Graham Cox, Conservative, wins the Westbourne by-election

The holding of the seat by the Tories has little consequence to the overall political scene in Brighton and Hove. Yes, both Labour and the Greens will be disappointed not to have picked up the seat, but The Bishop (Brian Oxley) had a good reputation and both The Bishop’s legacy and the reputation of Graham Cox will have swung it for the Tories.

Labour will be pleased to have retained second place but they need to pickup seats like Westbourne if they are to challenge for control of the City Council. The Greens will inevitably see this as a set back, not least for their ambitions in Hove. They will have to get used to the unrelenting attacks on the administration, and learn how to combat such attacks.

But my initial reaction to the result is that an extraordinary candidate can capture the imagination of the electorate. Caroline Lucas did it in Brighton Pavilion, and Graham Cox has done it in Westbourne. There are few candidates who will be as well know, have such a long track record in the area, and be as widely respected as Graham is by supporters of all parties and none.

Congratulations to councillor Graham Cox, and commiserations to the other six candidates.

I will reflect more overnight on the implications for Labour and the Greens.

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52 Responses

  1. Can’t wait to hear Hawtree’s reaction to this awful result for the Greens.
    Well done Mr Cox.

    • Doubt we’ll hear. He’ll probably be heavily medicated at this point.

      • Well “ouch” perhaps! I do get rather fed up with Christopher’s endless stream of fantasies. Hence he must be woefully disappointed with this election result. He seems to think that if he just says things, they will occur. You should look through my collection of emails from him! Aside from a pre-occupation with Councillor Lynda Hyde and a pink jogging suit, there are assurances of by-elections (which, of course, never come to pass), news that one councillor has applied for as ASBO against an ex-councillor (pure fiction) and far more besides. I gather Private Eye magazine don’t really class him as a reliable source anymore.

      • It’s funny how Hawtree has gone quiet when it is his party making the cuts to libraries. Resist these Hawtree cuts to our libraries, there were not cuts to libraries under David Smith.

  2. Well done Graham. You will make an excellent Councillor!

  3. The turnout was just 35%. Most people were not enthused by this by-election. With the 20/20 vision that we all have five minutes after the result it was actually quite a predictable result. Yes Graham Cox was a strong candidate, but I doubt this translated into many additional votes.

    The real message is for Labour and Greens. Labour need to win Westbourne if they are ever to control the council, and with a Conservative Westminster government pushing through austerity measures they could reasonably have expected a better. But it is still a halfway decent result for them. It is the Greens who have done very poorly indeed – in effect a vote of no confidence in the Greens. If Conservative and Labour in the council want to form a coalition, this by-election should encourage them.

  4. Well done to all candidates but to our Graham in particular.

    I predicted the result on this very blog yesterday. Some laughed!

    Now on to Christmas…

    • Perhaps you might like to have a word with whoever produces your leaflet then, you clearly have more insight…

      Merry christmas.

  5. It all depends how you look at it.

    It’s not a good result for the Greens, but the problem has always been that since the election the other parties and the Argus have been trying to paint them with every brush of dangerous excentricity that they can. Rumour has been molded into the stereo-type to the point that some urban constructs have been coming out with hideous vitriolic vomit.

    Graham Cox is a respected man in the community and at a time when people are concerned about issues such as crime it’s unsurprising he won the vote. I’m sure Westbourne has a good councillor here. I wish him well.

  6. This should shut the Green bloggers bias up.

    And if nothing is mentioned about the “LABOUR machine” rather than the mean Green one, something has gone wrong.

    “A small dedicated bunch of activists” – yea… right.

    • A very large bunch of dedicated Labour activists from what I experienced. The feelgood factor is here to stay.

  7. I don’t think the ‘exceptional candidate’ line cuts it.

    Are you suggesting Cox would have won which ever party he represented – or even as an independent?

    Are you saying that Louisa Greenbaum was/is a particularly poor candidate in comparison – even losing to Labours Jenner?

    The ward has lots of tribal voters and the candidates did little to scare them off. Of the remaining voters (the open minded ones), the greens scared off the most – and its probably the Kitcuts that scared them off.

    My ‘excuse’? With no ward history it was from a virtual standing start, and with only one vote (unlike a full election for two councillors) there were no ‘second preferences’ to be picked up.

    A shame not to beat the LibDems – but even they have had lifetimes to build tribal support.

