Mischievous Geoffrey Bowden, fighting Steve Bassam, and bullish Jason Kitcat

Do you have 3G? I don’t mean the Internet access on your phone or laptop, but Three Geoffrey’s? In the Bible the Three Wise Men travelled from the east to worship the Child God, or something like that. In Brighton and Hove, the Three Wise Men travelled to the west to King’s House. They are the Three G’s – Geoffreys Theobald, Wells and Bowden.

And rumour has it that each of the Three G’s is pulling in a different direction: Geoffrey W to the right, Geoffrey T straight ahead, while Geoffrey B pulling to the hard left (well just left of centre, really). And how do we know this? Well GB has tweeted that “Rumour has it that the Tory’s 2 Geoffreys – Wells & Theobald r @ war with Wells threatening 2 resign Tory whip @ full council on 15th”.

I know little more than what GB has tweeted, but hopefully one of my dear friends in the Tory Party will enlighten me further. Is this further evidence of the split between the Hove and Pavilion Tories on one hand, and the Kemptown Tories on the other?

But Geoffrey Bowden has been stirring it elsewhere. In another tweet, designed to get Warren Morgan spluttering, once again, over hi Sugar Puffs, he wrote: “Rallying Lab troops 2 help in Westbourne Warren Morgan reveals his fears Greens will look @ seat in E.Brighton if not stopped in bi-election.” Naughty, Geoffrey.

Less edifying on Twitter has been the ongoing obsession that Chuck Vere has about where Caroline Lucas lives. Most activists have long accepted that Ms Lucas has her only home in the Brighton Pavilion constituency, and Lady Everton, Alex Phillips, unambiguously made that clear on Twitter. Ms Lucas’s two main opponents at the general election, Chuck herself and Nancy Platts, both wasted little time returning to London after the election. Caroline Lucas is well and truly settled in Brighton Pavilion, and can expect a long incumbency as its Member of Parliament.

But what has been more interesting this week than the split between the two Blue Geoffreys, Labour’s fears for East Brighton, and Chuck Vere’s obsession as to where Caroline Lucas leaves her toothbrush, has been the role of Twitter in the debate on the City Council’s first Green budget. There have been two primary protagonists: in the red corner, Lord Bassam (the former Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council); in the green corner, the Green Administrations Cabinet Member for Finance, Jason Kitcat.

Steve Bassam has peppered Jason Kitcat with questions and comments, which councillor Kitcat has patiently answered over several days. This debate has shown two things: the tribal, street fighting, campaigning instincts of Steve Bassam, and the competence in financial matters of Jason Kitcat. For a new comer to Brighton politics, one would never have believed that, as councillor Bassam, Lord Bassam was responsible for cuts of an equal scale (including the closure of more public toilets than is currently proposed) and rate/council tax rises that makes councillor Kitcat look as though he is the true-born Son of Eric Pickles.

Finally, last week I invited supporters of Labour, the Tories, UKIP and the Lib Dems (if there are any of the latter group left) to send me their alternate budgets, saying I would post them on my blog for my three regular readers to review. But to date Momma Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave have been disappointed. The offer still stands. Perhaps Lord Bassam might oblige …?

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51 Responses

  1. I don’t believe you will see no alternative budgets from Conservatives or Labour because theirs wouldn’t be that much different to the Greens – LibLabCon and now Grn – hardly a fag paper between them.

    Labour brought in massive increases, Conservatives plateaued them and Greens want to get back to Labour’s days.

    After inflation council tax has nearly doubled in 10 years – is that extra £60,000,000 a year really being well spent?

    Brighton and Hove needs some zero based accounting, to find deadwood and skeletons of pet projects that are being kept on for the wrong reasons.

    What I have read of the community engagement strategy seems to be an exercise in creating dependency and avoiding individuals and their issues in favour of a box ticking exercise in communicating with ‘community leaders’ – who really represent who precisely?

    Councillors seem to be enjoying a complete abdication of their responsiblity to represent residents, instead pretending this duty is discharged though unaccountable groups of vested interests.

    I don’t have anything against the groups and people that make them up, they are just working within the framework the council have created. But councillors are either complicit in this or just too lazy to kick the council into shape.

    Anyone too timid to properly look after council taxpayers money and their interests should not be a councillor.

  2. I have read the tweets of Lord Bassam. At one stage I was a bit concerned about his health. It appears all is well though.

    On a number of occasions I have politely asked members of the Conservative and Labour parties which services they would cut but as yet no-one has given an answer. I suppose it’s a busy time of year.

