Is it time to consider tactical voting for May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove?

Can Brighton and Hove afford another four years with a minority administration? It might come as something of a surprise to many that I think the Tories have not done too badly as the administration for the last few years. Much of what they have done I can applaud, other things not. I have found all the Tories with whom I have engaged open and friendly. They have been prepared to listen. On the other hand, they seem to have two obsessions – with the motor car and with a minuscule cut in the Coucil Tax.

It is the young Tory candidates (in particular Momma Grizzly and The Estate Agent) who believe that the insignificant Council Tax cut is likely to put fire in the bellies of ordinary folk in Hollingdean and Stanmer and in Goldsmid wards. There seems to be collective denial that the savage cuts being imposed by the Coalition government might provoke a more negative reaction for them. They are fortunate that much of the anger has been channelled into two related issues – university fees and Education Maintenance Allowance – and that most of the anger is focused on the spineless Nick Clegg and his Yellow Band of Traitors. (Do you really think that I, on occasions, allow my feelings for the Lib Dems to show – damn them all to hell?).

Central government cuts are yet to bite fully, but when they do, the Tories will experience their own special pain. The Lib Dems will experience pain all too soon as they line up on May 5th with a request to voters: “Please punish me, and please make it hurt …. a lot”. (I believe that there have been Tory MP’s, no one current, who have paid good money for such services).

So, from a tactical voting perspective, who should be supported? Labour has little chance of forming an administration in May. If they stand still they will have done very well. They will pick up the odd seat here and there, but are likely to lose the same number, if not more, seats.

I’m therefore advocating a mass tactical vote in favour of the LIB DEMS. I’m sorry, I’ll type that again. I’m advocating a mass tactical vote AGAINST the Lib Dems. I don’t know what came over me there.

The Greens, for several years, the party in the ascendency, should end up with at least 20 seats, but with some tactical voting they could edge up to the magic 27. I am not advocating votes for Greens in seats where they don’t have a monkey’s chance of winning. No, I would still encourage Labour votes in those wards.

Should the Greens fail to reach 27, I hope that a coalition between the Greens and Labour might be achievable. Being the junior partner in such a coalition administration might be exactly what Labour needs – a reminder that they have lost the confidence of the people of Brighton and Hove. Labour councillors and activists should begin building for 2015, showing humility and respect, not least for Caroline Lucas and what she represents. Labour hopefuls could do a lot worse that listening to and learning from her. (I now await the predictable tirade from Labour activists that follows whenever I make such observations).

Does this make me a Green? Absolutely not. I remain torn between both parties and I expect to be voting for at least one Labour candidate in May. But I am impressed by my dealings with several Green councillors and activists and, of course, by Caroline Lucas herself. But the Greens have huge challenges ahead, not least how to respond to cuts being imposed from central government. Their talent ranges from the inner serenity and wisdom of the Buddha himself (Bill Randall), the experience of Pete West, the talent and discipline of Green Amy (not to mention her tasteful range of Stassi tabards), and the youthful potential, passion and energy of Lady Everton (Alex Phillips).

The election campaign is fascinating, but so too will be what emerges after May 6th.

21 Responses

  1. But people will remember that the national Labour Party was still going to impose cuts of £14 billion now as opposed to £16 billion by the Tory/Lib coalition. This still would have resulted in similar cuts by local government. They will also remember the huge debts built up under the Labour government and the electorate probably won’t trust them yet with the economy (national & local). The Torys had this problem after 1997 by their previous decision to go into the ERM resulting economic crisis.

    The electorate are probably also skeptical in voting for a party who do not want to see cuts in taxes. Would the Greens be able to form a pact with Labour when they were opposed to the recent local budget? I also wonder whether enough of them will be taken in by the Green’s soft exterior and not be put off by their slightly anarchist, pro tax raising stance. The Greens will certainly pick up the student and liberal Central Brighton vote, but not many in the outlying wards, which are quite conservative.

    It will be an interesting election result anyway.

    • Outlying wards conservative? Linda F. has not been studying the demographics. Geography meets biology, one might say.

      This Election is certainly interesting, and the next one perhaps all the more so.

