Reflecting of the reasons for the Conservative victory in the Westbourne by-election

First of all, congratulations to Graham Cox on his victory. Here is the full result:
Graham Cox (Conservative) 1027
Nigel Jenner (Labour) 826
Louisa Greenbaum (Green) 645
Gareth Jone (LibDem) 45
Paul Perrin (UKIP) 36
Pip Tindall (TUSC) 26
Susan Collard (European Citizens) 13

It was definitely a good night for the Tories made all that better by Labour beating the Greens into second place. I think there are three factors that resulted in this good result:

Graham Cox: Graham, as I have said since his selection, was an inspired choice. His appeal transcends traditional party loyalties and we can expect to see him rising very quickly into a leadership position within the Tory ranks.
The Legacy of The Bishop: Graham’s predecessor, Brian Oxley, was well-respected and some support for Graham will have been derived from Brian. Graham will no doubt convert those loyalty votes for Brian to his own.
Mike Weatherley: In spite of rumoured tensions between Graham and Mike, the current standing and high profile of the MP for Hove will have benefited Graham.

Labour’s performance will have brought some quiet satisfaction. While they did not win the seat, Labour achieved its primary objective of beating the Greens. It was noticeable that the tone of most of Labour’s message at present in Brighton and Hove is anti-Green. Perhaps now it will turn it’s focus on the Tories who are, after all, enforcing the cuts on Brighton and Hove. The unrelenting attacks on the Greens is somewhat disingenuous.

For the Greens, third place behind Labour in second is the second worst result possible. (The worst result would to have been beaten by UKIP). In May the Greens did little work in the ward. In this by-election they worked it to win but did not improve their position or share of the vote.

As mentioned above, the Greens have been subjected to unrelenting attacks from the Argus and by three individual Labour members, Lord Bassam, Caroline Penn, and councillor Warren Morgan. While Jason Kitcat has diligently responded in a statesmanlike manner, the attacks are what the Greens must expect for the next three and a half years leading up to May 2015.

Labour’s LOLA campaign (Leave Our Loos Alone) shows some imagination. I would be interested to know who came up with this idea. More of that kind of propaganda will serve Labour well.

The Tories have cause to celebrate, Labour too. The Greens need to lick their wounds, reflect on where they have arrive in the political cycle, and devise a strategy for recovery. I will return to this theme in the new year.

But there was one big loser in this by-election whose performance betrayed his previous unblemished record, and that was the prediction of your Humble Blogger. As my three regular readers (Doris, Biker Dave and Grizzly) will know, my forecasts are usually spot on. But this time, failure. In mitigation, I did recognise the personal strengths of Graham Cox from the moment he was first selected and thought that his selection made a Tory victory a real possibility.

By way of contrition, I will share something later this evening about councillor Cox and me. This revelation will not doubt be the talk around Christmas trees of Brighton and Hove this Festive Season.

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30 Responses

  1. Now this is all over lets not be too overexcited about it…one by-election does not a council make…and this is especially true in Westbourne. Both the timing within the year and the timing within the political cycle were always going to make mounting a strong campaign difficult. The lack of time to fully expose the Greens budget to full public scrutiny meant that they have perhaps been partially protected from the full glare that taking power was always going to bring.
    Similarly the national dead cat bounce that Tories have been experiencing over that last couple of weeks in national polls will have protected them to an extent.
    As I say though…we can try to read much into this result but the reality is that this result isnt going to set the world alight. However every journey starts with a single step.
    On the flip side though it’s lovely to have some peace from constant Green boasting – although I would now like Cllr Hawtree to explain his music based predictions!
    Seasons Greetings

    • LAB should be over the moon. Whilst having a similar proportionate result to last time they have put clear water between 2nd/3rd placed Greens.
      If Westbourne had been citywide the Greens would be down to 8 and Lab would be back as main opposition or largest party.

      Without the ability to engineer national xenophobia over the EU, the Greens have had to simply suffer from power combined with economic crisis, a hostile press and other parties opportunism.

      • The greens under la la Lucas haven’t been opportunistic!!?
        Anyway, in the spirit of the festive season I hope that she has a lovely yuletide with her privately educated kids in Belgium!

  2. I don’t usually bother to post rants on the BPB, but today I will make an exception.

    The Green Party evolved from the Ecology Party and, along with other extreme left-leaning individuals (am I allowed to call them Marxists?), have put a great deal of effort into being perceived as ‘reasonable’ by the electorate. The Green Party in power, however, are not particularly green (Toad Hole Valley) nor cuddly (mobile library closures) and, shock horror, now find that they actually need to make a few unpopular decisions, rather than just moaning all of the time. Furthermore, unlike the easy task of reaching the conclusion that the overthrow of the Capitalist System is a great idea, or in deciding to forget about the imposition of Meat Free Mondays onto an unreceptive workforce, they are finding it tough going.

