Exploring the Green breakthrough in Preston Park and Labour’s successful defence

Councillor Warren Morgan has pointed out a basic error I made in a recent post when I talked of the election of Green councillor Amy Kennedy as a ‘breakthrough’ result. He asks “Why was Amy Kennedy’s result in Preston Park in 2007 ‘unexpected’? The Green’s had won a seat in 2003 with Richard Mallender, who I think then went off to be a councillor elsewhere.”

You are right, as usual, Warren, and I apologise for this error. However, I don’t agree with his next comment that “the unexpected thing at that point was that unlike in other wards previously where they had established a foothold, the Greens did not go on to win all three seats. In fact the other two Green candidates (including the then serving councillor Simon Williams who moved a la Sven Rufus) finished a good four to five hundred votes behind.”

My recollection was that the Greens, rightly at that time, felt that the prospects of winning more than one seat in that election were remote. They therefore concentrated their efforts on getting Green Amy elected. Warren points out that the two sitting Labour councillors, Juliet McCaffery and Kevin Allen had gained popularity over the school admissions debacle. That is no longer a live issue.

Allie Cannell points out that 4 years is a long time in electoral terms. Yes, Warren, the Greens success has largely been achieved at a time of an unpopular Labour government, but locally there’s the Caroline Effect which off-sets any reclaiming by Labour of lost ground. A line that Labour has spun in the past is a vote fornthe Greens could see a Tory elected. That line will no longer wash.

In fact, I have spoken to people who voted Labour at the general election because they believed the Labour line that a vote for Lucas would result in the election of Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Vere. When Caroline was elected, they felt cheated and several people have said to me that, even though they would normally vote Labour, this election they will be voting Green to make up for not having voted Green last time.

In Preston Park it is a fight between Labour and the Greens, and I believe that the Greens will make a gain here. Similarly, the Greens will also make a breakthrough in Hollingdean and Stanmer for this and other reasons.

9 Responses

  1. BPB – you mention the School Admissions as being key in PP last time round. For me, the Green Party lost all credibility in claiming to be the voice of a ‘New Politics’ with their stand on the issue. They had a perfect opportunity to make the catchment area of Falmer School more broad based, but bottled it, and had to shuffle the more principled Richard Mallender off the Committee, because they feared for the effect in Queens Park. Totally cyncial, old politics.

    The result was that they lost the chance to make two (certainly previously expected) additional gains in Preston Park in order to make three in Queens Park. Of course Labour were equally cynical – but I would expect nothing less from them.

    Juliet McCaffrey and Kevin Allen were re-elected on an essentially anti-Labour ticket, not only in relation to the Schoold Admissions, but also the Hollingdean Waste Transfer Station. Both may be relatively dead as issues now, but Juliet and Kevin have had four more years of building support, and The Green Party, having thrown Labour a lifeline in PP, lost some momentum.

    Hundreds of votes were cast last time for Independent candidates in respect of the issues above, including my own. Where these came from, and will go this time, will be crucial.

    Completely unscientific, but I understand from people at the count at the GE that Preston Park was probably marginally Labour.

    I expect the result to be the same as last time. If The Green Party do take an extra seat then I see no reason why they wouldn’t take all three.

    I don’t really believe the line about people feeling cheated out of voting Green. I could equally say that many Green Party voters from the GE will return to Labour in May, and there certainly will be some. The dynamics are different, as there is a real prospect of the Green Party winning control of the Council, whereas they were never going to form the Government. That could be more of a reason for voting for them – or not.

  2. I’d like to get in here quick with my #Yes2AV hat on – and (if any one needs convincing) point out that AV would completely do away with every “vote for us or you’ll be letting in xyz” argument you have ever been pestered with!

    So whatever else you do with your vote — say ‘Yes to AV’.

