Labour lacks what it takes to win again in Brighton and Hove and needs someone like Steve Bassam to lead its recovery

One key factor in this May’s local elections is how well Labour in Brighton and Hove has recovered from last year’s general election defeats. Sadly, the same central Party organisation remains in place, and there is a lack of purpose permeating throughout the Party with a few notable exceptions.

In East Brighton, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and in Hangleton and Knoll, there are reasonable campaigns being run. The team in East Brighton have, in my estimation, the best campaign. In Hanover and Elm Grove, led by Tracey Hill, consistent campaigning is being undertaken, but the challenge facing the Labour team here is too great and the Green campaign will, ultimately, produce a substantial Green victory.

Queens Park remains the seat where Labour migh justbtake a seat from the Greens is characterised by the exhaustive campaigning by Tom French. But round the clock campaigning in the six weeks leading up to polling day will not counter four years consistent service by Green councillors.

Hangleton and Knoll has a massive factor that is absent from all other campaigns being run by Labour. That is the Fitch Factor (Brian, that is. Harris, you don’t have it …yet).

In some seats in the heart of Hove, the candidates are out and about. Celia Barlow and Simon Battle are seasoned campaigners, and will do well on a personal level. There is a sense of impending defeat in Hollingdean and Stanmer, but the Lepper Machine (along with the machine is East Brighton) can be relied on to fight to the last moment. Whether it can save more than Jeane Lepper is something I doubt.

In other areas, such as Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, St Peters and North Laine, Regency, and Brunswick and Adelaide, the campaigns are struggling. Out of these, the campaign in Regency is the strongest, not least because of the candidates James Asser and Dan Wilson, both excellent candidates who should be offered more winnable seats in the future. Apart from the determined Anne Freeman, there is little evidence of a campaign team. In St Peters and North Laine, the lack of organisation is disguised by the energy and profile of the youngest candidate, Clare Calder. In Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, and in Brunswick and Adelaide, the Labour campaigns can be characterised by ….. well nothing, really.

The real problem for Labour is the absence of an inspirational leader and of some fire in the belly of the local organisation. The one thing that you can rely on to get Labour activists going is to mention Caroline Lucas. What is needed is someone who can articulate a vision (and it isn’t coming from Ed Milliband). Why should people join Labour locally, and why should they become active. The Greens articulate a vision, are active and offer what feels like an alternative.

Warren Morgan, Craig Turton, Tracey Hills, Simon Battle, Brian Fitch, Clare Calder, James Asser, Dan Wilson and Celia Barlow, to name a few, are assets for Labour, but Labour needs two or three hundred activists thing, and thirty or forty candidates who are well known and energetic. Instead, the same old faces dominate, and nothing new is heard from them. Gill Mitchell is more than able, but is yet to reach beyond party and Council structures and become recognised by ordinary people in the way that someone like Steve Bassam was. Steve knew how to organise and to mobilise, and someone like Steve is just what Labour needs if it is to recover in the face of the spreading Green tide.

18 Responses

  1. Its strange that in the safest Labour seat they have the best campaign! Maybe they need to target their resources a bit better.

    My other thought is how do you have such good knowledge of all the campaigns in all the wards BPB??? The political parties would pay a fortune to be as well informed about the opposition as you are.

  2. Going about the central zone this weekend I saw the Lib Dems, Greens and Conservatives, no sign of Labour. Once again BPB is on the money.

    Have you seen Jo Heard’s Banner in Hangleton? Rumour is that there is still a house behind a massive banner that has appeared. Jo may be Independent now but looks like she is as dynamic and ever present as before. If she wins will they put her back onto the No 5 Bus?

  3. Why thank you very much. I’m more than happy to agree with your asessment that the Labour campaign in my ward outstrips anything my colleagues are doing elsewhere.Everyone should believe that.Definitely.

    As someone who goes doorknocking with Gill Mitchell several times a week, I’d have to disagree with the assertion that she is not well known.

    And I think that once again you are putting too much weight on local factors and paying far too little heed to both election results elsewhere (yes, even in Green areas) and national polling which has Labour seven to ten points ahead of the Tories.

    We shall see who is right in five weeks time…

    • Ed Miliband is not popular on the doorsteps, except perhaps with tribal Labour voters. A lot of people say they don’t really know what Labour stands for any more. They do like the Green agenda, admire our party leader and Brighton MP and acknowledge our energy and vitality locally. As I’ve said before, Labour won’t benefit from the mild swing shown in national opinion polls because voters have a better option in Brighton & Hove.

      ps friendly tip, why not pace yourself over these final five weeks and save some energy for the last frenetic week!

