St Peter’s and North Laine by-election: strong showing by Labour’s Tom French

Next Thursday is the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election. What is encouraging for the Labour Party is the performance of its candidate, the impressive Tom French.  He has run a high profile and energetic campaign.  He is just what the Labour Party needs following the general election.

So could Labour’s revival begin in this by-election.  It could be argued that the Green’s win in Brighton Pavilion got the Big Mo, momentum, from the Goldsmid by-election (even though Goldsmid is in neighbouring Hove).  In Goldsmid the Greens fielded 24 year old Alex Phillips.  She was enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive.  In St Peter’s and North Laine, Labour has a 24 year old, enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive candidate. The Greens had never won in Goldsmid, nor for that matter in any ward in Hove. It is many years since Labour came even close in St Peter’s and North Laine and, before that, in the old St Peter’s Ward.

But can the “positive, passionate and dedicated” Tom French win? (That was a quote from his election address going out this weekend).  He is “local and active in our community”, and he is “listening and acting on your concerns”.  Tom French is a strong candidate, quite comfortably the most impressive of all the candidates. Trefor Hunter (Lib Dem) will do as well as he has done in countless elections over the past 25 years in Brighton – he will lose.  Rob Buckwell, the Conservative candidate, is a nice young man, but he doesn’t have it, at least not yet.  He can repeat Tory Party policies but he lacks the instincts required of a successful local politician – to make the issues of local residents the ones he champions.  And finally, Lizzie Deane.  What can I say?  She has run a very low-key campaign, hardly seen, even spending a weekend away in London.  Does she actually want to be a councillor?

What will probably happen is Lizzie Deane will hold the seat for the Greens with a much reduced majority over Tom French, with the Lib Dems and Tories contesting who will come a very poor fourth place.  The Greens would be wrong to dismiss any collapse in its majority as normal poor turn-out in a by-election.  After the success of Caroline Lucas in the general election, the Greens should romp home with a four figure majority.  It should be a wake-up call for the Green Party, its councillors and candidates.  If it is to break through the 20 councillor mark next May (and I really hope it does), it must ensure that it runs campaigns that epitomise its ambitions, not a half-hearted campaign as it has run in St Peter’s and North Laine.

As for Tom French, keep up the fight.  The City Council would benefit from someone of his calibre. I will watch his progress with much interest.

17 Responses

  1. Well I will be down to help Lizzie Deane next week, I am a green totally but interesting to read your opinions of Brighton politics.

  2. Interesting… but as a resident of St Peters & North Laine, I’m getting vibes the Greens will walk it.

    I think Labour will gain more votes than last time, but only because they did so poorly in 2007 when people were sick of their years of running Brighton and Hove council….and a by-election is always a different ball game.

    I think you underestimate the impact of 14 years of Green councillor commitment and well,,, sheer hard work …and as an opposition party – something Labour’s candidate doesn’t really grasp).

    I think you also overestimate how quickly people’s memories fade.

    Local politics may be local but Blair’s warring legacy is still in the memory of many in this most progressive part of Brighton.

    Watch the change in shares of the party votes rather than the simple ‘majority’ (more correct to say ‘plurality’).

    Change in vote share will give the best indication of where we are heading.

    I’m hoping the untrustworthy LibDems will be annihilated.

    But as they only won 8% in 2007 they’re bumping along the bottom anyway.

    The result last time the seats were contested:

    (May 2007) – combined share for a three candidate slate as each voter had three votes:

    Greens 54%
    Labour 23%
    Tories 13%
    LibDems 8%

    Let’s see what happens! Good luck Lizzie!

  3. Hmm, thanks for quoting Tom’s campaign literature but I’m none the wiser. Apparently other people who know Tom from university have him pegged as a student on an ego trip.

    Lizzie is surely a more credible candidate, with her strong involvement in SPNL community association + local action team. I suggest that what she lacks in bravado she’ll make up in sincere dedication to the consituency.

  4. As someboidy who has regularly been canvassing the past few weeks in St. Peter’s and North Laine, I am puzzled by the BPB’s continual sneering that this has been a low-key campaign. I am heartened by the number of new Green voters, a great deal of talk about numerous issues. I am impressed by the many points that voters have made. I have learnt a lot. And there has been humour with it.

    And Lizzie Deane herself, in going from door to door, has found the same.

    As I have commented before, what does the BPB think a campaign involves? This one seems to me much the same as last year’s one in Goldsmid. The difference there was that it had something of a long “run-up”, and much coverage in Prvate Eye, because the Tories so foolishly dithered in allowing Paul Lainchbury to stand down.

