Hove set to be a three way marginal if exceptional candidates are selected

Earlier this week I speculated on the prospects of the three parties in Brighton Kemptown and Brighton Pavilion in 2015. Some correspondents have said it is hot air to speculate so far off, that there are many twists and turns between now and then: how the Green administration will fair, the state of the economy and, most importantly, the revival of the Labour Party which, according to Harris Fitch, has already begun!

Absolutely right, no serious commentator would be so foolish as to make any predictions at this stage. Since I am not a serious commentator, here is my take on Hove 2015.

Mike Weatherley, contrary to speculation, will not be approaching 70 in 2015. He is a sprightly 53 year old with the best years still ahead of him, and kept young by the bright young things around him (Michael, Robert, Grizzly). He has already built a respectable reputation and knows how to press the right buttons for key groups of constituents. He will be very difficult to shift, though impossible.

To defeat Mighty Mike will require a combination of a swing away from the Tories, a local factor or two, and a first rate candidate. An anti-Tory swing will be there unless the Tory government softens its harsh approach to public sector cuts. Inevitably, the scale of the cuts is and will impact on ordinary people and the level of anger will increase. Where that anger will be directed will depend on how Labour and the Greens perform ove the next 4 years. The consolation prize for Labour is their ability to be bit part players for the next 4 years. They can oppose both the Tories and the Greens from the side lines.

The Greens have a trickier situation. As a minority administration they will be scrutinised and criticised, whether justified or not. Already some nonsense has been written about the Green Council. Those most likely to be criticised will be the ten Cabinet members. But what the Greens have, and will continue to have going for them, is good will. Most neutrals, as well as those (like me) who can vote Labour as easily as vote Green, will continue, at worst, to give the Greens the ‘benefit of the doubt’, and more likely vote for the freshness of their ideals and approach.

So who might stand for Labour and for the Greens. The right candidate will pursued me who I might endorse. In Brighton Pavilion in 2010, there were three outstanding candidates. The Tory candidate Chuck Vere had a special something, and in spite of our occasional spats, I liked her and I think, secretly, she had a more than a little affection for me! In an other election Labour’s Nancy Platts would have stood out as an exceptional candidate and could have defied a swing against her party. But she stood in the wrong constituency at that election. For against her was the outstanding candidate of the 2010 general election, the Greens Caroline Lucas. Ms Lucas stands out as one of the top ten parliamentarians, and in particular, women parliamentarians.

In the end, after some hesitation, I supported Caroline Lucas’ candidature, and I will endorse (and I might be able to cast a vote for) the best candidate in the Hove constituency. The front runner in Hove for Labour is Simon Burgess. Simon is a nice guy, but he isn’t someone who will beat Mike Weatherley. Celia Barlow might try again, but she (like Simon) has a history of being beaten and (again like Simon) is unlikely to galvanise party members. I don’t know who in Labour locally has it, but I am willing to be persuaded.

For the Greens, there are several possible candidates. The name Hawtree has been mentioned, but winning a seat in Central Hove singlehandedly is one thing, winning a constituency is rather a different matter. Ian Davey has stood before, but lovely man though he may be, isn’t going to capture the imagination of the electorate. Forgive me Ian, but age and gender are not on your side.

Age and gender favour someone whose name has been suggested to me by several people recently, including Labour Party members, who fear that Alex Phillips might do in Hove what Caroline Lucas has achieved in Brighton Pavilion. Councillor Phillips has wisely avoided becoming a Cabinet member, allowing her the freedom to speak freely and to campaign tirelessly. She has energy, enthusiasm and ability, and the Greens would boost their prospects if they choose someone like Alex Phillips as their candidate.

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19 Responses

  1. On your choice of Green candidate, does experience count for nothing? I smell hype.

    Re: M Weatherley: 1800 majority and 37% of the vote does not equal hard to shift, unless Argentina invade the Falklands again. It is very easy to exaggarate the effect of an individual MP’s efforts at social work.

  2. Ah, ‘experience’, the word used most often to demean the youthful. Anyone who has ever started in politics has started with no ‘experience’ and most likely got to where they are by beating someone with more ‘experience.’

    If, however, Clive means experience as how long someone has been serving residents for, then, by 2015, all potential candidates who may have been or, still are, councillors, would have had plenty. In fact, they might be more wired into the local political fabric than the sitting MP.

    It is just most possible to have someone who may be young and still have a stack load of experience in understanding the political process, answering residents concerns, attending to individual casework and providing local leadership.

    • You are forget ‘transferable skills/experience’.

      If someone has never had anyone seriously dependent on them personally, they will not have shown whether they have the character to properly handle the dependency of a whole ward or constituency.

      If someone has never had a substantial and serious financial responsiblity , they will not have shown whether they have the character to properly handle the finances of a whole ward or constituency.

      Personally I have would be dubious about anyone whose first thought after leaving education was to get involved in the parasitical business of politics instead of the productive world of business/industry. It suggests vanity and hubris or simple naivety.

    • Clive, I am not going to play stupid games with you.

  3. The subject of the Hove constituency is certainly more galvanising than a gathering of the Strategic Partnership.

    A point not made by the blogger is that, very winnable, Hove could attract the atention of candidates from elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, in studying it, I think I have found the key factor in a close-run Election, but am hardly going to say so here.

