St Peter’s and North Laine by-election: huge victory for the Greens but Tom French can be proud of his performance

Congratulations to Lizzie Deane for a comprehensive victory in the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election. The scale of the victory, and the volume of votes secured, shows that the Greens are riding very high in Brighton and Hove.

The result:

  1. Lizzie Deane (Green) 1,816
  2. Tom French (Labour)  880
  3. Rob Buckwell (Conservative) 365
  4. Trefor Hunter (Lib Dem) 103
  5. Gerald O’Brien (Independent) 32

Labour’s Tom French put in an admirable performance.  In may ways he had an excellent campaign, one that marks him out as one of Labour’s exceptional candidates for the future.

But even with the quality of Labour’s campaign, it did not make even the smallest dent in the Greens stranglehold on St Peter’s and North Laine.  And before Labour dismisses the result as predictable in the Green heartland, it should see this as a warning for next May.  The Greens will not just hold its current seats, it will effectively target a number of traditionally Labour areas and a few vulnerable Tory seats (and hopefully the 2 Lib Dem seats).

Some impressive young candidates will not be enough for Labour.  The high visibility Labour Leadership campaign, together with Ed Milliband campaigning in the ward, is not doing it for Labour.  While there will be a reaction locally against the Coalition Government’s cuts programme, that anger is likely to be channeled into protest votes locally for the Greens rather than Labour.

The conditions are perfect for the Greens to make a second historic breakthrough locally.  With Caroline Lucas in parliament, the Greens should become the largest party on the Council and, who knows, could just get a majority if Tory seats can be effectively targeted.

Tom French will be hugely disappointed, but he should take heart from his personal performance.  His reputation will have ben enhanced, and he will have learned a great deal from the campaign and result that will prepare him better for future campaigns.

But this morning belongs to Lizzie Deane. Enjoy the day, and have some time off ….. until Sunday.  Then all Greens must get out on the streets, recruiting madly in St Peters and North Laine but, more importantly, in Labour and Tory heartlands.  The campaign for the City Council in May 2011 begins here.

11 Responses

  1. Good analysis BPB.

    In the end it was more a lesson to Labour than the Greens. As I have said time and time again, the Green vote cannot be undone in a few weeks. When councillors work hard, it’s rare for their party to lose.

    I think it is fair to say, however, that the sizeable Lib Dem vote across the city is under threat. As we saw in the by-elections in London, the Lib Dem vote is collapsing into insignigicance. Something this blog has said would be coming.

    To be fair to Labour, Dan Wilson did say it would be unlikely for Labour to take SPNL, and he proved correct. I’m afraid Tom’s “We have enough Labour promises to win” tweet, may have damaged his seriousness somewhat. But, as you said, he would have learnt a lot from the end resut.

    Bring on May 2011!

    • To be fair we normally have enough promises to win. The problem with Labour has always been getting out the vote.

      • Didn’t see any Labour posters up this time?

        The question is why are your voters promising and then not delivering…

        Oh hang on, that’s Labour all over.

  2. Well done, Lizzie!
    What was the turnout like?

  3. Result in percentages (with change from 2007)

    Green 56.8 +2.5
    Labour 27.5 +4.3
    Tory 11.4 -0.6
    LibDem 3.2 -4.8
    Ind 1.0 (N/A)

    You’ll be pleased by the Lib Dem result BPB!

  4. It was only at the Count, and seeing the ballot papers, that I, and others, realised there was an Independent candidate. And he managed to get a third of the number of the votes that the LibDems did – and without the time and effort of getting out even a leaflet.

    I agree that Tom French will go places, and shouldn’t be rueful: he must have learnt a lot from the past few weeks.

    As I commented here before, I simply cannot understand why the BPB called the Green campaign “lacklustre”: the word for which he was surely searching is diligent.

  5. I wish people would stop referring to Green votes as ‘protest’ votes. They’re not. People vote Green because they like Green policies – and in the case of the local elections – they’re also voting safe in the knowledge that the Greens do a good job. No cosying up to the Tories, no back-tracking on promises, just good solid community work. Simple as that.
    The problem for Labour, is that yes, you can run a high-profile campaign, be a major presence online, and on the streets, even pull in the big party guns, as, indeed, Tom French did. But in the end, unfortunately for Tom, if all you’re flogging is Labour lies & broken promises, really – who’s buying? certainly not the people in SPNL…

    • Agree, that’s pretty outdated now. I became very aware during the General Election campaign that there is a double-edged sword to success and that the Green Party could no longer count on any “protest vote”.

      An abiding canvassing memory is of a lady telling me she would be voting for the Lib Dems – and specifically not the Greens – because she “didn’t want to vote for one of the main parties”.

      But it’s exhilarating that our party is managing to maintain vote share in Brighton in the transition to government, and as Nikki says that’s down to solid hard work.

    • You say the Greens do a ‘good job’, but the problem is with such assertions is that they’ve never run anything – it’s all been about opposition.

      If they get a majority in B + H next May, they will be faced with the depressing prospect of making cuts as the local government budget shrinks. Never mind all the ‘good solid community work’ – they will have to balance budgets, agree a programme and stick to it (and that means all their councillors voting the same way, which appears to be pretty much an alien concept). On current performance I’d say that they will find life out of the opposition comfort zone very tricky indeed.

      If they don’t get a majority and still won’t talk to anyone else, so Brighton and Hove could be faced with a Labour-Tory coalition! Ain’t political purity wonderful?

  6. A key point is being missed.

    Labour continues to work in St Peter’s not with any hope of winning it but to sustain a proportion of its vote for a General Election.

  7. I think the real value of this by-electon in SPNL has been as a lab for Labour. On past results, a Labour gain was unlikely. I think it’s a reasonable result for us but I don’t look at it with any particular joy. A Green hold was all but inevitable and on such small turnout so close to the GE, I don’t think many conclusions can be drawn from the votes.

    Labour in Brighton is still contemplative. Losing all three parliamentary seats, we’re also in the midst of a leadership campaign and looking to the long-term. That’s not an easy process. This has been useful. It’s been good to be chucked right back into ‘retail politics’ But as a testing ground for some of the ideas we’ve been having, it has proved an incredibly useful tactical opportunity.

    Hat’s off to Tom. He worked very hard, as did many local Labour activists. Not at all down about that!

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