    When I had a campaign to save Hove Library, I deliberately avoided holding any public meeting – and instead had thousands of public meetings: that is, spoke with people individually on the pavement, and from that I learnt that this is how one gets across a point of view.

    I caught a glimpse of Labour going about this campaign during the afternoon today and thought to myself, “oh, er, they’ve got that all wrong.”

    But of course I am not going to so why here, am I?

  5. Yes I would have thought this is one of the few safe Green wards in the UK and I am sure Lizzie is working hard as well.

  6. To continue with the BPB’s comment upon the LibDem side of the campaign, I was unaware of it until picking up a “Focus” from a Clyde Road recycling box and thinking, from a glance at the photograph, “how have the LibDems got Larry David as their candidate?” And his ranting in the blurb about being “sick and tired” of something or other confirmed that disgruntled take on life, albeit with less panache than that shown on the screen.

    I have seen only one Tory poster, and three Labour posters, and no LibDem posters.

    Meanwhile, I have been taking some very interesting soundings in Rottingdean.

  7. Not sure Tom would be that good – he seems overeager to grandstand on the acheivements of others (for eg community garden & princes road/carelet development) and is either too inexperienced or deliberately misleading (eg planning law and community garden) to serve us well as a councillor.

    I would back the skills and grassroots experience of Lizzie Deane anyday – although her online presence may not be as strong as Tom French, I think that in the real environment of working to serve our city she is more capable and I very much hope she wins next week.

  8. I love all the people running in to kill Tom before he is started, sounds a bit like Charlotte Vere before the General Election towards Caroline Lucas, ie discrediting over everything for limited reward.

    He is incredible one of the most able young politicians I have met. He has a great future in Brighton and if not at this election (for he is surely second favourite despite running the best campaign) another.

    A grandstanding student? Not at all, he is wise for his years and is able to represent the electorate of SPNL which is one of the youngest in Brighton (with many student residences).

    Good Luck Tom.

  9. Lizzie and the Greens are putting the issues in a fair and square way to voters.

    Labour really has been ‘grandstanding’ on some big issues. They have been opportunistically jumping on a whole lot bandwagons – just because they’ve left Government office. How easy!

    So it’s right that they’re challenged by the Greens – just as Greens would expect to be challenged on policy by other parties.

    Despite everyone being a bit bored by politics post the general election, I think it’s great that this by-election has been about serious issues whether that’s Coalition government cuts or the threat of a Tescos in Lewes Road.

    Voters in St Peters & North Laine: it’s over to you on Thursday!!

  10. The response to your blog betrays yet again the true nature of the Green party. It is a sectarian muddle of petulant loners, who see power as their God-given right. I think non-aligned residents of Brighton&Hove will think twice about voting for a party which on the one hand claims to represent ‘clean politics’ whilst on the other attacks their opponents with such contemptible language, as demonstrated on this page.

    Caroline should be ashamed of her activists’ behaviour.

  11. There are some very sensitive souls in this thread! Alexander – I have read and re-read and I cannot find the ‘contemptible language’ you refer to. Could you point it out for me?

    When Tom – who has put himself forward for election – makes outlandish and unsustainable claims it is reasonable to expect that people might critque his stance, and to see this as trying to ‘kill Tom before he has started’ seems to me like trying to quash legitimate debate.

    • Take a closer look, the Greens’ responses to this blog has been quite below the belt. You included, Mr. Simon (Kitcat) ‘jay’.

  12. Isn’t it time that the Green councillor commenting anonymously on this thread started putting his name to his posts?

    That would be transparent. No?

    • This is rich! First the bogus cries of ‘foul’ whenever a differing opinion is expressed, then – as this wears thin – I am accused of being Cllr Kitkat incognito… (This last part leaves me offended and flattered in equal measure which is interesting.)

      Not a councilor in disguise, just a Central Brighton resident interested in local politics and supporter of the Green Party, wanting to join an open debate.


  13. God, funny how the petulant infighting between Labour and Green followers on this blog (also evident at the Labour meeting last night) just makes you think – I don’t want to cast my vote for any of them. Childish and boring.

    • I didn’t sense any infighting between Green and Labour at the Milliband meeting. Though Ed Milliband did rather duck my question of him, which was “would he welcome the Green party taking the place of the Tories on Brighton and Hove Council?” He replied that he would like Labour to take it. But that was not my question. Though others picked up on it later.

      I thought it an enjoyable and no-holds-barred meeting. Especially the bit when Milliband at first seemed to be suggesting that all of the Lords should be cleared out for a new start, then said that some of the current incumbents should instead go by something like natural wastage. I said “Lord Bassam…”, and there was general laughter, in which Milliband joined, until correcting himself and saying, “he’s a good guy”.

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