  2. So, if someone spends most weekends trainspotting, encourages everyone they meet to go trainspotting, buys trainspotting magazines and gets weak kneed at the thought of a steam locomotive, but occasionally goes on a birdwatching holiday, they are not a trainspotter?

    Look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am a Green” and drop this pretence of independence. It’s become about as convincing as the emails we get occasionally from people saying “I’m a lifelong Labour voter and was going to cast my vote for you at the next election but because of your despicable x/y/z I shall now be voting Green”. These are always from people who have had Green posters up for the past two elections.

    I’d still like to know how and where the Greens are going to get 18 seats from, never mind 20. They are campaigning in just 8 wards, little over half the number the other two parties are actively contesting. They would have to more than quadruple their vote in several wards like mine where they have so far not even put out a leaflet in order to win anywhere near a majority.

    I would question whether the Greens even want to win. They know that being in office will mean some difficult choices faced with new cuts this financial year on top of the ones in the Budget, plus £20m cuts in each of the next two years imposed by the Tory govt. As their fantasy manifesto shows, they are not prepared to face up to tough decisions and may well prefer opposition. We will see what the Greens do if they are faced with being the junior partner in a Lab/Green coaltion – a far more likely result.

    • Rattled.

    • Hi Warren, you ignored the bit where I said I would probably be voting for at least one Labour candidate in the ward where I live. It could even be more – as long as Labour doesn’t use the dishonest table showing distorted, dishonest and misleading results from the general election. Tomorrow I will detail where the Greens will get their seats. There are a couple of wards (Hanover and Elm Grove and St Peters and North Laine) where the Tories and Lib Dems (have I ever intimated I’m not keen on the Lib Dems?) are so far away that there is no need for tactical voting. For residents in those wards I would encourage people to vote according to their conscience. I suspect these wards will still return 6 Green councillors. BPB

      • BPB – please calm down about the bar graph of the GE result. The figures are accurate, not dishonest – the use made of them may be a matter of opinion, but as I pointed out yesterday the Green Party are using a graph of the GE result to show that they are ‘ahead in Preston Park’ – which is dishonest and misleading.

    • “The last two elections”

      Maybe that’s where Labour started going wrong!

    • “Warren Morgan and the Despicable X/Y/Z” could be a great name for a band should you need a new career after the election. But I agree with BPB, I reckon you’ll make it through in East Brighton : )

      • I would go a bit further than saying that Warren will make it through in East Brighton. I suspect he will get a stonking great majority, and deserved it is too.

  3. I cannot see the Greens getting more than 20 seats, but they won’t be the junior partner.

    (and I am a Labour Party member who is backing the Labour Queens Park campaign and has two Labour Party posters in his window-so I’ll give the mirror a miss tomorrow as I’ve put on a few pounds recently)

  4. What Warren says about Green oppositionism strikes a chord. I thought the post from steampunk a few months back was highly revealing – he/she wrote of ‘reducing the Tory majority’ at the election.
    What a freudian slip! Especially when the Tories didn’t have a majority even at that point.

    That said, the ‘despicable XYZ’ bit of Warren’s post does display one of Labour’s biggest problems – a bunker mentality, in which any criticism tends to be dismissed as trolling by opponents. Some of those people with Green posters up for last two elections may indeed once have been Labour supporters – even members. Do you really not want people to come back to you? Ditto those who fell away to the Lib Dems – like me.

    I have to say also that the Goldsmid Labour campaign has been unimpressive. No canvass so far (am I listed as ‘against’ already, maybe? – if so see above) and the quality of the literature has been poor, with little information about the candidates. By contrast the most recent folded A3 Green leaflet was an excellent piece of publicity.

    Blogger: your Lib Dem obsession is getting silly. Were you menaced by Jo Grimond in childhood or something? Or should I make that Herbert Asquith?

    • Hi Clive, the Lib Dem obsession is supposed to be a bit silly. I still don’t like them, though!