    I would say “I’ll be back” – but I am not actually going away so it would be superfluous.

    (ht to Simon Kirby for ‘Kitcuts’).

    • I am certain Mr Cox is very able but it seems likely that Mr Jenner and Ms Greenbaum who have both held responsible jobs-are able too. you can’t put the result down to the candidate, the weather, the organisation.

      Did anyone other than me notice that the Argus’s relentless attacks on the Greens ceased on polling day but that their ‘referendum’ had continued to eve of poll? That, errors in what was cut and how it was presented by Cllr kitkat as well as the perceived anti_albion fiasco all boosted the blue party

      LABOUR played lola well too

      • Zombie, from an earlier tweet of mine

        #Westbourne movement since may 2011 turn out down 17% – Cons down 200 = 17%, Lab down 200 = 20%, Green down 260 = 28%

        Its not precise because last election was for two councillors – this time there were no 2nd prefs for voters to be ‘generous’ with.

        Greens have power, publicity etc and haven’t converted it into 1st pref votes – baring miracles, last election was their ‘perfect storm zenith’, and they will be a one term administration.

  8. Well done Graham and everyone else at the Hove office, Obviously ‘Tick the box for Graham Cox’ turned out to be well heeded advice on behalf of the residents of Westbourne.
    A true triumph given the short notice the Conservative party had to work with.

  9. Welldone Graham you deserve the win!..maybe the Greens are on backfoot

  10. I think most people’s reaction to this result is correct. Good for Tories, not quite so good, but good enough for Labour, and disappointing, but not a complete disaster for the Green Party. The main problem for the Green Party is that it only gets tougher from now on – and the momentum from a better result here would have sustained them for a while. Derek Wall’s analysis of an ‘encouraging result’ for the Green Party clearly a bit wide of the mark – but good to see them having to talk up a disappointment for a change.

    In terms of 2015 it clearly leaves Labour as the main challengers to the Tories in Hove/North Brighton, which will be the main longer term success of Labour’s active campaign in Westbourne. They have halted the slide, which is the first step to turning it round.

    • The thing is, Labour haven’t actually halted anything. The fortune of a hostile press and difficult budget decisions would have done it for them.

      Labour have offered nothing as an alternative budget, and think they are ‘back’ because of a by-election defeat to the party of a deeply unpopular government.

      As I said, it all depends on how you look at things. I guess everyone can find cheer in the result somewhere.

      • A well oiled machine, a good candidate and some real important local issues. That caused the Labour vote to go into overdrive. Our voters are still their, and on many MANY occasions yesterday there were Greens coming back to Labour because of our fantastic candidate.

        I just hope this ushers in a bit more co operation

      • I don’t think anyone in the Labour Party will think they are ‘back’ as the result of this – the by-election really came a little too early for them after the reorganising of the City-wide Party, and before the implications of the Green Party budget had been fully felt. As our esteemed blogger is often fond of saying, momentum is crucial in a party’s fortunes, and this result takes some of that away from the Green Party, and hands a little of it back to Labour. It’s not a seminal moment, but an encouraging one.

        In terms of losing to the party of a deeply unpopular government – the polls just don’t bear this out. The government remains very popular – which we may find incredible – but it is.

      • This is the first time I have felt “back”. Also many of my friends feel the same. We are roaring to go. And go we shall!

        Slapping EU + patriotism = popular govt 😉

  11. For the Greens I agree with BPB on this: ‘Third place behind Labour and the Tories would be a disaster’. I hope the administration (and JK in particular) at least gain some humility from this.

    Labour shouldn’t be too triumphal as they really ought to have done better, but can take comfort from retaining their main challenger to the Tories role in Hove. They remain uninspiring however.

    Rather suggests the demographics in Hove haven’t changed sufficiently for the Greens.

    I’m also not sure Green whinging about a hostile press is more than whistling in the dark since all other parties have had to deal with it…

    • The Argus remains what it has always been – a semi-literate Tory rag. Did that make any difference in Westbourne? Almost certainly not, I’d have thought.

      I’d have said this vote is a big disappointment for the Green Party, but not a disaster. The result – with the exception of the LD collapse – is not wildly different from last May when the Greens were one a high. If I was Labour I’d be worried that the party has not really made any substantial progress since its low point at the last election – and I’d suggest that it’s because, in their heart of hearts, Labour is still trying to fight the 2010 Pavilion election. It’s the politics of emotional spasm rather than of leadership – an emotional spasm that prefers sectarian sniping at a Green party that has outflanked them on their traditional issues – on jobs, on civil liberties, on equality – to getting stuck into opposing the Tories on behalf of the vulnerable.