    Lord Bassam did say that he was asked to implement cuts when he was leader and they managed to find a way through it. I don’t remember anything about this, can anyone enlighten.

    Now on a more serious note..

    Last night I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely 65 year old lady who is blind and unable to walk. It was her birthday and we helped her enjoy it at the christmas gathering for our internet radio station.

    She was quite overwhelmed and very thankful for the smallest efforts of anyone who spoke to her.

    I later learned that she was all the more pleased to be there as cuts in different forms of funding to various services mean she cannot get out socially anything like as much as before.

    I don’t want to go in to a pious rant- I just want those in office (whichever party), and those who hope for office, to know how upsetting it was to hear that.

    And somehow take stock of it before going back to the mud-slinging…

    • I am pleased that an old lady had an enjoyable birthday.

      Having said that, if people worked together on their own account, council cuts would not be a worry. Friends, family, neighbours don’t come and go on the whim of a councillor or chancellor…

      As I see it bystander syndrome has taken people out of the loop – if ‘the council’ are supposed to be doing something, there is no need for individuals to get involved – so they don’t.

      External intervention destroys communities – it can defeat their very purpose. The council steps in, destroys the need for cooperation and mutual support, and leaves people dependent on the council – and to pay for the councils intervention money is taken away from people so they couldn’t ‘do it for themselves’ even if they wanted to.

      Existing dependants can’t be left out on a limb, but there has to be a plan to prevent new, future dependencies establishing themselves.

      * This very morning an ‘age uk’ charity appeal arrived in the post – so even less reason to personally worry about others if they have it covered too…?

      ** A more general, less hierarchical support mechanism for the isolated would be ideal – http://free-english-people.blogspot.com/2011/12/synchronicity-or-inspiration-ester.html

      • Watch it Perrin. If the residents of Westbourne Ward get wind of the fact you consider a 65-year old to be “an old woman”, you could find yourself in a spot of bother, voteswise.

      • Perrin, the term “old lady” conjures certain images don’t you think? Spindly legs with withered muscle, sunken eyes, grey hair…..colourless garb…. Do you think Blondie, Cher, Goldie Hawn ( 65 and over) qualify as “old ladies”? Now, if you think of men of 65….do they consider themselves to be old men?

      • You can play with words, but there are young people, working aged people and old people…with bits of overlap and some exceptions.

        Maybe time for people to reclaim the ‘O’ word? Or even the ‘P’ word?

        At school I remember my black mates were always being told how they should/shouldn’t be described that week/month. Cycled between ‘black’, ‘brown’, ‘coloured’ and I am sure some others that I forget. Not sure which ‘official power’ was passing all this down to us (and constantly changing its mind) but it was absolute nonsense then and is now.

        Senior, Old, Retired, Pensioner, ‘person of an age to no longer seek employment’, ‘person no longer in environments likely to expand social circle’, whatever, just substitute whichever one you feel least offended by 🙂

        And yes, Debbie Harry, Cher and Goldie are all old ladies (the clue being in their age and gender!), so maybe it is your stereotype that is at fault? Were you describing a ‘little old lady’ perhaps?

        I think what Esther is proposing is a great idea, and won’t be put off talking about it based on PC taboos!

    • Paul, I think just referring to “the lady” would have been sufficient. Why do you need to categorise people by their age at all?

  3. You’re like the long departed News of the World, trying to invent salacious news where there just isn’t any.

    Interesting piece of reportage to state the fact that there are three Geoffreys connected to B&H Council. Well done. The crucial question is, why didn’t their parents name them with the usual spelling ‘Jeffrey’?

  4. The Greens do get astonishingly wound up at what is a very simple question … so it’s always fun asking 🙂

    Chuck

    • The danger is that people might think that you have nothing else to say.

      It’s an irrelevant question. Providing an MP is attentive and spends time in their constituency, where does it matter where their main private residence is?

      I’m more worried about the lazy MPs who neglect their constituencies, because they know they are in safe seats come what may (Labour or Tory MPs, take your pick). This is a product of the first-past-the-post system that you worked so hard to defend last May. Well done for your success in that. Well done for defending the status quo!

      • Nothing else to say? Nope, no danger in that. Not at all.

        Where Caroline Lucas lives is not an irrelevant question – it is one of the questions I was asked most often during the election campaign and I find it very odd that the Greens react the way they do when I ask it. So, periodically, I do ask it.