    • I had previously thought of East Brighton as a safe Labour seat.

      However, having seen the strong campaign being run by the Conservative candidates, and witnessing the results on the doorstep, I think Warren and co will need to run a better than “reasonable” campaign to hold their seats.

      Otherwise I fear Warren may be watching his beloved Annual Council vote on who leads the City Council from the public gallery!

  4. About the only ward you don’t mention is Preston Park, can we now narrow your residence down to anywhere in B&H, bar Preston Park?!

    • Judging by the, normally almost useless, evidence of posters – here in PP I would say that Labour are ahead quite clearly at this stage, but I still expect the same result as last time.

  5. I have seen no great enthusiasm for Labour on the doorsteps. The assertion from most residents is that the current situation is Labour’s mess but, the Tories are doing a bad job of cleaning it up.

    Labour have only just joined the campaign in H&S and choose to go negative. When a sitting Labour councillor laughed at a woman’s commitment to voting Green, she gave that councillor a good piece of her mind.

    Given Caroline’s win last May, voters feel more empowered to dismiss a lot of Labour lies on the doorstep. They’ve had enough of being told that a vote for the Greens is wasted, or a vote for the Greens lets the Tories in. That doesn’t wash anymore.

    It is great to see a more confident electorate, something all political parties should welcome.

  6. I really hope that Mr Morgan and Steampunk continue to pace themselves up the finishing point in 5 weeks time!
    Get with the programme…..the election is in 3 1/2 weeks time…..I suggest the reason that Labour has “the best campaign” in East Brighton (their last ward they control in Kemp Town) is because they are having to fight hard against our active and energetic campaign! I continue to believe from the reaction on the doorsteps, that we can win here!

  7. Well, five weeks time is when Annual Council votes who leads the city for the next five years. I expect Labour to be the largest party, if not the majority party.

    I’ve huge respect for Bill Randall – it’s Bill who leads the Greens on the city council, not Caroline Lucas – but I’m not sure he has the same profile as Steve Bassam either. And I don’t think the Greens have anything like the same vision that Steve had for moving the city forward in terms of major projects and inward investment.

    • Hang on, if you’re saying that Labour will be the largest party on the council on May 6th (as if!) but the final outcome will not be known until a vote at Annual Council on May 19th, does that mean there is a possibility that some Labour members are going to abstain on this crucial matter?

  8. As one of the Labour candidates in SPNL I would like to assure BPB that our campaign is very much alive and well.

    I’m running for the first time and I am most impressed with the organisation of our substantial campaign team with it’s wealth of experience. We have a number of ex Councillors and ex Candidates as part of the team and their experience has been invaluable.

    We have been door knocking routinely since before Christmas, have loads of enthusiam, and are enjoying meeting the voters.

    My personal experience is that eventually hard work is rewarded, based on that, results should be very encouraging for Labour.

    regards to all


    • Pete, I wish you well in SPNL but you have a mountain to climb. If you or one of your colleagues come within 500 votes of the Greens you will have done well. Might not be a bad thing to give the Greens a scare in their backyard in the same way it would be good if the Greens were to give the Tories a scare in Patcham and Withdean. Complacency is a bad thing in politics which is why I say Yes to AV.

  9. An earlier topic on this Blog raised the subject of names on the comments section.

    As I pointed out, in a comment, I do not write – or writhe – under any other moniker.

    However, if I were ever tempted to have done so, it would be as Yakushova – under orders from Billy Wilder, who thereby has his finger on the Election pulse. This thought came to me in one of those strange waking moments.

    His script, with Charles Brackett, for Ninotchka is matchless. Essentially, with a stern Garbo arriving in Paris from Russia, it is about a transformation of sensibilities.

    I should not give away too much here, but even so, as a vegetarian, one of my favouite movie lines ever is the moment when Ninotchka goes into a Paris restaurant and asks for a vegetarian dish, at which the owner expostulates that he runs a restauant, “not a meadow”.

    Anyway, things change, there’s a glorious moment, all around a hat… and the thing is that few ever remember that Ninotchka’s surname, created by Wilder, is… Yakushova.

    I now fully expect that Paul Elgood, in defending his patch against such momentous change, will start a Petition to have some Brunswick thoroughfare renamed Yakushova – and even promise to wear such a hat at the unveiling.

  10. Being learned from my dear Uncle, and the knowledge is being spread around to other candidates, have no fear!

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