Westbourne by-election, and the record of the Dear Leader

“I was sad to hear that Councillor Bill Randall has stepped down as Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council. I have never heard a bad word about him and I wish him well as Mayor.”

This is clearly the season of good will for these are not my words but those of the Deputy Chair (Political) of Brighton and Hove Conservatives, Robert Nemeth writing in today’s Brighton Argus.

But the Christmas spirit quickly evaporates and bad words are implied, if not said, against the Dear Leader (Randall, not Kim Jong-il). The “Greens did not hit the ground running”, decisions were taken “on the move rather than making the changes that were promised”, and that the situation has “no doubt been exacerbated by the internal squabbles”. He points to “chaos” on the issues of council tax, Falmer Stadium, and the Victoria Gardens campsite.

If that is not saying bad words against the Dear Leader, then I don’t know what is. And also, am right in thinking that history is being re-written? The Dear Leader hasn’t stood down after 6 months. He will remain the Dear Leader until the annual Council at which point he will become the Dear Mayor.

As for the Greens not hitting the ground running, my perception is that they did just that, and the approach to the budget has been quite extraordinary. By taking an open, inclusive approach to its preparation, and the invitation to Labour and Tory councillors, the opposition have been wrong footed, hence the all-out attack on the Greens by Labour’s Lord Bassam, Caroline Penn and Warren Morgan, and now Robert himself.

To suggest that there has been “chaos” is nonsense. These issues are the normal challenges that face a new (and yes, inexperienced) administration.

I don’t detect “internal squabbles”. There is debate and there are differences, but this has largely involved organisation and, to a lesser extent personalities. But such differences pale into insignificance when compared to the split between the the Hove and Pavilion Conservatives and the Kemptown Tories.

But enough of the Dear Leader, and enough of Mr Nemeth. All thoughts have turned to Christmas. Oh no they haven’t. Oh yes they have. OH NO THEY HAVEN’T!!! All thoughts are focused on Westbourne and tomorrow’s by-election.

I hear that both the Tories and Greens are pleased with their postal vote campaigns,I and that Labour and the Greens are pleased with their poster campaign. On postal votes, the Greens usually think they don’t do too well here, but they are quietly pleased with what they have achieved in Westbourne, and confidence levels are rising. But I hear from deep within the Labour camp that they are pleased with the number of promises they have secured for Nigel Jenner. The question is, how firm are these promises?

My prediction? I correctly ‘called’ the Goldsmid by-election, the Brighton Pavilion result (although I thought Chuck Vere would come second), and the number of seats the Greens would win in May (I said 22 or 23 – I didn’t see Chris Hawtree winning although he did). But this by-election is the most difficult ‘call’ because of the, likely, very low turnout. If this by-election was to take place in, say, May, I would think the Greens would win. They have the Big Mo, a candidate who lives in the ward, and in Luke Walter, the best election organiser in the City.

But the Joker in the Pack is the Tory candidate, Graham Cox. He is the equal to the Green’s Louisa Greenbaum, he is a first rate candidate. Without the other, either of these candidates would swing the result in an election as close as this.

If pushed, I would call it for Louisa Greenbaum, but it will be one of the closest results in years. I think that given the low turnout it could still go any one of three ways.

Best wishes to ALL candidates tomorrow. My respect for candidates remains, and I thank all seven of you for making democracy a reality.

(The original version of this post referred to Caroline Pegg. Her name has been corrected to Caroline Penn).

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20 Responses

  1. Seems to me that Conservatives are keeping their heads down as much as possible – they see it as theirs to lose, so are putting on a big show (big guns called in), but keeping their candidate in the background because he isn’t going to win any new votes, but could lose plenty of old ones (will Oxley’s personal vote transfer?)

    Greens are similarly reticent on real issues because the budget is their headline issue and their candidate will make zero difference to it one way or the other.

    Labour? well… suggesting local born people are best to serve in elected office – WOW! Lucky all the other candidates are UK born (aren’t they?) or he could be up on charges of racism…

    So thats the GrnConLab “keep em quiet, so they don’t rock the boat” rut that we have controlling the council now…

    I hope the voters see through it and put some fresh thinking in to Brighton and Hove City Council – and that would be me…

    • P.S. As for postal voting a ‘@ValpearceBHCC’ tweets that 1300 were sent out 650 returned. (Surprised thats been made public before the day… assuming Val is in the know…).

      But if correct, would suggest that many a party stalwart (which I think postal voters tend to be) is unhappy with their party, so are abstaining…

    • Conservatives are keeping their heads down because they have Labour to do their dirty work for them these days!

      We haven’t been reticent at all, we’ve been upfront with the voters and defended our long-term plans for the city very robustly. Labour have run a nasty scare-mongering campaign from the start. We’ll find out tomorrow how this has worked out for them.

      Louisa is the only candidate who lives in the ward, she understands the community and will be approachable and diligent. We’re finding that makes a big difference for voters.

      • You must have been looking at a different Labour campaign to the one I’ve been involved in throughout. Neither I nor any of the other people out on the doorstep have been saying anything remotely nasty or scaremongering to residents. We have, on the other hand, encountered significant pockets of extreme hostility to the current administration.