        Clive, I agree completely on lazy MPs – but I will say that some of the most hardworking MPs I know are in safe seats. All parties need to make sure their candidates are up to the job before they are selected – it’s not about the voting system – I think the result in the AV referendum firmly squashed that chestnut.

      • You still haven’t said why you think where Caroline Lucas lives is so important! You have just said that you have asked it a lot (too true, of you and of Labour) and that it annoys the Greens. So is it all just about tail-pulling? Bit dull for the rest of us!

        There may be individual cases of safe seat MPs who do a good job, but the fact that the majority of elections aren’t genuine competitions can hardly be an incentive to good performance.

        As to the internal democracy of political parties, it’s hard to know where to start. Just 1.5% of the UK population belong to a political party – less than in any other comparable democracy – of whom only a fraction are active. This is a tiny electorate to trust with the task of choosing our MPs. I know the Conservatives have held open primaries with some success though, interestingly, I think these have only happened in seats that they were either trying to win or were scared of losing – which kind of illustrates my point.

        Part of the reluctance to engage politcally stems from the fact that in most places, electoral outcomes are pretty much pre-ordained. The fact that the remaining small band of activists spend so much time scoring points and obsessing about trivia can’t help much either.

      • I don’t really care where Caroline Lucas lives (I always assumed it was cloud cuckoo land where the money grown on trees) – however I am intrigued by the greens sensitivity to being asked.

        Then you say she lives in Brighton with her husband and kids, but also that she didn’t want to disturb her kids education.

        So presumably they were already going to school in Brighton while she was out in Brussels being and MEP? Lucky she got to move to Brighton to be with them!

      • Paul: when you say ‘you’, I’d just point out that I’m not a Green party member and have never offered any comment on the not-very-exciting issue of where Ms Lucas lives. There are a few other things to worry about right now.

      • Clive, indeed I was careless in checking attributation of comments in this thread, Appologies for any offence caused.

        Should anyone else care to respond to my point, I’d be pleased to read their explanation.

  5. Lord Bassam vs Cllr Kitkat in the ring… who would win?

    Easily Bassam.

    This is how politics should be.

  6. It is always rather entertaining when Lord Bassam throws a wobbly. I suspect that he hankers for his old, polyester days rather than the ermine one.

    • ………..aaaahhh! The Great Bassam Wobbly….as demonstrated during the anti-Mayor campaign when he sought the fiefdom of Brighton and Hove….and Peter Poole’s brilliantly lampooning cartoon was printed on Allies for Democracy flyers which thee and me and folk of all political persuasions gleefully distributed round and about. Poor Bassam sent an hysterical internal email to all councillors as I recall, freaking out about this little cartoon of himself….

  7. I notice Mr Kitcat just, suddenly, got half a dozen #BHBUDGET retweets of his tweet-bite opposing taking the ‘freeze grant’ all timed at the same time… then a few more.

    That will be coincidence of course – not any coordinated Green attempt at astro-turfing….

    If there is any response to this, it will (of course) be ‘misguided activists, acting on their own…’.

  8. As a citizen, and a council taxpayer, I am struck that Jason Kitcat answers me on Twitter, and criticises my questions first and foremost as a Labour activist. I think that is rather one dimensional.

    I have also suggested several revenue raising suggestions and offered ideas on cuts on Twitter that have been batted off. None of those have received any comment from Kitcat.

    I suspect that we’re seeing a window dressing consultation. Which is a shame.

    • Dan! You tell such cheeky lies. We can tell you’ve been spending too much time with the dark lord. Show me a tweet from Jason that criticises your question as a Labour activist. I think he has been at pains to answer everyone’s questions fairly.

  9. Bassam on the budget is not as interesting as Bassam the retired heavyweight returning to the ring. I am guessing he can sense the vulnerability for the Greens that has come from power and he has masterfully exploited it. For a Brightonian like me it is St George Bassam slaying the anti-Albion Green Dragon that resonates. I could never vote for a party anti-Albion as my loyalty to the Seagulls is greater than my political loyalties.

    Whether Greens are anti-Albion is immaterial, Bassam has ensured that they are perceived that way. Also interesting is why he re-enters the fray now. Perhaps Lab HQ have asked him to spot and exploit weaknesses in Greenism in B & H to ward off its challenge to Labour in B & H, York,Lancaster,Norwich and other university towns.

  10. Why should Lord B be regarded as a Dragon-slayer when his sword has buckled so many times before in the attempt?

    Call me naive, if you will, but I simply do not understand why he went to the Home Office and the Lords, but there you are. That’s how it is.

