Doorstep Brighton 17: On annual elections, Mary Mears’ ‘fear of Unison’, East Brighton Tories fight back, and Green spread into Patcham and beyond

Until the creation of the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove, there were annual elections in Brighton, with a third of the Borough Council up for election each year and councillors elected to serve for a four year term. One year in four there were no Borough Council elections, but elections to the County Council.

For activists, it must have been hard work and it must have been costly to the parties. But at least it kept democracy alive. 

Several people have said that the Mary Mears budget is merely a delaying tactic, to avoid cuts before May’s elections. Alex Knutsen of Unison wrote to his members this week that”if even on Notice of Redundancy letter is sent to a member we will go straight to a full strike ballot”, that strike action “in the run-up to the local elections in May … scares the hell out of them (councillors).”  Annual elections would ensure that such a ‘delaying tactic’ could not happen then, by politicians of any party.

Annual elections can mean that there is too  much uncertainty, that it is difficult for difficult decisions to be made because all parties are constantly thinking of the electoral consequences of all decisions.

Back to this year’s elections, Peter Booth has responded robustly to my ‘critique’ of the East Brighton Conservative’s website. “Delighted to comment and not to shy away from criticism!
1. You have commented many times in your blog about the decline of Brighton Labour – not having an updated website between the GE and now rather suggests that you are correct.
2. My main comment was concerning Mr Morgan’s assertion that we have loads of money to throw at a website. We do not!
3. It may surprise you to learn that many of the ‘settled’ residents of East Brighton have expressed their concerns about Traveller Encampments!
4. Sorry for your personal attacks – and cannot do much about the smiles – maybe we are just miserable about the state the Country was left in by
5. And as for being nasty….pot and kettle come to mind!”

Nice response, but then (as has been mentioned before) I’m not a candidate, not even in Rottingdean Coastal to reassure Christopher Hawtree.  And on the subject of Mr Booth, ‘Knickers in a Knot’ chastises Mr Booth for his earlier reference to Warren Morgan as ‘Mr Morgan’. “Its Councilor Morgan to you Mr. Booth.”

New correspondent, Marina72, also has critical words for Mr Booth: “East Brighton Conservatives should know that there is no need for an apostrophe in Photos. First impressions count.” I take it that Marina72 won’t be casting her vote for Mr Booth. How very sad!

Probably the most interesting observation in the last week comes from Luke Walter, a Green candidate in Hollingdean and Stanmer. While allowing for his Green-tinted glasses, I think he is on to something when exploring demographics in the City, and how Green voters may be moving out of traditional Green seats and into outlying areas, thereby making them marginal.  This could be a decisive factor in May.  I reproduce Luke’s analysis in full:

“We have to look at how wards across Brighton and Hove have changed over the past decade, but, let’s take the wards in the Pavilion constituency, for example. First, it deserves pointing out, that Brighton has one of the highest graduate retention rates in the country. If staying on in Brighton, most young people are likely to rent somewhere (likely to be in a house in multiple occupation) near the centre of town or mainline station of which St Peters and North Laine, and Hanover and Elm Grove cover a vast swathe. Worth noting that SPNL is one of the safest Green council wards in the whole country and thus the highest number of Green voters. Equally, HEG is considered safe for the Greens. Over the years these folks will then travel out to other parts of the city, perhaps renting a flat with their partner in Fiveways or similar. Thus, another potential Green voter in Preston Park or Hollingdean and Stanmer. If, for instance, they wished to start a family, they may look to upgrade into bigger accommodation and may have saved enough over the years to put down a mortgage on a property in one of the ‘northern’ wards. This might mean a house in Hollingdean, or even in Patcham or Withdean. This drift, backed up by all-year-round work by Green representatives, has consolidated the Green vote and made a number of council wards winnable for the Greens in May 2011. In some of these new wards, from our sampling at the General Election, we already know there are enough Green voters to win in May.”

Fascinating.  What do you think?

8 Responses

  1. What Luke’s describing is the start of the Greens benefiting from a process which the older parties rely upon – loyalty as they age and move. Makes sense to me (also wearing green specs).

  2. I have pointed to this too, and think that I am right but doubt if anybody is listening.

  3. If I were a Green activist/strategist I would be looking at Central Hove and Westbourne ahead of Patcham and Rottingdean, on the basis of social change – but also looking at the numbers from last time, which continue to have *some* relevance.

    Most of Hove now has a potential anti-Tory majority, and just needs a vigorous campaign to unite it more or less behind one party.

    • The Greens could overtake Labour in Westbourne.

      • But second place is first loser.

        I know there is a longer game at stake too, but my concern is to achieve a change of leadership at the council.

        Westbourne is trickier, but why Central Hove is considered a lesser priority to Rottingdean I fail to understand. You have sitting councillors in CH elected on less than 1000 votes each. This renders them very vulnerable.

  4. It’s a precarious situation out there. Clear anti-Tory sentiment, I sense a lack of clarity of where the the Liberal support will land, masons numbers of Green/Labour switchers. And who knows what they will do.

    Good canvassing for us lately but proving hard to crystallise the Labour vote as ever but it is so different from a year ago and the run up to the General Election. I am quite surprised the Greens aren’t doing more to protect their flank.

  5. Bloody spellcheck! Massive numbers!

    Also, I don’t disagree with Luke’s view of how Brighton and Hove is changing. But I would note that his critique of change relies on Labour being in govt. I think a coalition at Westminster combined with a Tory council locally is a salient difference on the doorstep in 2011.

  6. […] interesting observations about changing demographics in areas outside the town centre (see yesterday’s post).  He noted that Green supporters from the town centre wards are moving to more outlying areas […]

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