      The same is happening nationally – where Labour’s inability to take an unequivocal stand on things like benefits and public sector pensions contrasts with Caroline Lucas’ strong and confident performance. Labour can take little comfort, I’d have thought, from the Westbourne result.

      • I’m not sure the Tories would agree about the Argus when Caroline seemed to have a daily press release in it in the run up to the GE. It does remain a poor, lowest common denominator rag though – so any party or politician attempting anything brave, interesting or imaginative will suffer for it (it may well reflect the electorate generally in that though).

        You’ve put what I meant by uninspiring far more competently than I could: however incompletely implemented, at least the Greens stood on a living wage and wage differentials ticket – something Labour were either too unimaginative or too scared to do (despite Ken Livingstone’s example).

        It is worrying for the Greens though as it suggests their vote remains what it was and they are unlikely to break out of their university town core areas, despite Caroline’s commendable performance as an MP and high profile.

  12. The underlying trend for the Green party in Westbourne is in fact encouraging. I do not sense the disenchantment that other posters here are claiming.

    • Turnout down 17%, Green vote down 28%… Encouraging?

      • A tad unfair – essentially the Green vote has stayed where it is. This, though, certainly doesn’t correlate with Christopher Hawtree’s euphoric commentaries before the election, and certainly doesn’t merit his description of an “encouraging” trend.

        As Nurse Ratched might have observed in the 1975 film of Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” … “Medication time, medication time ….” 😉

      • I stand by what I said but of course am hardly going to give away the reasons, any more than I would comments made by other parties.

      • Oh dear Mr Hawtree. Coming third with the green vote slipping away is not encouraging. Why lie?

      • Hilarious. Sticking exactly where you are is somehow an “encouraging” trend? Please, someone put Councillor Hawtree in charge of the city’s health.

        Nurse: “Doctor, do something! The patient’s flatlining!”
        Dr. Hawtree: “No no, it’s merely an encouraging trend!”

        As for Chris stating that he is “hardly going to give away the reasons” – what’s that smell?!

  13. Westbourne is not exactly crime central in this city. It is a sleepy dormitory area that will not require policing by its new councillor. How he redefines himself (i.e. not overtly nasty party lording it over residents) before the next city-wide local election will determine whether or not Westbourne residents keep him on…. What exactly will he GIVE to that ward?

    • Perhaps some degree of commitment to the ward? He seems to have been in the local police for 30 years, Hove police boss and in charge of Sussex CID. Weight that up with your preferred candidate – a lady who organisers national political conferences for the Green party, and organised their last one in …… Sheffield. Thanks Louisa!

  14. I’d like to offer my congratulations to Graham Cox for holding the Tory seat and for a good, clean and ethical campaign.

    However, I can’t see this as a particularly negative vote for the Greens and it’s certainly not the vote of ‘no confidence’ that Graeme suggests above.

    In fact, for the three main parties, it was simply a re-run of of the May 2011 result, with Conservatives and Green returning the same share of the votes and a small uplift for Labour at the expense of the LibDems, whose vote collapsed.

    It’s disappointing that the Greens did not overtake Labour, to be sure, but beyond that, the consistency of vote from May is quite heartwarming. The Greens are the party in power, in the middle of difficult times, not least a budget inspired by huge central government cuts and a need to raise some offsetting revenue to avoid passing on huge cuts and job-losses. Rises in taxes are never popular and parking charges are one of those great no-nos for Brighton & Hove.

    To see the vote remain stable suggests that people of Westbourne accept the the Green approach and that the loyalties of May remain unswerved by the necessities of administration.

    • What a clear-headed and sensible post.

    • The people of Westbourne self-evidently do not accept the Green approach – the Greens came third, with fewer votes than last time. At best, they remain as unconvinced by the Greens as they were before – Hawtree’s invisible underlying trends notwithstanding.

    • Indeed, the Greens profess that Louisa was a paper candidate when she stood in May. In this by-election she wasn’t with the Green machine working overtime. The result of this was that their vote share actually fell – clearly a shock to them judging by their expressions at the count and proof, if any were needed, that the Greens are now a party in retreat.