    I have only spoken once with Lord B, one evening on Victoria Station, when I said that I was sorry about the death of his neighbour and friend Tony Miller – after whch, amicably, he got a train for Brighton, and I headed for the one that stops at Hove on the way to somewhere westwards.

  11. a decades of silence from Bassam and then he pops up just prior to a by-election … speaks volumes of his distance and labours woes

    • May election, SPNL By election, and the general election…

      Oh no…

    • I don’t think that any elector who was canvassed by Lord Bassam at the last GE would think that he had become ‘silent’ – particularly those displaying Green Party posters, a few of which were taken down as the result of his persuasive powers! The reality is he has always been active, but of course this is more obvious during election times.

    • Any elector canvassed by Lord Bassam in Westbourne this Christmas will believe they have been visited by the Ghost of Labour Yet to Come.

      • Does anyone have a view on when and where the next by-election may be once Westbourne is done and dusted ?

      • Mr. Gillman, I will myself be watching to see what happens on December 20 when Cllr Barnett faces the enquiry into her conduct. Perhaps Hangleton will see a by-election afterwards….hmmmm?

      • Or should that be the Ghost of Labour Can’t Quite Get It Up Anymore? The vote I mean.

  12. Surprised you’ve billed me as mischievous. In the spirit of openness I would be happy to share the messages from Messrs Wells and Morgan to their respective audiences, although, I suspect, they’d be less pleased to see their words republished here in full.

  13. What has happened to Louisa Greenbaum? Neil is messing with LOLA and the Chief Police Commisioner has got in in for Banksy’s friends. Isn’t there a nice folksy issue for Louisa to make hay with?

    Or is the Green campaign unravelling at the rate of Higgs-Boson?They have had blow after blow(Council Tax Rise and the Argus Campaign, LOLA, Graffiti, Albion, the Bassam v Kit Cat fight, Cameron’s EU tabloid press plaudits).

    Labour is like the words of the Ukrainian national anthem ..not yet dead!
    And Neil Jenner, Bassame mucho and Lola are proving it And quiet detective work continues apace. I bet Louisa wishes she could have had a quiet run in to Christmas..

    • The final weekend of canvassing approaches in Westbourne. I predict a sea of Red. I’m looking forward to it immensely. Rumour has it some big names will be pitching in.

    • Rather than grandstanding, the Green campaign has been moving forward. As the only major candidate living in the ward, Louisa is widely known amongst many parents, herself being a Parent-Governor and having two children attend local schools.

      Despite Labour’s consistant negative campaigning (where are the attacks on Cameron’s cuts?), the Green vote is resilient.

      Labour too often speak triumphantly in recent campaigns, only to feel humiliated in the aftermath. I would suggest caution from Labour activists making bold claims, particularly given the skeletons in the closet.

      • Rumour has it the Green group have a new leader ?

      • Luke – I suspect it will be down to who can get their vote out on the day, but there is no sign of the Green Party campaign ‘moving forward’. I also don’t think it is fair to describe the Labour campaign as ‘consistantly negative’. In particular, on schools, they have put forward a very positive alternative which it is disappointing that the Green Party could not support. Some negativity is inevitable given that they are in opposition locally.

        The Tories may be bouyed by Cameron’s ‘Little Englander’ stance, or maybe Paul Perrin will be the beneficiary of that. Overall, I have no sense that anyone is clearly ahead.

        I had an interesting chat with Louisa on Portland Road. She was very clear that the food recycling trial was a better use of public money than the Music Service to schools or public toilets. Within a very tight budget, these are still the types of choices that demonstrate the differences between parties.

      • ‘Little Englander’ was originally a term of abuse against those who wanted to wind down the British Empire – (big empire vs little england) are you a fan of bringing back the empire Dr Faust? or are you a ‘Little Englander’ ?

        However in modern terms I am no ‘little englander’ I want the UK to leave the EU so we can rejoin the rest of the world.

        Cameron achieved only one thing using the veto – he denied the people of the UK a referendum on the EU, agreeing to the treaty would have triggered a referendum in the UK, Cameron knew what that would lead to so denied us the opportunity (again).

        Every other supposed consideration is spin – so much for democracy. (well done greens for brining back committee government in brighton and hove… if it happens).

