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.

20 Responses

  1. I was looking at the numer of votes the parties got in Pavilion compared to 2005 and it is quite interesting. I don’t know whether the total number of voters increased but i doubt it as although turnout in votes increased, the percentage turnout also increased.

    Green Caroline Lucas 16,238
    Labour Nancy Platts 14,986
    Conservative Charlotte Vere 12,275
    Liberal Democrat Berni Millam 7,159
    Turnout 51,834

    Labour Co-op David Lepper 15,427
    Conservative Mike Weatherley 10,397
    Green Keith Taylor 9,530
    Liberal Democrat Hazel Thorpe 7,171
    Turnout 43,578

    So you can see that the number of people voting Labour or Lib Dem changed very little. So where did the Green voters come from?

    They seem to have come from new voters, as the turnout increased by 8,000. 2,000 of which voted Tory.

    It seems Labour voters weren’t convinced to switch by the Greens but that people who might normally feel there is no one for them to vote for decided they could make a difference. The question is whether those Labour and Lib Dem voters will now see that they can vote Green? That would give the Greens a huge majority at any furture elections

    • Some people will feel that they can now vote Green with the confidence of knowing that the Tories cannot win – but more people will feel able to vote Labour for the same reason. Remember that a large part of the Green campaign was based on the idea that only they could stop the Tories – I had loads of leaflets to that effect through my door. People’s shifting voting patterns are complex – but plenty of people who voted Labour in 2005 voted Green this time. Some are disollusioned with Labour nationally, some didn’t want a Tory MP, some wanted to ‘have someone a bit different’.

      If there is another election in October this year the dynamic will be very different. The more Labour MP’s that can be elected then the better – or the country – if not Pavilion, will be going Tory. That means no progressive politics (even as limited as Labour might muster), no PR, and severe cuts in public services.

      Tactically, if for no other reason, the Greens needs a Labour government so that PR can be put to the people. It is the only short/medium term hope of expanding their numbers in Parliament significantly. So that means three Labour MP’s for the City – and I think that many people will recognise that.

      I actually don’t think that Labour are being bitter locally. They did do better than expected in Hove and Kemptown, and significantly better than they realistically thought in Pavilion. Very few people thought they had a chance of coming second – including William Hill – but they did that comfortably.

      What did for Labour in all three seats in the end was the resilience of the Lib Dem vote – particularly in Hove. Someone said on this blog way back that that Lib Dem vote would be the deciding factor in Pavilion. This turned out to be correct not only in Pavilion, but all three seats. It also suggests that they well be difficult to squeeze the next time around.

  2. Allie Cannell is right.

    But I suspect that many LD supporters could vote Green next time. Based on doorstep talk. Those spoken with saw sense of voting Green to help LDs in Westminster. Whether Clegg sticks meaningfully with PR demand, we shall see… He’d be a fool not to do so. The Jenkins report still exists.

    Other factor is that Greens had many first time voters. And those too young to vote wished that they could so. Even eight year olds.

    Meanwhile, why does Labour presume that it should remain the official Opposition on the Council? A new full year begins this week, and the Greens have the same number of Councillors as Labour. And an MP.

  3. Well said BPB. I am astonished and dismayed that Labour lost Kemp Town to a Tory. I think Simon Burgess and Caroline Lucas would have worked well together to protect the best interests of Brightonians. I note that Labour ‘insiders’ in B&H seem to blaming everyone other than themselves and their strategists for their loss of all three seats. If I was a local labour activist I would be asking very serious questions about the style and direction of the local campaign. As a Green Party supporter I cannot understand why Labour expended so much time and energy fighting for Pavilion when Kemp Town should have been far more winnable for them. I feel sorry for Labour voters in Kemp Town, they have been very badly let down by their local party ‘Grandees’.

  4. 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 crystalise 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.

    • Hi Dan, your response reflects the best aspects of Labour. If Labour follows your lead there is light at the end of the tunnel. BPB

  5. It is a good career move for Caroline. I wish her the very best of luck in her negiotiations with the fees office.

    I am sure that she will not disappoint expectations.