  15. Greens seem determined to rewrite history…

    In May Lousia got 30% of the vote, this time she got 25%

    How can anyone seriously call that ‘holding up’ or ‘the same’?

    It is actually a lot less – no?

  16. taking emotions and party bias out of it, looks like nothing has changed (except a lib-dem collapse), and the Greens have nothing to worry about:

    Con 1027 39.2% +0.7%
    Lab 826 31.5% +3.2%
    Green 645 24.6% +0.6%
    Lib-Dem 45 1.7% -5.5%
    UKIP 36 1.4% +1.4%
    TUSC 26 1% +1%
    EC 13 0.5% -0.7%

    Turnout 2618 35.1%
    Swing 1.3% Con to Lab

  17. Paul,
    You need to calculate the averages of the two candidates from the parties that stood two in May.
    On that account the Tories gained 0.7%, Labour 3.2%, the Greens 0.6% and the Lib-Dems lost 5.5%. Your gained 1.4%, Tindall 1% and the Euro citizens lost 0.5%. I will put up the exact vote share in percentage terms if you wish. It basically equates to a a 1.3% swing to Labour from Con and equally to Labour from Green too. BAscially this contrasts with a 17% increase for the Greens in 2009 in Goldsmid. So yes in relative terms a bad result indeed for the Greens. Very likely a consequence of their lack of keeping to their manifesto pledges!

    • Ha ha! Yes that will give you a statistic that may be useful for something or other, but it won’t give you the percentage of the vote that Louisa Greenbaum dropped between the two elections…

  18. The problem with multiple vacancy elections s that yo need to calculate according to how many vancancies there are, aka 200% for a two member ward election, not the 100% the council seem to base their calculations on. Perhaps seeing as some think I am in a position of authority I might hve that changed to be a little more accurate….

  19. Paul,
    I am not making it up that is the psephological way to calculate multiple vacancy elections. Otherwise you will end up with a figure lower than 100% for the by-election, especially if you always choose the top placed candidates of any party to compare it with.

  20. Paul Perrin,

    The results I gave uses the standard method for calculating election results. Disgruntledgreen is right, your method gives <100% when comparing the full set of candidates.

    The point is people are harping on here about how much has changed, when the actual numbers show *historically* very little has changed.

    The insights to be gained:

    a) Labour have scooped up a few Lib-dem votes

    b) The Greens, if they did "work to win", have only increased their vote by a tiny amount

    c) The Tories also increased their vote by a tiny amount

    • Indeed. Interpretation is all. Green flatlining is either: encouraging (mad); ok (given tough decisions now in power); disappointing (full campaign; some work towards manifesto pledges); worrying (Green appeal remains limited to same demographic).

      Discounting Hawtree, we can only hope for a less over-confident administration.

  21. There are some interesting debates on the statistics and everyone knows that you can use them to prove anything. One’s statistics can be turned around and used against as well as in favour of you hypothesis. In the case of the BPB and comments I do have to remark that despite the range of comments we do seem to missing the point slightly, Labour who during the run up to the election were being tipped to come in third did something different. They came second picking up votes from the Greens and Lib Dems. We increased our lead on the Greens by almost 100% and made a dent in the gap between us and the Conservatives. This was due to the fantastic machine that I worked with on the campaign with tireless street canvassing and door knocking.

    We spoke to almost half of the residents and noted their comments. We also were the only party that had a clear answer to the school situation with the option of a Co-operative Trust school, can I encourage some of the other parties to visit the national website to improve their understanding of this positive model of school development, as their campaign literature showed a lack of knowledge. They also voted against the proposal when it went to the Full council meeting so I have to question there real desire to develop the school that is so needed to serve the residents of Hove.

    Happy New Year to everyone and especilly to my fellow Labour Campaigners who also visit this site, and may 2012 bring us more productive campaigning

  22. Nigel,
    Of course statistics can be used to prove anything but if you want to be psephologically accurate then you accept a standard way of presenting results, otherwise all you show is your inability to accept the truth.

    • Disgruntledgreen,

      If you are interested in the standard ‘swing’ percentage between elections then, indeed, you should use the standard method of calculating it.

      However, if you are interested in more subtle, or different information, then that particular calculation isn’t relevant.

      What ‘standard method’ are you suggesting NIgel should be using to give the change in the gap between two specific parties in an election, and how do your results differ from those he gives?

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