Brighton and Hove Politician of the Year 2010

There are five nominees for the Brighton and Hove Politician of the Year: Juliet Williams (Lib Dem), Paul Perrin (UKIP), Mike Weatherley (Conservative), Nancy Platts (Labour), and Caroline Lucas (Green).

And the winner is Caroline Lucas.  Her election in May, the only non-Conservative in Sussex and the first ever Green Member of Parliament, came after the liveliest, most keenly fought election campaign in living memory (for that credit should be shared with Nancy Platts and Chuck Vere).  But Caroline’s achievement was extraordinary, locally and nationally. 

The award is for more than the election victory itself.  It is also for how she has conducted herself since May, her energy and determination as a local MP.  She is almost the only politician who has provided any opposition to the ConDem Coalition, and thereby encouraged those who are opposing the cuts and who are being impacted by them.

Her victory shows that there is an alternative to Labour and the Tories.  It poses the biggest challenge to Labour for a generation.  There is no Labour politician locally who matches Ms Lucas in terms of competence and reputation.  For traditional Labour voters, Caroline Lucas provided a viable and attractive alternative, allowing them to cast an anti-Tory vote without fearing that their vote would be wasted.  There were those in Brighton Pavilion who stuck with Labour for just that reason, fearing that a Green vote would split the anti-Tory vote and allow Chuck Vere to be elected.  Next time they will have no such dilemma and Caroline Lucas will be returned with a significantly increased majority.

The challenge for the Greens is whether they can convert the goodwill and enthusiasm resulting from Caroline Lucas’s election into electoral success in May’s local elections.  There is no reason why they should not be able to do so other than the Green’s poor organisation in their target wards.  It takes more than energetic candidates to win elections; it requires the organisation and mobilisation that Caroline Lucas was able to achieve.  Can the Greens do it again?  I am not yet sure.

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Political Awards 2010: Politician of the Year Part 2 (Labour and Green)

Yesterday Conservative Mike Weatherley, Lib Dem Juliet Williams, and UKIP’s Paul Perrin were nominated as the possible Politician of the Year for Brighton and Hove. Today, the Labour and Green Politicians of the Year.

Both nominees are obvious choices, being the stand-out candidates in the General Election last May.  Both received regular praise in my blog, and both were obvious assets for their respective party.  Caroline Lucas, elected as MP for Brighton Pavilion is likely to be recognised in many reviews of the year. As the first ever Green MP in the UK, she has been a breath of fresh air nationally.  Her appearances in Question Time and Any Questions, as well as other political shows, has given the electorate a clue what politics could be like if we could be freed from the central high command that characterises both Labour and the Conservatives.  Caroline demonstrates that there is an alternative, and by doing so exposes Labour for all its conservative tendencies, and the Lib Dems for its lack of back bone.  Caroline Lucas is the Green Politician of the Year.

As someone who votes Labour or Green, depending on the election and the candidates, but whose roots are most definitely in the Labour Movement, I am put off by the attempts of some Labour activists who engage in petty point scoring as if that is going to drive voters back to Labour.  The opposite is true.  Labour has a fundamental problem given the success of Ms Lucas.  That problem is how to galvanise not just voters but supporters and Labour members alike who are increasingly impressed by Ms Lucas as a constituency MP.  I was quite critical of Ms Lucas in the run up to the general election, but am pleased to say how wrong I was.  Small-minded Labour activists will ask how many nights a week does she spend in Brighton.  I don’t know, don’t care.  It clearly is enough as she is seen around the constituency and attending events.  Like Mike Weatherley and even Simon Kirby, she is proving to be an excellent local MP.

The Labour Politician of the Year defied all expectations by polling extremely well at the general election and coming a very credible runner up in Brighton Pavilion, relegating the Conservative Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Vere to third place.  Nancy Platts was, as I have said previously, selected at the wrong time and in the wrong constituency.  Her misfortune was to be up against Caroline Lucas in this general election. Had the Greens selected Keith Taylor, Nancy would have won, although Chuck Vere would have pushed her close.  Caroline took votes from both Nancy and Chuck.  Nancy ran an energetic campaign, remained (at least in public) upbeat, and never doubted the strength of her campaign. She motivated her supporters and, had she been running in Brighton Kemptown, she surely would have won.

Even though I may have been unseasonably mean to Nancy for giving her the ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ award, Nancy will be remembered for her excellent campaign. I sincerely hope that she will stand at the next general election, though not in Brighton Pavilion (assuming the seat survives the current gerrymandering). She will be a great MP and I will follow her career with interest.  Nancy Platts is Labour’s Politician of the Year.

Political Awards 2010: Politician of the Year Part 1

This award has five nominees, one for the three main parties in Brighton and Hove (Conservative, Labour and Green) and one for two of the fringe parties locally (Lib Dem and UKIP). 

