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.

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21 Responses

  1. To risk sounding facetious, I believe one could also argue that Mr. BPB is similarly guilty of misleading the electorate into voting for one party to stop another.

    Poor Charlotte, you didn’t even let her put forward the case for her brand of convictionless conservatism.

    Pot, kettle, green.

  2. I think if you’d analysed their tweets, you’d have found something similar–probably not so much misleading the voters, with Platts’ tweets getting more and more defensive and reactive re the challenge from Lucas/Green and Lucas just not mentioning other parties–only own achievements/activities. I thought the anti-Greenness backfired.

    On the other hand, it was only at about the third leaflet from the Greens that I got that I realised that the bar charts about the relative support for the parties wasn’t actually from this election campaign. Very small print for a very seductive bar chart!

  3. BPB – your analysis is interesting, but selective and somewhat missing the point. The aim of both the Green and Labour campaigns was to convince people that they were best placed to win – and that meant beating the Tories. I don’t complain about that – all is fair in love, war and political campaigning – but I do think that the Greens were more successful at it on this occasion.

    It is a subtle difference between saying only you can beat the Tories, and suggesting it – perhaps the Green leaflets were slightly more subtle, but still misleading. You also have to remember what was said on the doorstep. I know that Labour canvassers said that only they could stop the Tories, but the Greens did too. I was canvassed twice and given that message each time. A friend told me that she had been canvassed three times by the Greens with the same message – and she finally believed it.

    The polls used were also illustrative. The Greens rubbished the Kindle poll at length, although in the event it fairly accurately predicted the level of Green support across the City, but continued to plug away with the ICM poll, which they had commissioned themselves, and bore some of the same flaws that they criticised the Kindle poll for – eg, the size of the sample.

    So let’s hope that the next election is characterised by policy rather than statistics. I don’t hold out much hope though – at the end of the day politicians want to win every possible vote – and will seek to exploit any potential advantage that they can muster.

  4. One can dwell too much on leaflets.

    The public mood was something else. Innumerable stories, thumbs up everywhere. And those continue.

    No leaflet ever wins an Election on its own. I think it a matter of innumerable encounters. If I had to single out one, it would be an overcast Saturday evening in Patcham, where it is always windy, a scarf at the ready. Alex Dunton and myself went up a quiet street, and found a fellow who took a Green poster, gently pulling it from his side of one of those furry letterboxes.

    Which was cheering. Imagine our horror, then, at soon seeing one of those Charlotte Vere boards in a garden. However, next door were two Green posters in a window. And so we thought we should thank the people there for doing that. There followed some enjoyable talk, and I pointed out the unfortunate horror in the neighbouring garden and wondered whether it should be countered by a Green board. The householder expressed concern that it might bring blood in the street… and at that point her teenage son, now able to vote, came to the door, and I mentioned to him next door’s regrettable aberration; at which point his mother asked him, “do you think we should have a board up?” His immediate reply was, “yeah, go for it, mum”.

    The board was switly in place.

    And a day later, in going round the rest of that street, I found that the conjunction of those two boards was causing much merriment. This galvanised intentions, and got the Greens a score of votes in the immediate vicinity, and one cannot know how many more from those who passed by.

    Come Thursday, outside a polling station for another section of Patcham, I was sat, with a flask, first thing in the morning to do some telling, and Geoffrey Theobald duly turned up for the Conservatives and was I think startled to see me there. But not as startled as he was when one voter, unknown to me, arrived and, against all protocol, immediately proclaimed, on seeing my rosette, “I’m voting for you, up the revolution.” The Labour teller also chortled at the look of horror on Geoffrey Theobald’s face at this new slant upon upon his fiefdom.

  5. Irony of ironies – while Labour was proved wrong about the Green vote letting in a Tory in Pavilion, that is pretty much what happened in Kemptown and Hove. It is highly probable that without Greens taking 2-3000 in each of those places Labour would have held both -only they were too busy obsessing about Lucas to see it coming.

    • The Tory wins in Hove and Kemp Town do not appear resonant to me. I sense no general delight, but in Brighton Pavilion one can feel that even those who did not vote for Caroline Lucas are pleased.

      In Hove, the result cannot be attributed to the Greens: there was sufficient rise in the LibDem vote to suggest it came from Labour in a late flurry.

    • Not convinced by that notion Andy, although I know we are going to hear it repeated ad nauseum until other events overtake us. Your assumption is that every single Green voter would have switched to the Labour party and that would give Labour enough to win.

      A big assumption, as it is clear that a lot of people have left Labour (yourself included) and are looking for another party to represent their progressive views. If not the Greens maybe TUSC might have picked up a few more, but most likely the LD’s would have taken the lions share. Labour lose elections all on their own, but repeatedly fail to grasp that and blame others for their own weaknesses.

      Its also poor form to blame one party for the outcome of an election of another party. Would you blame No2EU (which I believe you supported) for allowing the BNP to get a second MEP in the NW? Or are they entitled to stand and make their case in a free democracy as any other party can?

      (Personally I do blame No2EU, an on-whim, made-up party pandering to Bob Crows ego, with mere weeks of campaigning available between their launch and the Euros – contrast with the Greens, here since the 70s, showing a stable platform of radical policy and a commitment to get elected. No2EU already in the history books – whither TUSC?)