    Both the Conservative and Labour parties, whatever our differences, will always strive to find the best outcomes for the city, even if this means the occasional ‘postponement’ of declared policies, but I believe that, in principle, the Green Party will find this impossible, as dogma just doesn’t bend to circumstances. I said in Council last Thursday that I felt that the Green Party is now in decline, and I believe that yesterday was just the start of their long and painful descent into chaos.

    (As an aside, I do not predict a similar outcome for Labour, but their cause will be harmed as the national economy improves and their ‘one club’ attack on the coalition is no longer seen to be just plain wrong but rather quaint and deluded.)

    All parties were desperate to win the WBE, but the Conservatives did. This result, I am certain, will have dented the previously impenetrable wall of self-belief that has surrounded The Green Party since the Local Elections in May, and appears on the odd occasion to have freed them of the need to act ‘reasonably’, and they should now sit back and reflect on their first few contentious months in administration.

    I fought hard to help Councillor Graham Cox win yesterday, as I believe he is a truly reasonable man with a strong sense of wanting to ‘do the right thing’, and I can confirm that I will be cheering as he enters the council chamber in January. Oh, and lastly, whatever spin is spun onto the BPB, please remember that Graham will be there because the residents of Westbourne want him to be there.

    • Dear councillor Janio, you are a most welcomed contributor to this blog. You are someone I have been known to praise (along with Dawn Barnett). Please feel free to rant to your heart’s content! BPB

    • Your post so reminds me of the famous spitting image sketch in which Kinnock and Thatcher talk up the two party system in the light of the SDP challenge.

      Thatcher; ‘Kinnock is just the sort of tiny vegetable this country needs in opposition’

      Kinnock: ‘If people don’t want to vote or us then they can do a lot worse than vote for those fascist b***ards over there…’

      Thatcher: ‘The two idiot system is here to stay’…

    • The national economy won’t improve, and all you have to offer is more free market dogma. Very difficult to see how that has ‘bent to circumstances’ over the last few years, and now you have nothing left to sell off and really nowhere else to go.

      You held a seat that you have always held. Whoop de doo.

  3. I am sneered at for saying that Westbourne ward remains winnable by a party other than the Conservatives. Even perhaps the Greens! There is no doubt that Councillors Oxley and Cobb looked anxious at the Verification and the Count in May, and the different circumstances of an election across Hove and Brighton could prove different. We shall see.

    If other parties did not persist in various areas, then there would be stasis. Look at what happened in Regency a few years ago. To think that it once harboured a LibDem!

    I am bemused that elsewhere on this Blog I am described as mad. What’s more, Ollie Sykes informs me that when he was outside the Tamworth Road polling station, the Conservative teller described me as a “crazy guy”, one who, moreover, is in the habit of opening the front door naked but for an apron. news to me. That, I told Ollie, is the same sad sack as the one who came up to a stall on George Street in May and addressed Caroline Lucas as “the poisonous pixie”.

    Ollie’s news made me all the more certain that I am right to have as little as possible to do with the Tories. Although I must say that I very much enjoy working with former Councillor Pamela Stiles on Gorham’s Gift, a body which is necessarily private.

    As for naked people, I continue to be amazed at the Hove penchant for cleanliness. Early on, in Arthur Street, somebody relayed questions to and from the registered voter who was in the bath at the end of the flat’s hallway.While I was knocking up, somebody was hot foot from the bath, veiled by the door, and spoke for a few minutes.

    But my abiding memory of this Election is of arriving at a door where the occupant had in fact just got back from voting. Nothing unusual in that. This voter, though, was blind. We had sometimes spoken on the street about various matters, when I was careful not to disturb the guide dog. This time, though, off-duty, the Labrador gambolled at my feet, leapt up, and licked me. I expressed concern, but learnt that they know when they are not at work. I was beset by a rotten cold, but afterwards thought to myself that one cannot complain. By comparison with blindness, life’s a doodle. Would that some of these posters revelled in life as much as that dog and his owner. None of us is here very long, as I thought to myself at Full Council the other day, when looking down the list of Mayors, people now carried on the wind. Goodness knows who they were.

    • These sort of overly keen post

    • Shame you want little to do with the Tories Chris..I know your fellow Cllr in your ward has nothing bad to say about you at all, I believe in the good the bad and the indifferent in all walks of life. Merry Xmas Chris.

