Jeane Lepper and Dawn Barnett, two councillors who will stick in there like chewing gum on you shoe

Councillor Sven Rufus is normally a wise owl. As a seasoned campaigner he downplays the prospects of his party, the Greens, doing particularly well in Hollingdean and Stanmer where he is a candidate. But he just doesn’t get the Jeane Effect!  He writes: “I’m ever grateful for your certainty it will be a good result for the Greens – but I do disagree with you about why we won’t/can’t take the third seat. You constantly tell us that there is a strong personal vote for Jeane Lepper, and that will carry her across the line. I wonder what you base that on?”  The Ghost of Nobby Clarke plays down the importance of a personal vote: “Personal votes didn’t help Messrs Bodfish & Burgess 4 years ago did it in Queens Park?”.

Tonight I will explore the concept of a personal vote.  Where you have a councillor who is diligent in their case work, and who has been around for many years, as in the case of Jeane Lepper, constituents will vote for the person rather than the party.  Jeane will have helped many hundreds of residents of Hollingdean and Stanmer with what some activists might dismiss as pavement politics. Where there has been a noisy neighbour, Jeane will have intervened.  When someone’s son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter, has not got into the school of their choice, Jeane will have written a letter, even represented them at an appeal. She will have lobbied on planning applications, helped with housing applications, even raised issues about dog shit and bent lamp posts.  For individual residents, these issues matter, and as an effective councillor (as opposed to high profile) she will have made a difference to the lives on several hundred individual households. 

It is that history and record, to answer the Wise Owl’s question, is what I base my forecast on. The Lepper name, too, will help enormously, since David Lepper was an exceptionally diligent constituency MP.  He may not have set Westminster alight, unlike his successor, Caroline Lucas, but he was (is) well known and highly respected by ordinary constituents.

So what about Queens Park? Why did the personal vote not save Ken Bodfish and Simon Burgess.  The answer is simple.  They represented an administration that had become arrogant and detached from the lives of ordinary people.  They were seen to have been associated with, even responsible for, many ill-fated initiatives from the mayoral campaign, schools admissions, and the Council house debacle. Their prominence as the successive leaders of the Council over-shadowed anything they may have done as ward councillors.  Other leading politicians have not neglected their own constituents (I don’t think Simon did).  Other good examples are Mary Mears, Maria Caulfield and Bill Randall who work conscientiously on case work and who come across with humility and not the arrogance that characterised (perhaps unfairly some might say) the Queens Park Mafia.

Steve Bassam was another who knew where his base lay.  An exceptional case worker, he may have become a very divisive figure in the town and within Labour, but he never came anywhere near losing his power base in Tenantry Ward even though it was, I understand, the heartland of Militant.  If  Hangleton and Knoll returns to Labour, it won’t be a clean sweep.  Dawn Barnett, who knows every household down to the name of their late and much missed pet dog, will stick in there like chewing gum on your shoe.  Labour will just not be able to get rid of her, and the Greens will not be able to get rid of Jeane Lepper.

Who else, current or former councillors, would you say is/was a great ward councillor whose personal votes would see them through, thick or thin?

14 Responses

  1. The Blogger’s new item has overlapped with my comment upon the previous one.

    There is much to be said about any Councillor’s necessarily unsung work upon residents’ concerns.

    And, of course, about the lack thereof…

    The question could, then, equally be: which Councillors have taken it all for granted?

    Do I hear the phrase “Rottingdean Coastal” rise above the waves?

  2. BPB,

    Take this, if you will. With many new residents moving to Hollingdean between 2007 and 2011, many of whom being affluent people without the need to call upon a councillor to pursue an issue or concern on their behalf, will they really feel the ‘Lepper effect.’ I doubt it.

    I don’t see any evidence of this being the case. Labour have no action team in the ward. Instead, Jeanne et al, have decided to jump on the Green bandwagon and pursue issues where residents have approached the Greens on.

    When you’ve been in the game for as long as Jeanne has, you can get complacent, you don’t bother knocking on doors and you spend too much time worrying about what the opposition are up to.

    We Greens of Hollingdean and Stanmer have got on with the task at hand, namely, returning three Green councillors.

  3. The tories will find a ward is winnable if they Get Out Their Vote by doing as near damn it as a 100% canvass as they can and a leaflet drop in the last 12-24 hours before the polls open, the Green voters tend to be dare i say it fanatical about making sure they get to the polling booth and the Labour voters smell the first chance to give the coalition a kick where it hurts, Both Warren Morgan and Luke have hit on the Complacent issue and I think that may have seen for Bodfish and Burgess, so will the 3 old Labour war Horse’s of H&S have the footsoldiers to get them doors knocked up to get out their vote…Will the likes of Dan Wilson & Co leave the Gun Nests of Regency Ward before a new episode of “Mr & Mrs” begins or will the Unions step up like they did for B&H Labour Movement at the GE.

  4. As the consequences of the government’s cuts start to hit the people of Brighton they WILL be associating Tories with something that sticks to your shoes but it won’t be chewing gum.