The nominee for the Conservative Party is a politician that has established himself and consolidated his position in a relatively short period of time.  Mike Weatherley is the MP for Hove, elected in May with a majority of 1,868 over the sitting Labour MP, Celia Barlow.  This was a good showing by Celia and the narrowness of Weatherley’s majority should not lead to the conclusion that this will be a marginal next time.  Weatherley has quickly established a reputation as a hard-working constituency MP.  He goes about his business with diligence and little fanfare, but he is making it count where it matters – the careful nurturing of communities of interest.  He is following in the tradition of other effective local MP’s such as David Lepper, Des Turner and Andrew Bowden. Weatherley understands that an MP who neglects his core support will struggle to retain the seat in a bad year.  Weatherley is a formidable politician, likely to stick around for many years to come.  Hove is set to become, once again, a safe Tory seat.  This is why Mike Weatherley is the Conservative Politician of the Year.

Paul Perrin of UKIP is not my kind of politician.  For one, he is a member of UKIP.  I am on record as saying I would prefer to stick pins in my eye than vote UKIP.  But Perrin has a slightly obsessive characteristic needed to make a mark on behalf of a party that is going nowhere.  Without the likes of Perrin, it would go somewhere – to deeper, if not permanent obscurity. Perrin blogs and Tweets with great enthusiasm.  He is the only local UKIP activist who I can name, probably because he is the only UKIP activist locally.  But his single-minded determination to fly the UKIP banner in Brighton and Hove means that he is the UKIP Politician of the Year.

Finding a Lib Dem to nominate as Politician of the Year has proven to be a challenge.  There was a temptation to nominate David Watkins simply because he has been deselected by the Lib Dems, not for breaking pledges and promises (that gets you promoted in Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems), but for being basically a decent sort. But the Lib Dem who stood out for me over the last year is its candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Juliet Williams. At one hustings in Brighton Pavilion, she substituted for that constituency’s candidate on the panel. Juliet gave a barnstorming performance, completely on top of her brief, passionate, with grace and humour.  With candidates like her (not forgetting some backbone and principles) the Lib Dems could avoid being trounced at all elections for the next 5 years.  Juliet Williams is the Lib Dem Politician of the Year.

Tomorrow, Labour and the Greens.

Political Awards 2010: New-Comer of the Year

In a year dominated by the general election, it is quite hard for a new-comer to make his or her mark.  There have been very few individuals who, newly arrived on the Brighton and Hove political scene,  have made their mark. In fact, there is just one nominee for this category, and therefore is the winner.

As a result of the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster, her European seat became vacant and was duly filled by the second person on the Green Party list from the last European elections, Keith Taylor.  Keith had been a long-standing, if uninspiring councillor for St Peter’s and North Laine.  Keith resigned from the City Council to take up the European seat.  The by-election was keenly fought by Labour and the Greens.  While the seat was won by the Green’s Lizzie Deane (who has disappeared without trace since her election), it was Tom French, the Labour candidate, who stood out as the outstanding candidate.

Tom was hard-working, charming, energetic, and won plaudits from all parties.  At a time where charismatic individuals are largely absent from the ranks of Labour, Tom was a breath of fresh air.  He is my New-Comer of the Year.  Labour needs to find another dozen or so candidates with similar qualities if it is to avoid a heavy defeat in May, although it is probably too late.

Just one word of warning to Tom.  Being the latest ‘bright young thing’ is great while it lasts.  But no matter how well you perform, time will mean that you will not always be young, and you rapidly lose the image of being the new kid on the block.  My advice is to remember your roots, the people who supported you when you set out on your exciting journey. Neglect your core base at your peril.  For the local elections, you have chosen to abandon (as some see it) St Peter’s and North Laine, as well as Hanover and Elm Grove,  in favour of Queen’s Park .   Take some time to mend fences.  You will never be bigger than the Party.  The Labour Party needs you to succeed and I wish you well.

Political Awards 2010: Brighton and Hove Councillor of the Year

Forgive me that nominees for this award come from Brighton and Hove alone. There are others who could be included in this, such as Jeremy Birch, Leader of Hastings Borough Council, for seizing control from the Tories in May on the same day as there was a massive swing against Labour throughout the country. 

The nominees are:

Mary Mears (Conservative) for her single-minded determination to restructure the City Council in a way that could yet defy the wishes of the electorate should the Tories lose control this coming May.  By bringing in a new Chief Executive and senior tier of officers, she has embedded her political views at the highest level.  You may disagree with her on many issues, but she is underestimated at your peril.

Bill Randall (Green) for providing the only opposition on the Council.  As Convenor of the Green Group he argues clearly and consistently against the Tories, something that Labour has massively failed to do.  The Greens have momentum going into the local elections, and will do well thanks to Bill.