    • I don’t think you’re *mad* per se. Sadly you are nothing more than a political opportunist. Who would be putting out anonymous leaflets attacking and criticising the Green party one minute and standing for them the next? Who would put leaflets (again anonymously) criticising Labour through the doors of neighbours of the then deputy leader of the council (Sue John) for the specific purpose of winding her up, and then be having dinners with her and Ken Bodfish? Bet you haven’t told your buddies Ken and Sue that!

  4. I have followed the comments for the last few weeks and do feel that there has been a strong bias throughout the Blog. I personally would like to thank all the bloggers who support the Labour party and all the activists who worked tirelessly in this campaign in my support. We increased our %age of the vote and have turned the corner. Bring on the next By election.

    I think that Graham was a very good candidate and good choice for the Tories. I am sorry that the Green candidate and her colleagues except for one ( Guess who?)were so upset in defeat that they could not be polite and civilised. However it is the first campaign that they have fought where they have been accountable and challenged on proposals and decisions. You do have to make tough decisions in administration and some will not be liked but that is life and the reality of the real world that they are now in. One that the Labour party and the Conservatives have been in before. However closing down Loos in parks with the alternative being using Public Houses and out of town superstores as an alternative, and cutting the Music service as opposed to piloting food recycling may not be what the city has a priority. It certainly was not part of the manifesto pledges of the May campaign but maybe that was just aspirational !

    Is there a rift now between the Leader of the Party and the council will she defect to the Conservatives ???? She is hosting an event for Brighton and Hove Albion in the new year and I wonder how many of her councillors will be in attendance??

    This may be a historic Blog as it may be my first and last entry, but to everyone who reads and participates seasonal greetings and I will see you all in the new year campaigning.

    • I can’t follow the penultimate paragraph.

      As for Sue John’s road, a friend and myself certainly chose, under cover of darkness, to ask residents to put up the first of what became 5000 Save Hove Library posters. We felt like a pair of mischievous schoolboys, to good effect. Many parents told me that their children liked to go round and count them. Of course, Sue John knew that I was behind that devilish plot! I heard that the following morning she came out, and was aghast as she walked to the bus stop, but I think she liked the chutzpah. She has a very good sense of humour which was not perhaps always apparent at public meetings. It’s a pretty poor look-out for humanity if one cannot have a dispute and then find otherwise (“forgive and forget, Major”). Sustained bile is unallurring, even life-threatening. During the knocking-up on Thursday evening, I met Simon Battle on Cowper Street, and we again spoke amiably. But I shall not, of course, mention here what we said.

      • Well, if what you say is true, then no doubt you will be enjoying many more evenings out with Ken and Sue. However, if Sue saw it all as a good joke you most certainly didn’t. I, and others, heard a stream of less than complimentary descriptions of her from your lips, and I think I am smart enough to recognise such things said in jest and those with … how can I put it? A “sustained bile”? I note you avoid addressing the more significant issue – secretly doing all you can to undermine the party you now represent!

  5. What are these “rumoured tensions between Graham and Mike” Weatherley? I certainly didn’t see any.

  6. Hi Shaun

    Mike and Graham were debating a single detail of a single poiicy in front of the Blogger once. They have different views on the subject – hence the rumoured rift. It’s basically made up.

    See you soon buddy.

  7. In the words of Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you, then you win”

    The Greens are experiencing exactly this. For many years, and still in most of the country, they are ignored by the electorate. I expect they are relishing these challenges. Remember, it took the Labour Party Over 20 years to get into power from when it got its 1st MP. Those predicting an early demise – you’re wrong!

    • You forget they have now won in Brighton. The next stage is disillusionment.

      • What a depressingly fatalistic take upon existence. I think life’s better than that.

        I am still thinking about it all, but my take on Westbourne is that it polarises between the upbeat and the doom-mongers: by their very nature, the latter die off.

      • Merely responding to yet another tedious use of Ghandi. Of course, you’re correct, in the long run we all die. Merry Christmas.

  8. I still maintain that The Green Party will fracture and return to the game of pressure politics very soon, but surely the idea (deployed in another post) that The Labour Party are here to stay, as they have now been outed as serial ‘Economy Destroyers’, reminds me of the quote often attributed to Zhou Enlai – “It is too soon to say.”

