics.

I write this as a non-Green Party member, historically a Labour supporter, but one who didn’t like New Labour, mistrusts Mandelson, opposes Trident, wishes to see an alternative to cuts, cuts, cuts.  I am someone who is looking to be inspired.  Caroline Lucas did it.  But can her party follow where she has led?

It was the Politics Blogger wot won it for Caroline!

Congratulations to Caroline Lucas and the Green Party for an historic victory in Brighton Pavilion. It was one of the few highlights of the election.  Her success is down to the vision and determination that she brings to her politics and which she shares with her team.

While this blog called for tactical voting in Brighton Pavilion, it was a call that was, I believe, largely ignored.  From the result, with the impressive Nancy Platts coming a strong second (I did not see that happening), it appears that people voted positively, not tactically, for both Caroline and Nancy.

I hope that this blog played a small part in the Green’s success.  On January 9th I called for a vote for Caroline and the Greens in Brighton Pavilion.  I said that Caroline had the Big Mo – Momentum.  The critical factor for the Greens was to convince those wanting to vote Green to do so without fear of letting the Tories in.  They succeeded in convincing enough people to do so.  I know a sizeable number of voters in Brighton Pavilion who wanted to vote Green but did not risk it.  Should there be a follow up election later in the year, Caroline can expect to see a huge swing from Labour to Green since doubters now know that they can vote Green with confidence in Brighton Pavilion.

I would urge Nancy to seek selection in Brighton Kemptown.  A dynamic candidate like her would have held the seat for Labour.  If she stands for Labour in Brighton Kemptown, I will be vocal in my support for her and for tactical voting for Labour.

So, well done Caroline.  A fantastic result.  Commiserations, Nancy.  You will be back and I look forward to supporting you, but not in Brighton Pavilion.  And farewell, Charlotte.  I will miss you.  You brought something colourful (sometimes thuggish) to the campaign.

A final plea for tactical votes in Sussex

It’s polling day.  For the past six months or so, I have been advocating tactical votes in Sussex to minimise the number of Conservatives elected.  Last year, with the Tories running in the polls at plus 40% and David Cameron thought it was a formality that he would become Prime Minister, I feared that 16 Tories might be returned from the 16 seats in Sussex.  There was an outside chance that with tactical voting we could see that number reduced to just 8.  The reality is that we might keep that number at 9, although Crawley is looking particularly vulnerable following the unforgivable decision of Laura Moffatt to stand down at the eleventh hour.

So, for a final time, here are my recommendations for tactical voting today:

Vote LABOUR in Brighton Kemptown, Hove, Hastings and Rye, and Crawley

Vote LIB DEM in Lewes and Eastbourne

Vote GREEN in Brighton Pavilion

The decision in Brighton Pavilion between Labour and the Greens took some serious reflection, but having advocated a Green vote as far back as January, I am more confident than ever that it is the right call for Brighton Pavilion.