    I despise the Greens anti-libertarian controlling bent – but Lucas does speak some sense on reform of political admin/procedure. And she was kind enough to give me a pic and quote to add her (and the greens) to the local ‘yes 2 av’ campaign…

  3. The struggle for the Greens before was the domino effect… or lack of it. I noticed in the months before the general election that some people were not intending to vote Green because they didn’t think they could win. Once that concern was allayed ……
    Where the Greens have one they can win 3. It’s obvious. They have no great history locally, but they now have presence. It may not be a good election for Labour, not because of anything they have or haven’t done, but simply because of this new and fairly unique situation. Voting Green is chic in Brighton, and may be for a while yet.

  4. Just to say, other than being doorstepped before Christmas by Jeanne Lepper I’ve still not seen any campaiging or canvassing on my street in H&S. Can I expect some action soon?

    I also think that people feeling ‘cheated’ out of their last green vote and so voting green this time is a bit of a tenuous argument. People vote on the basis of the election they are going into, not the last one. I still think you are underplaying the national impact, and more’s the point the focus in the run up to the local election is going to be the AV issue – that’s going to get all the airtime in the national press. As such it might have an influence on how people vote in this local election because they will fail to disaggregate the issues. I’m just not sure how it might affect things yet (my worry is it might actually bolster Tory support if they are seen to be the leaders of a no to AV campaign which I think most people will support – me included).

    • HP: Out of interest, why are you supporting the No to AV campaign?

      Paul Perrin is right – the removal of the forced choice is the crucial reason to support AV.

      Speaking for myself, the biggest local questions I have about the Greens – who I feel inclined to vote for in the locals – are:

      1. Can they balance a budget, especially a shrinking one?

      2. Will they show the necessary degree of party cohesion to implement their manifesto?

      3. Will they do a deal with Tories, who I do not want to vote for by proxy again, thank you very much.

      I lived in Oxford in early 2000s, which was briefly ruled by a Green/Lib Dem coalition. They blamed Labour for spending all the money (sound familiar?) but made some very strange economies – eg introducing a hefty charge for collection of bulk waste, leading to an instant fly tipping problem.

      Under annual elections, they were turfed out within a year, and the Greens are now reduced to just two seats on the city council.

      • Interesting questions, Clive. I’m interested to hear the answers too.

        I guess the answer to question 1 can be found at http://www.jasonkitcat.com/2011/03/alternative-green-budget-201112/

        I haven’t studied this, or the Tory budget, in detail, but I think I prefer the Green priorities to the Tory ones.

        I would rather see a defiant budget that doesn’t pass on any government cuts to local people, and this isn’t that, but it’s an improvement.

      • Why no to AV? – in a large part because I believe in the law of unintended consequences. I don’t really think the electoral system is that badly broken and so attempts to fix it might result in unplanned and unfortunate outcomes. Having worked in the past for councils, I know that in any political setting a clear ruling pary is preferable to a coalition.

        Also, a ‘no’ vote will piss on the Lib Dem’s chips (a result in itself!) and once that ship has sailed what is there for them to stay in coalition with the Tories for other than to chip away further at their decemated voter base? It might hasten a disolution of the govt.

      • HP: hardly any votes matter under the present UK electoral system – just a few thousand in swing constituencies. As well as eliminating forced choice, AV will make many more constituencies competitive.

        When criticising coalitions, remember that the current governing train-wreck came about as a result of an FPTP election, which gave the Tories 46% of the seats on 36% of the vote. Not what democracy looks like.

        I can understand your desire to wipe the smirk of Clegg’s face, but I’d far rather do the same to Cameron, because I can tell which one is the monkey and which one is the organ grinder.

        If we get AV through, Cameron’s right wing headbangers will go apeshit. They are the people who have the power to break this coalition.

        Whatever the result of the AV referendum, the only thing the hapless Lib Dems can do now is sit tight until 2015 like Mr Micawber, and hope that something turns up. If they were to force an election in May they’d be down to less than 20 MPs.

  5. I am one of these lefty Green/Labour swing voters, but just to say wholeheartedly agree with UKIP Paul Perrin about AV. Voting YES to AV will remove all this ‘can’t vote for them cos it will let so n so in’ nonsense. AV for Westminster and hopefully the next local elections in B&H will be with preference voting and be tactical voting free.

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