      • Should I repent for thinking that without Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems there would almost certainly now be a majority Tory government. Unfortunately they were dealt an impossible hand by the election – and although the modifications may be minor they are real, and the price they are paying is out of all proportion. The brilliance of Cameron has been to dump it all on Clegg – and unfortunately he has been aided by those who seem to forget that it’s a Tory led government.

    • True, that was a slip, but I wouldn’t say it was freudian or oppositionist. I was trying to make the point that Greens and Labour needed to take the fight to the Tories otherwise the Tories could cling on to power.

      Here’s what I said:
      “Alex Philips’ Goldsmid triumph was notable for being a rare win from the Tories rather than Labour.
      Christopher Hawtree is often upbraided on this blog for daring to challenge Mary Mears in Rottingdean, and yet his upcoming campaign may be the one of the few opposition bids this year with a credible prospect of reducing the Tory majority on the council.”

      I should have just said “number of Tories”.

      Anyway, we are in a more confident mood now than we were back in January.

    • No, you are reading too much into one comment – it is just the remarkable similarity between a couple of messages clearly designed to spook candidates and not based on any genuine change of heart.

      We are reaching out to people who did leave Labour for other parties – or none – over the years in government, and plenty (particularly those who lent support to the Lib Dems or stayed at home on polling day in 07 and 10) are returning in significant numbers.

  5. I hope a Labour/Green coalition (or some kind of agreement) will be achievable too.

    I am intrigued to see how this pans out. A Green-led council in Brighton & Hove could be a rallying point for the anti-cuts movement across the country, if councillors are prepared to stick to their principles. Or it could be a disaster (see the tragic outcome of Green participation in a coalition government at national level in Ireland).

    Running the administration with a hung council would be a lot easier if we went back to the committee system. I see the Greens support this idea and have included it in their manifesto. No mention in the Labour manifesto, though. Is there an official Labour group position on this issue?

    Voters in the referendum on an elected mayor back in 2001 were clearly in favour of retaining the committee system, and I think it would make a lot of sense to go back to it after May 5th.

    • All parties voted in favour of returning to the committee system, including Labour, but the Conservative Government says in the Localism Bill that you can only move from Cabinet to committee systems at a set of local elections. As this is not yet law we can’t do it now, and will have to wait until the next elections in 2015 unless the government grants us special dispensation.

      I’m afraid this is another Green manifesto pledge which sounds good but which is alreadty in place and which they have no way of implementing independently.

      Actually, holding a coalition council together under the committee system would in practice be harder, as the Greens would need to whip their councillors to vote with their administration in every committee and in council. Currently they allow their members a free vote on every issue. If an administration can’t carry its’ policies through committee and at council it will be at risk of division and of falling at every stage.

      Constitutionally, control of the council under the Cabinet system rests on the election of a Leader who appoints a Cabinet that then takes all of the decisions, and the lack of a whip at council/committees is not an issue.

      • Ah, I see. Presumably that’s why the Green manifesto says “work towards” a return to the committee system. It’s good to know this is an ambition the Labour group shares.

        I think a formal coalition between Greens and Labour will be difficult to hold together under any circumstances.

        That’s why I think a less rigid set of agreements on particular issues and open debate in committees might have a better chance of working in practice.

        With a leader & cabinet system, there’s going to have to be a divvying up of cabinet seats between two parties and a more sustained level of joint working.

        I wonder what would persuade the government to grant a special dispensation.

  6. “I think a formal coalition between Greens and Labour will be difficult to hold together under any circumstances” says Dani.

    Who knows? I was the only member of the Labour Group after the elections 4 years ago who proposed and voted for a coalition with the Greens. Would I do it again?

    After 4 years of watching some of the Greens’ antics, I’m not so sure. Labour and Greens have far more in common than some in both Partys pretend in public. I have huge respect for some individual Greens, particularly Amy and Bill but holding a coalition together requires compromise, discipline, flexibility and honesty.

    Should the election reveal the Council is in NOC, then both Labour and Greens need to reflect on these qualities which will be required in order to work together for the common purpose of serving the people of our City.

  7. Warren knows full well that Green councillors come to a consensus decision, rather than being told how to vote by whips (and sometimes the Westminister Labour front bench or those sitting in Labour HQ).

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