I have referred in previous posts to the ‘Caroline Effect’ – how the election of Caroline Lucas has changed, and is changing, the face of politics in Brighton and Hove. I was wrong. There isn’t a ‘Caroline Effect’, there are several ‘Caroline Effects’.
Effect 1: galvanising anti-Tory opposition. Many tribal Labour supporters, like me, alienated by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, student fees, privatisation (to mention just a few) have yet to regain confidence in Labour. Labour is burdened by its record in office and support for cuts. “We wouldn’t have gone so far so soon” is hardly a rallying cry to galvanise people who are angy. Ed Milliband is yet to inspire, so too Labour’s leaders in Brighton and Hove. By contrast, Caroline Lucas is able to articulate an alternative (regardless of whether she will ever be called on to implement a programme). Because of Caroline’s leadership, the Greens continue to have momentum.
Effect 2: inspiring a generation of activists. Talking to young activists, many of whom either have not been active before or have been involved in single issue campaigns, are hitching their wagon to the Green Party because of Caroline Lucas. Who is Labour’s alternative. Locally there is nobody. Nationally there is no Labour leader who can hope to rival Caroline Lucas.
Effect 3: demolishing the two party monopoly in Brighton and Hove. There is a viable alternative to Labour in Brighton and Hove (and it isn’t the Lib Dems). Labour threw everything into its attempt to stop Caroline Lucas last May, including compromising its reputation for honesty. It failed and its scare tactic has undermined the loyalty that many showed Labour last time. Its dishonesty continues in this election each time Labour distorts election results in a crude attempt to mislead the electorate.
Effect 4: infuriating Labour activists. Speaking to many Labour activists there remains a pathological obsession with the Evil Princess and All Her Works. Labour will continue to flounder until it can get over Caroline Lucas’ success and until it can offer an alternative as attractive (politically and in style) as Caroline Lucas. A further problem for Labour is the number of young Green women activists who are emerging out of Caroline’s long shadow. They include Alex Phillips and Amy Kennedy.
Labour has missed a chance this year by leaving all its existing councillors in place, particularly in winnable seats. They have the stale pal our of defeat hanging around them. There are some young Labour activists who could have won seats (including some which I have predicted that Labour will lose). Instead, some Labour councillors have decided to cling on to the cost of the Party.
NG demonstrates the desperate lengths that anti-Lucas activists are now going to. He recently left the following comment: “There are two issues which are going to damage her and possibly Green candidates in the local elections: 1) her support for votes for rapists and murderers, and 2) her continuing to maintain her main family residence overseas in order that her children can attend a private school.” Utter tosh. This reference to the votes for prisoners is one that has challenged politicians of all parties. To characterise this as “votes for rapists and murderers is gutter politics of the lowest order. My suggestion to NG is to get out of the sewers and offer something positive.
Because of the Caroline Effects, the Greens will continue to go from strength to strength in Brighton. Until Labour activists get over Caroline’s success and begin to offer an attractive alternative, Labour will continue to flounder. Reaction to this blog will reveal whether Labour has learned anything and is moving forward.