      Labour’s decline will continue as long as they fail to grasp the distance between their present platform and the feelings of the bulk of their core vote, many of whom vote for them still but with a heavy heart and a mint in their mouth to mask the bitter taste. I’m not happy with the Hove or Kemptown results, but it is not the Greens fault, it is Labour’s

      • To clarify, I wasn’t attacking the Greens for standing in Hove or Kemptown. I live in Hove and I voted Green!

        Whether what I said is true or not (and I accept it is arguable either way) I have no sympathy for Labour.

        I hope that the forces which made up TUSC will continue, partly to keep the Greens on their toes! Caroline’s win was a great piece of news and congrats to you. But once you take Pavilion out of the equation the Greens’ performance generally was poor and they did not even come close to a breakthrough anywhere else. And I also hope that, now that the Greens have got Parliamentary representation in this country, they don’t go the same less-than-wonderful way of Greens in much of the rest of Europe.

    • In both Hove and Kemptown, the Lib Dems increased their vote whilst the Green vote dropped slightly.

      You can hardly blame the Greens for letting in the Tories there.

      By all means, however, blame 13 years of Labour not doing much for progressive politics.

    • Andy, you sound like an apologist for Blair and Brown;-)

      How many times do we have to repeat it?

      Labour has had 13 years to honour their promise on electoral reform and they are only now being dragged in to do it now under a hung parliament.

      Labour does not ‘own’ the progressive vote any more than Respect and your far left friends do.

      Greens have waited too long for electoral reform and it has not yet been delivered.

      Labour’s woes are of its own making.

      It’s a shame that Labour has put its electoral interests ahead of the interests of working people on constitutional reform.

      With PR, we could have kept the Tories out of office for many years.

      Bring in full democratic PR now and we won’t have these silly discussions.

      • Don’t disagree with any of that. I’ll assume you missed my second post.

        Actually in view of the latest developments I’m backing Caroline for Home Secretary!!

    • The voter turnout was 7% lower than Pavilion. There are the 2000 votes Labour should worry about. And what about Labour “splitting” the anti-Tory vote in Pavilion……….;)

  6. I blogged about this before the election: http://www.wilsondan.co.uk/2010/05/02/what%E2%80%99s-an-anti-tory-vote-in-brighton-pavilion/

    Thankfully, it’s only political nerds like us who analyse leaflets with 20/20 hindsight… ;o) Knowing the result, I would have done things differently. I’ve never been an Edith Piaf type

    I think that Labour and Greens ran clean and honest campaigns. Forward looking statements were made and I don’t disagree with BPB’s analysis. However Green polls and indeed the bookies put Labour third, and that proved incorrect too.

    The bigger question in Brighton and Hove is a bit different, I think. How do we both slap the Tories and how, overall, do Greens and Labour work together effectively in future? The Greens need to stop seeing Labour as the main enemy as much as vice versa.

    Elections are fought and won and lost. But when they’re done, as we’re seeing in Wesminster, we need to work out what happens next. At the moment in our great city we have an impasse that benefits only the Tories. Next May (if not before) I want to work towards moving that.

  7. I have a slight concern on this issue. Some years ago a Green campaign for the council involved trying to convince Labour voters that Labour was safe, so getting the odd Green in would be positive.

    In fact Labour lost it’s majority.

    Now again, the Greens have been telling Labour voters to vote Green to keep the Tories out., yet the Tories came a poor third in BP.

    Without wishing to get too worked up about claims and counter claims, the Greens do often claim to be a more honest and ethical party. In a time when trust in politicians is low, can they really claim to be that different?

    If there is a 2nd election, will there be 600 disgruntled Labour voters, who voted tactically last week, who won’t fall for the same line a second time?

  8. An interesting aside is that the winning share in this seat, 31.3% is the second lowest winning share in the country. So One could say that Caroline is the second least popular MP in the country. Of course the obvious counter-argument is that all the other parties here are even less popular! This is one seat where alternative voting would provide a very interesting insight into voters minds. Let me point out though that I’m in favour of AV+.

    Of corresponding interest is that the lowest winning share was Norwich South, of course another Green Target. I have no idea whether a conclusion can be drawn between green targets/success and low winning shares, or whether it is just a coincidence.

    • Doesn’t this mean that it was a pretty tough fight in Brighton Pavilion, with a party trying to get its first seat and working in the first past the post system? All of which makes its win all the more significant.

      As for the rest of the country, it became a bit of a blur for me these past three weeks. I thought that was only me, but others have now said the same.

    • Doesn’t this mean that 68.7% of Brighton Pavilion voters didn’t vote for Caroline? Hardly a mandate?

      • But Labour never got around to fixing the system, did they? The Greens fought under a system that traditionally makes it harder for smaller parties to win, and guess what, they won.

        Now is not the time for Labourites to get bitter. Take the advice of Dan Wilson that Labour has to start re-thinking in Brighton and Hove for the council elections next year.

  9. Useful summary here of Green position in continuing Whitehall talks. With comments.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/11/green-party-downplay-rainbow-coalition?showallcomments=true#end-of-comments

  10. And now, as LibDems appear to fall into Tory trap, Cameron being “the smiler with the knife”, the Greens could be all the more distinctive in Parliament: the party whose view is sought by “papers” and telly and radio as something different from the Labour one and the coalition one.

    It looks as if more LibDem votes could go to the Greens in local and national Elections.

  11. […] the Tories.  Both Labour and Greens should take care not to make unfounded claims (see my blog Labour more guilty than the Greens of misleading the voters of Brighton Pavilion of 9th May […]

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