Brian Oxley resigns seat on Brighton & Hove City Council: 3-way by-election pending

Brian Oxley, the much respected Tory Councillor has resigned his Westbourne seat on Brighton and Hove City Council which will see a by-election in this three-way marginal, possibly this side of Christmas.

Brian, also known to my loyal readers (down now to just Grizzly and Biker Dave) as The Bishop, topped the poll in May’s local elections with 1,228 votes. His fellow Tory, Denise Cobb, in second place, polled 1,152. And this is where it gets interesting. Just 132 votes behind Denise was Labour’s Simon Battle on 1,020 with the Green’s Louisa Greenbaum 109 behind Simon with 911 votes.

Given that Labour fought a hard fight in May with the Greens fielding, in effect, paper candidates in a seat which they felt they had little chance of winning. The exception to that view was Christopher Hawtree whose predictions one ignores at one’s peril, as I found out to my cost with his sensational win in Central Hove.

With their superior organisation skills, the momentum they continue to enjoy, and the loss of a popular Tory from the ballot paper, this is a genuine 3-way marginal.

Much will depend on the selection of candidate. In the Goldsmid by-election the Greens had an exceptional candidate in Alex Phillips who won the seat, the Green’s first in Hove. What is more, she won it from the Tories, dispelling the myth that the Greens could only win seats from Labour.

A possible candidate for the Tories would be Jan Young who lost her Central Hove seat to the said councillor Hawtree. She would benefit from name recognition as a former leading member of the last Tory administration.

Labour’s Simon Battle is a former councillor, well known and liked, but I suspect he does not have the stomach for over three years in a third party with no influence and less prospects. I can’t see him standing. Caroline Penn might put herself forward. She is likeable, modest, hardworking, energetic and might, I suspect, have ambitions beyond the local authority. Could she see a successful by-election campaign as the springboard to become Caroline4Hove in 2015?

The risk for Caroline would be a loss to the victorious Greens, something I think is very possible. For her, for any Labour candidate, to lose to the Greens would set up the Hove 2015 election very nicely. The key, I think, is the Green candidate. Waiting in the wings, and now living in the area is the Greens’ Luke Walter. I have described him as the best councillor not to be elected in May when he lost out in Hollingdean and Stanmer to the formidable Jeane Lepper.

Luke Walter, together with Alex Phillips, were the unsung heroes of the Caroline Lucas’ campaign in 2010. If he was to be selected, and the might of the Green Machine was to rally behind him, I would put good money on the Greens gaining the seat in the by-election, with Caroline Penn a close second.

13 Responses

  1. I would love a shot at that. It’s a real shame for me personally, that ward has some amazing people who I have met rather recently.

    If only.

  2. Firstly, it’s a shame that Brian has gone, I’m not a Tory but I remember interviewing and having a good old chinwag with him once, I’ve always thought he was a good local councillor.

    As for Luke, well I see him most days and it will be interesting to get his take whilst mulling over another Harlequins rugby victory.

    I think the last campaign took a lot out of him, but he did say that he likes living in Hove and maybe one day..

    It will be an interesting election.

  3. …speaking of Hollingdean….Patrick Lowe (who also lost in Hollingdean in May) has spent a lot of time recently attending council meetings – including HMCC last week. One wonders how much notice Brian Oxley gave his party of his intention to quit as Westbourne Cllr, if any.

    If he gave the party some degree of notice, it might explain Patrick Lowe’s sudden keen interest in HMCC (which he attended with Mary Mears). He may fancy taking a shot at selection though its my understanding his eye is actually on Patcham.

    Robert Nemeth lost to a Green in the previously safe seat of Withdean. He too might seek selection.

    Jan Young lost Central for a reason. For CH to have been chosen over her seems to me to be more about rejecting her than showing enthusiasm for CH. A number of residents led me to conclude this to have been the case.

    Residents won’t want the distraction of an election at Christmas. That much is certain.

  4. Greens will complete their first full canvass of the ward by the end of the month and probably tighten their grip on Brighton and Hove in the new year.

  5. As I said very recently – Labour will be hoping that the first byelection doesn’t come too soon – but unfortunately it probably has. Not enough time for Labour to build on its recent changes, and too early for the Green Party to be exposed as the emperor’s new clothes. Lest not forget also that the Tories remain surprisingly popular.

    Very much an open race I would have thought – candidate selection crucial – and for Labour a chance to look at people with potential parliamentary ambitions.

    Whaever the result it won’t change much – but will give a pointer towards 2015.

    • Sir, myself and a few others were regularly campaigning in Westbourne after the election. We had brought up the profile of the LP quite a lot I think.

      I think one of the happiest “political” moments of my life was being invited into TWO different families houses who we had not known were such keen supporters – within the first hour!

  6. A number of sources confirm that Brian Oxley gave ZERO notice to his party colleagues of his plans and intentions. Brighton & Hove News reports that his flat has been sold – what? Put up for sale and sold the same day? No. Clearly this has been planned for awhile.

    He quit without the courtesy of notice to his party and this is shocking stuff and a massive comment and judgment on Oxley’s part. It also drops them in the proverbial and catches them out.

    Had Oxley provided notice, the ward could have been prepared to assist whoever is put up to stand in the by-election. They will rely very, very heavily on the goodwill that MP Mike Weatherley has accrued over his first year as a highly active Constituency MP in order to provide any hope for themselves in the by-election.

    I hope whoever replaces him does more with the ward than he did.

  7. Brighton and Hove News also reports that Oxley has resigned owing to the need to move closer to his elderly father in Derby. In view of which, without knowing all the details (some of which are which are surely nobody’s business but his own) it seems a bit inappropriate to rush to judgement on him regarding the suddenness of all this. Family emergencies do happen.

    I don’t know the man at all except by repute, but he managed to pile up a lot of votes in Westbourne which must say something. As I’ve said on here before, that ward shouldn’t really be as blue as it is. One way or another I have a feeling that it won’t be after this byelection.

    • I agree, Clive. I’ve heard many Green councillors speak quite fondly of Brian Oxley. There is no doubt that he’s respected and well-liked across the political divide.

      • Same here. I’m a Green member, but just because someone wears another rossette doesn’t mean they don’t do a good job. Brian Oxley will be missed as cross party opinion suggests.

  8. Brian will be sorely missed, he did a lot for his ward, party and council and I am pleased this has been acknowledged by all parties.

    You are correct in that we do not know the circumstances that causes someone to resign their post and I think any disorganisation within the hove office can not be blamed on lack of notice. I also know conservatives who knew of his desire before this week.

    I think the timing will definately make this by election interesting, student vote might go down over Christmas…but who will realistically be in a position to go out and vote a couple of days before Christmas?! Let alone campaign!

    All in all, definately going to be an interesting lead up to Christmas in Westbourne!

    • Back on the campaign trail then. Me and my feet have only just got over the Council elections. I would have preferred another few months before this was called but up for the fight as part of Labours resurgence.

      I look forward to seeing my Labour
      colleagues very soon, you know where
      and when. All supporters are welcome to join us.

      • You must feel quite sheepish, on the doorsteps, trying to put forwards Ed Miliband’s vision for the country?

        Best of luck.

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