  5. By common consent Joyce Edmond-Smith was a hard working and popular councillor in Hanover. This saved her in 2003 but not in 2007 when the pro-Green, had-enough-of-Labour tide was too strong.

    Personal votes only count for so much, but this time the way the tide is running between Labour and the Greens isn’t entirely clear.

    Still on the personal angle, of the literature so far recieved in Goldsmid, only the Greens have bothered to include any personal details about the candidates.

    I find it odd that parties don’t push the personal experience and qualifications of candidates more. A few words on that would be worth a million pictures of them gurning at misplaced communal bins or grinning next to local landmarks.

    Speaking of which, the Goldsmid Tories are pictured outside the Poirot-esque wonder of Furze Croft, which is centrally located and offers 2, 3 and 4 bedroom flats, benefitting from a communal heating system and distant sea views.

  6. Ghost of Nobby Clarke is right, if the tide is against you and your Party is unpopular, no amount of personal vote will get you elected, with the possible exception of a low turnout two member ward, but even those have a high turnover of voters so personal votes are harder to build.

    Casework diligence is not always a guarantee, certainly ffrom my experiences in an MPs office, many of the people seeking help were often not even registered to vote.

    Joyce is a good example of a popular councillor being ousted in a national swing against Labour, as Mary Mears was from the precursor of my ward in the swing against the Tories in the 1990s.

    Having said all that, look at the results from last time and see how many wards were decided by just a few votes – less than a hundred in many cases. It is then that a personal vote matters.

    Don’t forget that the ward boundaries we currently have were drawn up by the Boundary Commission around 10 years ago, based largely on the recommendations of a Tory with a good eye for what makes a safe seat, what makes a marginal, and where demographic changes would steer wards away from Labour.

  7. It might seem coincidental, but it’s worth noting that female candidates polled better in most of the three councillor wards in the last couple of elections. They often build stronger personal votes. Lynda Hyde is another with a strong personal vote, as is Amy Kennedy and (was) Rachel Fryer, who will be a loss to the council. Pat Drake had a good personal vote in Withdean, but her retirement might open things up for another party (most likely Greens) to build more support from the south of the ward, probably not enough to win a seat though. On that note, my prediction is Con 23, Green 17, Lab 13 LD 1. The Conservatives and Greens both now have pretty solid bases. I can’t see the Tories adding many more unless they have a flier and nab any in the Portslades and Moulsecoomb Bevendean. If the Greens have a good day they even take a few more, but they seem to have lost some of their buzz from last year and I’m not convinced Caroline Lucas is making them more popular locally. Labour is an interesting one, if they have a good day they could make gains in the Portslades, Hangleton and Moulsecoomb and a symbolic fightback against the Greens in Queens Park. If they have a bad day they could be almost wiped out by the Tories in the Portslades, Hangleton and Moulsecoomb and the Greens in Preston Park and Hollingdean. Paul Elgood , another with a strong personal vote, will survive and if there was any justice so would David Watkins. He probably won’t though. And Hawtree will royally irritate Mears and David Smith in Rottingdean but remain a member of the public gallery…

    • I am not convinced that Paul Elgood has a “personal” vote. or it he does, then it is the difference of three hundred between his vote and David Watkins’s. Also the notable fact about Brunswick is that there is a rapidly changing population.

      A whole bunch of people have moved in there, and I rather doubt that this was because estate agents, even those who are not standing in Goldsmid, put among the details “gas-fired central heating, share of freehold, in Paul Elgood’s ward”.

      That might make some people haggle all the more over the asking price.

      What has also emerged is that the Tories are giving Brunswick a bit of welly, and so that means that Elgood has not been able to prevail upon his Tory masters to ease off the ward in the hopes of a few more votes.

      Hence his voting against their Budget.

      As for Lynda Hyde, I find in Rottingdean that residents are miffed at her being preoccupied by Planning work. Word is that Mary Mears will stand down as leader of the Tories and that Dee Simson has an eye on it as, of course, does YouTube star, the ever-hopeful Geoffrey Theobald. Of course, that hangs on the results, and if Maria Caulfield has an eye on it, then Moulescoomb becomes all the more of a battleground.

      • 300 votes out of 900-odd is the kind of personal vote that many councillors would give their eye teeth for, surely?

        Picking up on Charlie’s point – it is noticeable that all the women councillors you mention with good personal votes have surnames that come from the early(ish) part of the alphabet. I think it is fairly well accepted that candidates do better the higher up the ballot paper they are.

        So the key to the election is nothing to do with Billy Wilder, and everything to do with having a name like Amelia Aardvark.

  8. Isn’t Mr Hawtree standing in Central Hove now?

  9. Oh, didn’t you know……

  10. You should consider it Chris, if there is still time!

    I agree with a previous comment from Clive, a Green win in Central Hove is much more achievable than one in Rottingdean (or Pavilion wards such as Patcham or Withdean for that matter) when you take into account the likely collapse of the Lib Dem vote. Plus you would have the double satisfaction of taking a Tory seat and defeating an embarrassed ex-Labour MP who was caught up in the expenses scandal…

  11. This makes me all the more certain that Billy Wilder holds the key to the Election. He saw it clearly.

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