Celia Barlow’s candidature in Central Hove makes this seat a three way marginal

When David Miliband was defeated by his brother Ed for the Labour Leadership, he announced that he would be withdrawing from front-line politics. He did not mean he would be resigning his seat in the Commons, withdrawing to become an academic at an Oxford college, or joining the lucrative lecture circuit in the United States (he may well be doing so for all I know). No, he meant that he would no longer be on the front bench. This description of ‘front line politics’ shows just how arrogant he has become, that it was his birthright to be leader of the party of his choice.

Does David Miliband have any idea what the real front line is like – those candidates going from door to door in wet and windy February and March, hoping to persuade the electorate to support them or, more than likely, someone else in the local elections. This is the real front line. David Miliband, and Ed as well, see knocking on a few doors when making a whistle-stop tour to Brighton, Hull or Swindon, as a photo opportunity that might secure them a few votes in an upcoming leadership election.

Is it any wonder that Labour in government became so detached from ordinary people when they see the cosy gentleman’s club of the Westminster Bubble as ‘the front line’.

Why do I mention this now? I wish to pay tribute to the decision of Celia Barlow, the former Labour MP for Hove and Portslade, who is standing for election to Brighton and Hove City Council on May 5th in Central Hove. I say good luck to Celia. Many former MPs see local government well beneath them after the have scaled the lofty heights of Westminster. I do not include David Lepper or Des Turner in this criticism. Both had given a lifetime of service as local councillors and had they not been elected to Parliament they would probably be thinking about hanging up their canvassing cards and Council gowns (oh, those were the days) about now anyway.

Celia said: “Politics is in my blood. I have been a member of the Labour Party since I was 16 and even served as a parish councillor in my time. I do not think it’s that unusual. I know of people in Parliament who have gone back to being councillors”. The last one I can think of locally, Celia, was Dennis Hobden when he lost his Kemptown seat to Andrew Bowden in 1970. But Dennis was not, I am told, your usual politician. Nor, in this respect is Celia.

Celia has a huge mountain to climb, and again this is to her credit that she has chosen a tough seat to fight. The two Labour candidates came seventh and eighth in Central Hove behind the Conservatives, Lib Dems and the Greens. Celia’s candidature should boost Labour because of name recognition (which is second only to Mr Pickwick himself, Christopher Hawtree, rumoured to have made the ultimate sacrifice by switching from the safe Green target of Rottingdean Coastal to Central Hove). Celia can certainly beat the Lib Dems. Let’s face it, anyone can beat the Lib Dems these days, even Leo Artreides who polled just 19 votes at the general election in Brighton Pavilion. We could have a situation where there is a split result. I think that Jan Young will hold on. Andrew Wealls, a decent Conservative (most at local government are), may yet again be a Tory candidate fighting the wrong seat at the wrong election. He was beaten by the unstoppable Alex Phillips in the Goldsmid by-election a couple of years ago. The Greens will have hopes of making a breakthrough here, especially if the Lib Dem vote does collapse as spectacularly as the polls suggest. And then there is Celia.

I think that it will be a split result, Jan Young and either Celia or a Green. But the Greens better get their skates on and decide who will be their ‘lead’ candidate is to be in Central Hove.

The final word goes to Jan Young, and she pays a huge compliment to Celia: “Of all the wards in all the city she had to choose mine”. Perhaps, if Celia is successful, along with Jan, it could be the start of a very beautiful friendship ….

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11 Responses

  1. It is very noble of Celia to demean herself into considering again local politics after the lofty heights of being an MP. But I ask myself why she hasn’t now been persuaded to take a ‘proper’ job, either in the public or private sector.

    Politics is exciting but the daily grind of work is imo the real world. We officers in the Wards are still involved in politics but during the day have to make a living.

  2. Jan Young quoted from Casablance, but I remain certain that Billy Wilder holds the key to this Election.

  3. I don’t think Celia is taking the election as seriously as you suggest, BPB.

    Her campaign website is just photos of a fat cat: http://www.celiabarlow.co.uk

    Which some might say is appropriate.

  4. I picked up a vibe last time round that the Tories were immensely relieved to hold on to this one. Not surprising really, as sociologically Central Hove can’t be that different these days from Brunswick & Adelaide, and the combined opposition vote was far, far ahead of theirs.

    Can I be the first to admit that Mr Hawtree’s Billy Wilder reference escapes me? I can only think of ‘nobody’s perfect’, but how does that fit?

    Chris’s Green colleague in CH was (last time I looked) slated to be Anthea Ballam, who was the Hove parliamentary candidate in 2005. Her campaign website then showed her to be firmly on the pro homoepathic medicine/astrology wing of the Greens. Speaking personally, I didn’t regard this as a recommendation, so I held my nose and voted for Celia, and I think I would probably do the same again here.

    • Not sure about homeoepathy/astrology but Anthea is spiritual. She’s very wise and level-headed mind you, and a kind gentle person. Anyway if that’s not your cup of tea don’t forget you have two votes in this ward in the local election.

  5. I really love how someone’s vote could boil down to be as irrelevant as homeopathy.

    Sure, I wouldn’t want such an individual to be a minister for health, but I bet they’ll do a bloody good job in another brief.

    • I take your point, sort of, though there is a wider context about the the retreat from reason and science – and I note that you don’t try to portray my point about astrology as ‘irrelevant’.

      But yes, this is a local council poll, and in 2005 we were talking about a general election, at which there were tactical considerations too.

      Fortunately I don’t actually live in Central Hove so I will be spared this painful dilemma!

  6. As far as am I aware, nothing is settled about Central Hove.

    More on Billy Wilder another time, perhaps.

  7. Can’t forget that Celia spent £28,000 of taxpayers’ money on refurbishing her bathrooms etc, when at the same time I had to pay for my work to my property from the savings from my salary.

  8. Nice to see Celia is not on expenses, even as a councillor.
    She was in it for what she could get out of it, and should give up politics for shameless expenses.
    I am Labour (Chichester CLP) and instead of supporting Celia, I worked elsewhere.
    This is what happens when you have all women shortlists.
    Who knows what better male candidate there would have been?
    -Neil Humphrey

  9. Well, actually I do, if anyone from Hove wants a candidate, I’ll do it, just so she can’t. £28K is more than a lot of people earn. And she already had a london place? what did she need a second home for?

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