  4. Luke – I take your points, especially that everyone has to start somewhere.

    However, as you list the reasons why younger contenders will have ‘experience’ by 2015, your reply indicates that you *do* accept that it has some value.

    What bothers me is that your understanding of ‘experience’ seems to lie solely within the narrow compass of political processes and elections. I’d prefer to see more candidates with real life experience – and interests – outside politics, not just people who see everything through the prism of the dedicated political hack, because they have never done anything else.

    I am not about doing down young candidates, but I do find the blogger’s repetitive promotion of a select few annoying, because it seems to be based on so little in the way of substance.

    There is a wider, national malaise in our politics too, in the elevation of (relative) youth and (relative) good looks above substance. The practical result is the election to high office of numpties like Nick Clegg.

  5. Hove was unexpectedly Lab 1997-2010, has a small Tory majority now and was once cast iron blue on virtually the same boundaries. This shows considerable demographic change as students and particularly young radical professionals and gays have colonised the area. Church Road, once dead after dark is now full of restaurants-something symptomatic of this change.

    A Green candidate in place now (probably Alex Phillips) could start to build a challenge. This could become momentum given a fair wind from B & H council’s activities or the kiss of death.
    Lab can help the Greens by selecting someone mediocre from outside the area, or can select someone with potential like the Benn girl who stood in Shoreham in 2010 or perhaps Clare Calder. Leaving selection late will help the Green challenger.
    In any event the Green Alex Phillips lookalike will need to show she is best placed to challenge Weatherly well beforehand for the Lab vote to evaporate.
    Greens would do well to build grass roots and pavement politics in areas where Lab is still dominant as the Tory opposition-eg Westbourne, Wish, Hangleton, Portslades. This will boost their momentum credentials.
    Lab would do well to select their Alex Phillips now and establish their own campaigning radical crredentials. They might then squash the Green Alex as the clear non-Tory alternative.

  6. For once, I agree with Zombie, a female candidate would stand a much better chance for Labour. However, given that the Kemptown seat is an all-woman shortlist (AWS) and Hove isn’t, Burgess only has one option (unless he can persuade the NEC to keep Pavilion open to all, though, I doubt he wants to stand there).

    Therefore, Hove it will be for Mr. Burgess unless the local party opts for someone else. Given Warren Morgan’s own friendship with Burgess and the East Brighton grip over Labour’s constituency parties in the city, I imagine the local Labour selection for Hove will be without a credible challenge to Burgess.

    I could of course be entirely wrong. Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

    • Entirely wrong

      • Which bit? Kemptown will be an AWS, Hove won’t be and the NEC has said nothing on Pavilion.

    • You are entirely wrong Luke, even if I had any say over who Hove CLP chooses (which I don’t) it is their decision and I wouldn’t presume to try and influence Hove CLP members.

      I know it suits Green purposes to paint the Labour Party as some kind of dictatorship run by a select few, but it isn’t, it is up to members to make democratic decisions based on debate and consideration of the merits of those putting themselves forward.

      And BPB, “the outstanding candidate of the 2010 general election, the Greens Caroline Lucas… stands out as one of the top ten parliamentarians, and in particular, women parliamentarians.” I can only imagine what you would write if I or any Labour supporter wrote that kind of gushing, hagiographic stuff about a Labour politician…

      • Warren, it still doesn’t change the fact that Simon is looking for a seat to stand in (there’s a Facebook page for this) and he won’t be able to re-stand in Kemptown. It is rather likely he will (or possibly that he always has) put himself forward to stand in Hove.

        If, I remember rightly from the said Facebook page (it might be dated, I don’t know), you’re cited as Simon’s ‘Director of Communications’, I assume this would involve a certain amount of communicating with Hove CLP members if Simon was to put his name forward.

      • Just found said page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6309736011

        Made a mistake, apparently you’re the ‘Communications Director, Warren.

  7. I knew this would be a call for Alex from the first paragraph.

  8. The Greens credibility is already rapidly crumbling.

    Already three U turns!

    1) Kiking travellers off their site.
    2) Keeping the Super-Director structure.
    3) Keeping a councillors allowance system that they previously described as excessive.

    Real principle inevitably means *sacrifice*. Now in a position to have something to sacrifice, the greens suddenly appear to be very much less keen.

    Their tuition-fees moment may come in a big bang, or it may be this drip, drip of u-turns, but it is clearly on the cards.

  9. I would imagine that a good deal will depend on where the Green Party chose to focus their limited resources. If they are serious about national politics, they really need to break out of the B+H area, and so may focus on Norwich or Deptford, their other targets last time. That would take resources away from any battle in Hove. On the other hand, the other B+H seats would be much easier to fight alongside Pavilion, but I would suspect that (nationally) they would prefer Pavilion plus Norwich/Deptford to Pavilion plus Hove.

  10. Ha! The “Communications Director” is a West Wing related in-joke from my time on Simon’s Kemptown campaign, which this Facebook page dates from. I’ve no current role with Simon.

  11. The amusing line that “Councillor Phillips has wisely avoided becoming a Cabinet member” suggests she had some choice in the matter . . .

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