        And now the EU come back to us, begging for us to return the Euro discussions – they want our money because Germany are baulking at picking up the entire bill for the Euro. And win or lose on that score UK are being pushed to put £30,000,000,000 (THIRTY BILLION POUNDS) into the IMF to subsidise the Eurozone bailout through the back door – what were the figures on the #BHBudget again??

        Love Europe – its people, languages, cultures, countries – love the rest of the world too – hate the nasty, undemocratic, unaccountable, political institution in Brussels known as the ‘EU’.

      • Bill Randall is the leader of the council until May, when he will become mayor. The council is also to revert to the committee system at the same time.

        The food waste trial will provide extra jobs for CityClean staff. The GMB themselves are very supportive of the trial and want to see it a success. Very natural for Louisa to support moves to increase potential jobs in the city, despite the severe, above average, cuts the council are facing.

        On schools, Labour didn’t propose anything. There was no money, no site and no chief sponsor for such a school. In fact, such a motion should of never gone to council as it had nothing of substance behind it. Though parents were concerned to see Labour come out in open support of academies.

        As I say, just be cautious about claiming an easy win. I don’t want to have to retweet ‘Only Labour can beat the Tories’ tosh again.

      • Alarming news from Dr. Faust that Louisa Greenbaum sees an either/ or choice as between food waste trial, music and public toilets. I hope this is a misquote as it suggests an unsuitable turn of mind otherwise!

      • Bill cannot be both Mayor and Leader of the Council. Effectively, as most of you know, the year of being Mayor is a year out of political involvement with any Council business other than Chairing Full Council. It is a year in which to do great PR for one’s political party though, I’d wager. It means there has to be a new Leader after May.

        Kevin Allen told me a month or so back that Bill was being put forward for Mayor and that there is a problem in the Green Party as to who will succeed Bill as Leader of the Council and the Group. He suggested there is friction as between Amy Kennedy and Jason Kitcat and said both wanted to succeed Bill.

        I personally feel that neither should have it, because both Amy Kennedy and Jason Kitcat are utterly indispensable heading up their two briefs – both hugely capable people who are carrying some of their weaker and newer Cabinet colleagues.

        Finance is a position that requires continuity and that it needs Jason to remain in charge of it. He sat on Audit in the previous Administration. High-level command of that brief is key to making or breaking the Greens for the next local election. No brainer!

        Amy brought a hugely relevant background as well as a truly wonderful, first-class intelligence to her brief covering Planning, Employment, Major Projects and Regeneration issues. I see her as the business end of the party with a clear managerial mindset.

        I’ve told Geoffrey Bowden he should stand for it and that he should be given the leadership job. They are a consensus party and the job of Leader is not about absolute power and is one that requires “casting” in the role. The Leader is the face of the party to the public. Geoffrey is mature, speaks well in meetings with adult credibility and great, warm charm. This attractive, besuited and well-respected figure would do the Green Party image a power of good and help disarm the black propagandists portraying the Greens as barking, loony, away with the fairies, whatever.

        There. I’ve said it.

      • Luke – You need to try and stop putting words in people’s mouths. I have never talked about an easy win, or letting the Tories in in Westbourne etc. I said I had no real sense of anyone being ahead. Still let’s not let anything get in the way of having a dig at Labour supporters again.

        My comments about Louisa’s views illustrate the choices that people have. I’m not saying the food waste trial is not desirable thing, but is it more desirable than the Music Service? Louisa thinks so, I prefer the Music Service. Good that jobs will be created to replace some of those being cut in City Clean. But how many jobs will be lost in the music service? Are the NUT, NASUWT etc supportive of the Council’s proposals?

        As a side issue – I note that the Feltham by-election tells us a good deal about the Green Party outside the Brighton bubble. Still behind the discredited Lib Dems and the fascist BNP. Relatively meaningless by-elections should be fertile ground for them.

  14. Labour told me they were the only alternative to the Tories earlier this year. What they didn’t tell me was that they didn’t mean in Brighton & Hove…….
    Anyway, I don’t know how many times I am going to have to ask, but where are the alternative budgets?

    • Given that the Greens have had since May to come up with their Horlicks of a budget it seems only fair that others should have more than a couple of weeks to come up with a researched and costed alternative (mind you, it does in many places look like it was written on the back of a fag packet during a lock-in at the Cricketers).

  15. Patience Pepperpot, wait until budget Council….

    • Why wait til February, Craig? Why can’t Labour put out its own draft for public consultation as well?

      • Hey BPB – time for a last pre Xmas, pre Westbourne by election blog ? Where you at ?

        Happy Christmas to all readers and fellow contributors.

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