        There seems to be a tendency amongst Greens to resort to such descriptions, however, the moment any other party has the gall to confront them, as if they should be excused political challenge on account of being such lovely caring people.

  2. On a 25% turnout 700 votes should be enough to win.

  3. I see the Tories have put out a final leaflet to say only they can stop the Greens. It really is a Green vs Tory contest tomorrow.

  4. Come on Blogger. My letter to The Argus is not personal. It contains no bad words about Cllr Randall, an elected representative of whom I am a fan.

    You’re wrong too on ‘chaos’. You are clearly local so how could you have missed the clutter of vans on Hove seafront, the mess on the Old Steine, the jumble on the Victoria Gardens, the trashing of Withdean Park, the disorder on Greenleas, the disarray on Victoria Park, and the dreadful goings-on in who knows how many squats around the city?

    There may have been u-turns but it won’t be forgotten that the Greens supported protesters who have trashed our urban parks, travellers who have trashed our suburban parks, and internet-savvy squatters who have posed as being in need of help – at a time when so many genuinely need assistance.

    This is hardly nonsense. Perhaps you just do not attach much importance to these forms of chaos. I do though as did the random guy sitting behind me on the bus this very afternoon.

    Prediction for tomorrow: Conservative Cox, Labour Jenner, Green Greenbaum.

    Paul Perrin should get extra points for having best poster display in the ward.

    • Mr Nemeth, the primary concern of Brightonians & Hoveites is not travellers or squatters. I would suggest that you are spending too much time with Mr Weatherley.
      Mr Weatherley told the Victoria Gardens occupiers that 99% of the public wanted them to go, yet a poll on North Stand Chat had very little responders (unusual) and 50% said they thought they should stay or just didn’t care.
      My point here is not that these are non-issues, but that your party should be focussing on issues that are more relevant. Namely giving us an alternative budget to examine first.

      • I was driven past the Victoria Gardens encampment one day before the storms mangled their tents and I thought the little circle of tents looked very sweet. I was uncomfortable with Hove’s MP grandstanding against them (in another MP’s ward). It felt wrong.

  5. ‘Baron’ – it’s my job to spend time with Mike Weatherley.

    I am more than happy to point out that I admired much about what the Greens wanted to do in advance of the election. Vision is hugely important to me and it was certainly there for the Greens before May.

    It’s all gone now though and that’s the sad bit.

  6. I too have seen the rabid last-minute leaflet by Constable Cox. He is virulently against food-waste collection, an odd stance. I found that the idea struck a welcome chord on Central doorsteps. But what do I know? Anyway, that leaflet confirms that it is between the Tories and the Greens. The Tories really do hate the Greens, as I myself have found. I have been shocked by it.

  7. BPB – were you so disturbed by Daniel’s comment about a lack of Green bias that you had to have a sudden return to form? The reality of the performance of the Green Party in power has been that they have done virtually nothing that the previous administration would not have done. As a Green councillor (now a Cabinet member) said to me just after the election – ‘we had no intention of winning and no plan as to what to do if we did win’. So their answer has been to do as little as possible, nothing remotely radical, nothing to risk Caroline’s re-election. Truly a case of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’. This will be OK for a while but people will expect something different over time.

    • That allegation is annoyingly slippery but doesn’t ring true because I can’t think of a single cabinet member who wasn’t involved in preparing our manifesto, which was the most detailed put out by any party.

      Things the previous administration wouldn’t have done? Well for starters, living wage for lowest paid council workers and early, participative and transparent budget setting. Neighbourhood councils and food-waste collection are both bold initiatives planned for next year although I understand Labour are planning to vote these down.

      • Put it into some context please… the food-waste collection is bold indeed, its also ensuring a further 500k.

        I wont forget.

      • In cuts I mean.

        Of course.

      • It may not ring true – but I can assure you it is. Preparing a manifesto is not the same as actually expecting to be in power. I’m sure the Green Party didn’t expect to have to implement their last general election manifesto, but still set out their stall to the nation.

        I agree that the Living Wage is very positive step – but the rest is mainly just business as usual, and, as Harris points out, your vanity schemes, such as food waste collection, means additional cuts to other essential services.

        You blame the Labour Party in advance for voting down your ‘bold initiatives’, but what if the consultation process leads to the people clearly wanting other priorities? Food waste collection or a Music Service in schools? No brainer for me.

      • The green manifest (headline priority 13) said there would be a £8.20 minimum wage, and top earning would be no more than 8 time lowest.

        They have introduced a £7.19 minimum wage and are aiming for top to be no more than 10 times lowest. So that’s a double miss.

        Of course having a high min-wage means some jobs cease to exist… bad news for the low skilled (and service users).

        At the same time as removing low skilled jobs the council aims to get the people for free by boosting the number of so called volunteers – often people who would love to do even very low paid work, but have had even that opportunity taken from them.

  8. Robert Nemeth never head a bad thing said about Bill Randall? Doesn’t he read his own misleading tweets?

    @robert_nemeth Brighton & Hove Green Party is a shambles after Leader steps down following use of council taxpayers’ cash to clear up campsite mess.

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