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.
Filed under: Council Elections 2011, General Election 2010, Politics | Tagged: Caroline Lucas, Celia Barlow, David Lepper, Gill Mitchell, Green Party, Labour Party, Nancy Platts, Simon Burgess | 20 Comments »