    • Craven by name…

      I do not think I have read a posting as bitter and pitfiul as this one, as bad as Anne Meadows’s tirade at me during the local election Count last time: a great contrast with Dan Wilson’s magnaminous and reasoned comment above.

      • Craven (Yorkshire) by birth.

        Bitterness would suggest that I’m envious. I’m not. I’m quite embarrassed to live in the one constituency to have elected some sanctimonious and altogether useless “Green” as their MP, however.

        But credit where credit is due. Congratulations for tapping into yet another public resource.

  6. “Tapping into a public resource”? Hahaha.

    There’s a few words to say in response to that – words like…Cohen, Moran, Smith, Blears, Follett…..

    Some NuLabs really don’t get it do they?

    The sense of entitlement to the left vote is the first thing they need to lose if they are to have any prospects whatsoever. But I’m not holding my breath.

    With a few decent exceptions, New Labour in Brighton and Hove have always been a vicious, mean-sprited bunch, and the reaction to the Pavilion result is par for the course.

    • There is no self-entitlement to the “left vote” from anyone here since that term represents nothing significant whatsoever. I am not so arrogant as to place the electorate into rigid ideological categories.

      Such thinking is backward and neglects the real issues.

      Grow a sense of humour.


  7. Bitter and nasty from Alex, lets remember the Labour Party also has better souls like Dan Wilson.

    • I don’t speak on behalf of anyone, not least the Labour Party. I do understand that freedom of expression and independent thought can be difficult concepts to grasp when you’re in a sect that obliges its members to think/speak as one homogenous blob.


  8. @Brighton Politics Politics Blogger

    Genuine Question… How many people read your blog?

    • Ronniegordon has asked how many people read my blog. Recently it has been over 1,000 per day but suspect it will soon return to Ron himself, my mum and my cat! (The cat is a Tory). Ron, please don’t let your loyalty to me or pity force you to continue reading it!

  9. Actually very impressed by that. Was thinking about your claim re winning Btn Pav for Greens. Much less implausible than I had sneeringly imagined.

    • Claim that it was this blog “wot won it” was piss take. Do you rember 1983 and the Sun saying “It was the Sun wot won it”. New media is yet to come of age, restricted as it is, I suspect, to party hacks and a few anoraks like me!

  10. I accept what’s being said about bitterness, but I do sometimes think, on this blog and elsewhere, that anyone raising any questions or criticism of the Greens is cast in a negative light.

    Now that the Green party is at Westminster, is it not more important than ever that we are able to publicly appraise and comment on Green politics, policy and politicians, just as we have been doing on the bigger parties?

    As a Labour activist, I congratulate the Greens on winning Pavilion, and I agree with Dan that Labour in Brighton and Hove needs to do a lot of thinking over the next few weeks.
    But we should always be able to discuss and comment on opposition parties – all of them. There would be a real gap in public political debate if we weren’t able to do so.

  11. Over 3000 people joined the Labour Party on the day David Cameron and Nick Clegg did a deal to get them into Number 10. So many tried to join via the Labour website http://www.labour.org.uk/join that it crashed.

    The Greens actually came fourth in terms of votes across the city last week, and lost councillors nationally whilst Labour gained 400. Almost half of their councillors are now in Brighton. They are increasingly a Brighton-only party.

    One Green MP won’t make a difference against a Tory/Lib Dem government, over 250 Labour MPs will. If disillusioned Lib Dem supporters want to seriously oppose this new government they should join Labour.

  12. Warren Morgan,

    Greens came fourth across the city following the 2005 election and then still managed to double the number of councillors in 2007.

    The Greens have momentum behind them and, on an election with a low turnout, the Greens are likely to win more councillors. I even predict that the Greens will push Labour right back into East Brighton and will be able to take both Hollingdean and Stanmer as well as Moulscoomb and Bevendean.

    From the Tories, the Greens have a good shot in Central Hove given the sizeable (and soft) Lib Dem vote, as well as Patcham and Withdean when you take into account the number of Green voters who have moved out of the city centre and into the northern suburbs.

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