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.

15 Responses

  1. I, too, was delighted that the people of Brighton had the sense to elect Caroline Lucas as their MP! As a resident of Norwich, and a Green Party member and voter, I was devastated when we were lumbered with a Tory and a Lib-Dem MP instead of electing Adrian Ramsay as our Norwich South MP (I live in Norwich South). Perhaps, in 2015, the people of Brighton will re-elect Caroline who will be joined by Adrian and others to carry on the good work Caroline is currently doing. As far as I can see Caroline is the only MP who I know of who has stuck to the Manifesto of their party.

  2. A Green MP in Hove is perfectly feasible.

    I do not know why the Blogger looks down on “energetic candidates”: energy in a candidate is what comes across to voters, and potential helpers.

    Any candidate should be able to cover much of the territory, unlike an MP who has a constituency to cover.

  3. Although there is no doubt that Caroline is clearly the political story in B+H for 2010 I do think a little perspective is needed. The Green Party, which she leads, had a poor election nationally, despite the hype that they are the new ‘progressive’ voice. Their share of the vote fell, and they polled only half the votes of the BNP – who by common consent had a disastrous election. The tactical advantage of having focussed almost exclusively on one seat is clear to be seen – but they still came 4th in the City overall – and the City has two Tory MP’s, at least partly because the Green’s would not encourage tactical voting.

    I’m not so sure about how this will pan out next time. Much will depend on the 2011 local results. If the Greens take over the Council and are successful, or can blame others for any failure, then Caroline will survive, and they will prosper across the City.

    However, the irony of the Green’s predicament is that the best chance they have of surviving in Pavilion is that the Coalition is popular and seen as successful come the next election. There will be no mood for change then. If the Coalition is unpopular then people will vote for a change of government, and that means Labour in a General Election.

    • I think the Green success resonated outside of Brighton too. A lot of people across the country embraced Caroline’s victory as the highlight of an otherwise depressing election.

      It is incredibly difficult for a new party to make inroads under the first-past-the-post system, and it was plucky of us to even try, but that optimism and honesty is precisely why people gave us their support.

      Hundreds of people put hours, days and weeks of effort into persuading their neighbours that a positive change – and not just a protest vote – was possible, at this time, in this place. And this year’s local election represents a similarly unique opportunity to change the political landscape for the better.

      Progress in other parts of the country will follow in due course, but Brighton & Hove is where the Green Party is in full bloom.

    • I would contest ‘the Greens came fourth place in Brighton & Hove in the 2010’ election line which Labour supporters keep trotting out; it is possible given the Brighton Kemptown constituency takes in a slice of Lewes District (Telscombe and Peacehaven) which favours the LibDems (and Tories) and is not part of the city of Brighton and Hove, that the Greens may have pipped the LibDems into fourth place *within* the city boundaries; but we’ll never know as the ballot papers for Brighton Kemptown constituency are mixed up when counting.

      It is very likely that almost all the Green votes in the Kemptown constituency would have come from within the city boundaries and hardly any from the Lewes District end.

      It is statistically unsafe to suggest that the three constituency results and party vote totals are relevant to the city of Brighton and Hove as the boundaries are not coterminous.

      That won’t deter Labour supporters from trying to make such invalid points to hide the fact that they lost all three seats.

  4. Dr Faust, who is careless with apostrophes, is cavalier in apportioning blame for two Tory MPs being elected. He says that the Greens were against tactical voting in Hove and Kemp Town. Huh? In the same breath, Dr Faust trots out that feeble line of the Greens being last across the city.

    Which way does Dr Faust want it? Greens to blame for Labour’s misfortune or Greens completely useless?

    Labour certainly lost in Hove because its canvassers would not turn out for Celia Barlow. Could Dr Faust please explain that. Labour also became fixated upon Pavilion instead of realising that it could use its forces to better effect in Kemp Town and Hove.

    • I’m scratching my head over the supposed contradiction that Christopher points to in his first paragraph, above. Dr Faustus’s point – about the Green’s support being very, very localised in Pavilion – seems unarguable.

      However, it is indeed unreasonable to expect the Greens (or anyone else, come to that) to encourage tactical voting for another party. Not their job to do that.

      AV is a flawed system, but the fact that it will end the ‘forced choice’ of the current system is a good reason to back it.

      No argument with the BPB’s selection of Caroline Lucas, but another of Christopher’s points – that the election of a Green MP in Hove is ‘perfectly feasible’ is another head-scratcher. Well so it is, but that doesn’t mean that it’s at all likely to happen. The Green candidate for Hove in 2005 held onto his deposit by the skin of his teeth (5.2%), on a slightly falling vote, so nothing to get too excited about there.

      • The Greens’ support in Pavilion was not localised but pervasive.

        Clive’s study of statistics is wonky: the Green candidate in 2005 was not a him. And that was six years ago.

        Meanwhile, the overriding fact from last May’s Election is that Hove is not overwhelmingly Tory. Labour did not bother to canvass the area properly last year, and paid the price. I predict that the next General Election will see it as a four-way marginal.

      • correction third paragraph, fourth line – 2005 should read 2010, sorry.

        I meant that green support was local to Pavilion, as opposed to spread across Hove and Kemptown too. In the 2010 GE that’s unarguable.

    • I would accept that many Green supporters voted Labour in Kemptown and Hove, so overall support is likley to be greater, but to call something which is a fact a ‘feeble line’ seems somewhat perverse. I wouldn’t disagree about the fixation on Pavilion.

      The best hope for the implementation of more Green policies in the next decade is a Labour government in Westminster. We can all indulge in the certainties of opposition – but whilst we do that, the Tories will be running the country.

  5. The General Election was seven months ago. Things have changed since then.

  6. Today’s Independent reports a continuing slump in LibDem popularity. This has reached its lowest yet.

    Such Labour bods as Dr Faust must be very naive if they assume that the LibDem vote in Hove from the General Election will automatically go to them next time around.

    • The Independent poll shows the Lib Dems at 11% – some of YouGovs have had them at 8%. Apparently this hasn’t hit the low point of 1989-ish, but they do indeed look stuffed.

      Labour shouldn’t assume they will win Hove back of course, but on paper a majoirty of 1800, with a Lib Dem vote of 11.5k, ought to be achievable.

      The Greens winning Hove in one jump from 5.2% stretches credibility to breaking point. How often does that happen?

      Anyway, if the election is held on revised boundaries all bets are off. Depressingly enough, it could be hard for any non-Conservatives to get much traction outside central Brighton and Hove.

      In fact, if Hove gets augmented with bits of Southwick and Shoreham then the blogger may turn out to be right and Mr Weatherley may be around for years. What a lovely thought for a dank and damp January day.

  7. You have to be politically naive not to conclude that Caroline Lucas and the Greens were the BBC’s favourite alternative party during the elections.

    The BBC were quite clever in the way Caroline was on practically ever other political programme or news report, variously as an MEP, as the leader of the Greens in the EU, as the leader of the Greens in the UK and as a candidate in Brighton, where ever she went there was a BBC camera crew.

    As has been said the Greens failed miserably everywhere else and would just point out UKIP double their previous number of votes, in percentage terms better than all the other put together, were we to have a PR system of voting UKIP would have secured a minimum of 30 seats.

    Head of Media UKIP Swindon

  8. Caroline isn’t “the only non-Conservative in Sussex” as there are also two Liberal Democrat MPs. She is, however, the only opposition MP in Sussex.

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