Jason Kitcat (Green) for being a campaigning, high profile back-bencher, getting right up the noses of the Tories, raising issues on behalf of his Regency Ward constituents, and becoming a colourful, controversial councillor.  He is the sort of councillor we all deserve yet few of us have.

There are no Labour councillors to nominate since they have, as a group, excelled themselves by being so unremarkable and unimpressive.  As for the Lib Dems, they feature in a category of their own – ‘Bust Up in a Telephone Box Award’ .  That award goes jointly to Councillors David Elgood and Paul Watkins who can be seen on a clear day warmly shaking each other by the throat.

And the winner is … Jason Kitcat.  Jason follows a long line of hard working, or controversial, or colourful councillors in Regency Ward, from Alf Feld (a millionaire Tory hotelier), Chris Giles (a Tory money-lender), and the late and much missed Nimrod Charles Baden Ping (with a name like that he makes the name Kitcat look bland).  Expect Jason to win by a landslide in May.

Brighton Politics Blogger’s Political Awards 2010

Winston Churchill once said that an empty taxi cab pulled up outside 10 Downing Street and the Prime Minister (Clem Atlee) got out.  Churchill specialised in putting down his Labout opponent.  When someone said to Churchill that Atlee was a humble man, Churchill replied, “He’s got a lot to be humble about”.

‘Humble’ and ’empty’ could be used to describe the inconsequential, frankly irrelevant, Brighton Politics Blogger’s Political Awards 2010.  Last year the Awards failed to ignite any interest, so this year I am setting my sights somewhat lower.

Amongst the awards this year will be ‘Betrayal of the Year’ (no prizes for guessing the winner of this one, Norman); ‘Bust-up in a Telephone Box’ award; ‘Councillor of the Year’; and ‘Politician of the Year’,  one for each party, and then the overall winner to be announced on New Year’s eve (a bit like those receiving OBE’s and MBE’s).

But first, it is the ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ award.  Last year it went to someone called Seaman Scott Digby, or Scott Seaman Digby, or Digby Seaman Scott, something like that, anyway.  He was the front-runner who was pipped at the post by Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Vere in the Open Primary to select the Conservative candidate for Brighton Pavilion. 

This year Chuck herself is in the running, having stopped making her regular run from Richmond down the M23 in her Mercedes.  She never did make a commitment to Brighton Pavilion.  It could have been a useful stepping stone in her Wonderful Career.  Chuck did made a big impression and I miss her.  I think she probably would have made an impressive Member of Parliament, even though she would have made a loyal hardliner in the Cameron/Clegg Tory Administration.  I am not sure whether she has been seen in Brighton since the General Election, but will no doubt return if she fails to secure a more winnable seat elsewhere.  Here today, gone tomorrow, back the week after next, perhaps?

Another contender is Chuck’s Labour opposite number, Nancy Platts who, having made a great thing about her local credentials having moved to Brighton when selected to fight Brighton Pavilion, proved to be as committed to the city as Chuck Vere by moving back to London following her defeat.  Talking to Labour Party members, it has been suggested that should she be selected to challenge Caroline Lucas next time she will once again become the committed local candidate by moving back.

Other than the inconsistent nature of this blog, Chuck and Nancy are the only two nominees for this award. And I am pleased to announce that the winner is … or the winner are …. Charlotte Vere and Nancy Platts.  Congratulations to you both.

Lib Dem betrayal and police heavy-handedness is seeing the politicisation and radicalisation of a generation

It was a successful policing operation, according to the Metropolitan Police.  No students died! 

We are entering a fascinating period in the political life of the UK.  The Government have lost control of the streets.  Tens of thousands of students up and down the country are being politicised by the Lib Dems collusion with the Tories and radicalised by the heavy-handed policing tactics being deployed against them.

It is like the poll tax protests all over again and very different from the inner city riots of the early 1980s.  In the 1980s it was alienated youths, often black youths, who had no hope for the future and who were being treated heavy-handedly by the police. In 1990 it was working and middle classes uniting against the unjust Poll Tax.

As now, a popular cause was targeted by a political elite, fortified by their deluded self-belief and secure in their Westminster Palace, that made an enemy of the country as a whole.  The sight of police horses charging young people on the streets of London will have appalled many people, not least middle class parents whose children were the targets of the horses and the victims of police batons.  The students are being politicised, and so too are their parents.

The Met Police appear to have just one tactic – kettle to contain.  Not only is it not working, it has already undermined public confidence in th police.  There is anger at the increase in tuition fees, and it is right that it is aimed largely at the Lib Dems.  If the Coalition Government had hoped that that level of anger  would now receded, they are to be disappointed.  The betrayal of the pledge by Lib Dems, including Norman Baker, coupled with the treatment of student protesters (the majority of whom were non-violent and law abiding) will see this run and run.