  9. Correct percentages and swings for Westbourne:
    Brighton and Hove City – Westbourne:
    Con 1027 (39.3%, +3.8), Lab 826 (31.6%, +2.1), Green 645 (24.7%, -1.6), LD 45 (1.7%, -5.9), UKIP 36 (1.4%, +1.4), TU + Socialist 20 (0.8%, +0.8), European Citizens 13 (0.5%, -0.6).

    Con hold. Swing 0.9% Lab to Con since May.

    I have just calculated that on the swing against the Greens, they would loose their bottom seats in Goldsmid, Preston Park and Queen’s Park to Labour!

  10. BPB: “It was noticeable that the tone of most of Labour’s message at present in Brighton and Hove is anti-Green. Perhaps now it will turn it’s focus on the Tories who are, after all, enforcing the cuts on Brighton and Hove. The unrelenting attacks on the Greens is somewhat disingenuous” – BPB conveniently overlooks the fact that the Greens primary messaging has been anti-Labour for over 4 years. If there is ever a wiff of Tory criticism (admittdly a rarity from any Green councillor) then inevitably iot is balanced by some anti-Labour rant. BPB also overlooks the fact that it is the Greens and not the Coalition who have the choice whether to prioritise a food waste pilot over cuts in services for vulnerable groups. Will BPB put his huge pro-gren bias on ice in 2012? Not likely, is it?

    • Craig, my view, on the day/evening, in this sitting room, is backed up by Yuletide number crunchers. Obviously enough, I am not going to say too much here but, of course, it is apparent to anybody that the vote even for the front-runner Tory candidate was dropping over the years. And I knew something when I was as certain as one dared be that Central was winnable. (I nodded politely when Brian Fitch assumed I was token candidate one sunny April morning on Church Road.) Close study of the latest Westbourne figures reveals something far from the cut-and-dried view of some commentators. I am certain that Westbourne is in a state of flux. Perhaps there are things to be done differently another time. You probably say the same. Meanwhile, Gill Mitchell’s assertion of a Green implosion is hilarious. And there was I thinking she had a scientific training – rather than a Tony Hancock take on the subject (“that’s a whole armful”).

      As for food waste, it is lamentable that previous administrations here did not follow the examples of Wandsworth or Lambeth – or even the Witney of a certain Mr C. I think we can aim rather higher than the “slop buckets” sneer of a sour-faced Tory voter one dismal rainy evening in Westbourne Place (which so often has a film noir feel to it).

      Much matter for debate. Perhaps best continued when your Budget proposals are ready? What’s keeping you?

      Meanwhile, Craig, man cannot live by politics alone, and I do hope that, as a Dylan enthusiast, you are overcoming your strange prejudice against the Christmas disc. At any rate, check out his “Must Be Santa” video on YouTube. His party is a whole bunch more fun than twiglets and Mackeson at Labour HQ.

      • I have to chuckle at Christopher’s mysterious alluding to some secret Westbourne pattern that, it seems, only those with Green-tinted spectacles can see, and furthermore can see it as a wonderful success for the Greens.

        It really puts me in mind of Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, better known as “Comical Ali”, the Iraqi information minister, who made televised claims during the second Gulf War that American forces were committing suicide in droves, and denied that US forces where anywhere near Bagdad …. even when their tanks could be heard in the background.

        Or perhaps Chris would prefer an even more benign analogy: The Wizard of Oz (or perhaps the Wizard of Odd, in Chris’ case), a funny little man madly pulling at levers behind a curtain, trying to convince everyone he is all-powerful and knowledgeable, in his chamber in the Emerald City (wait .. surely Green City?).

        Councillor Phelim MacCafferty could take on the role of the cowardly lion, the tinman with no heart could go to finance honcho Jason Kitcat, and the scarecrow in desperate need of a brain .. well, take your pick.

        As for who would take on the role of Dorothy (or Toto for that matter) … the mind boggles.

  11. One reason the Greens did so well in 2010/11 in B & H is that they seemed to create a kind of hegemony in local politics. this is not a new idea and comes from Gramsci. Their ideas were not really countered by others convincingly and so they grew on a wave of momentum. Their failure at Westbourne shows that whatever hegemony existed has gone.

    The reality of power requires compromise, especially when that power is limited or constrained, as in local government. Whatever decisions are made disaffect some people but whatever fallout that entails can be manipulated by clever presentation.

    The Green administration has created an impression that the left hand does not now know what the right hand is doing. In part that is lack of a whipping system and lack of internal discipline but also a naievity that creates a fast learning curve or eventual oblivion.

    Caroline Lucas has played a weak hand well though and has kept on the right side of public opinion.She couold win again even if the council is lost.

  12. One cloud in the silver lining for the Tories in the Westbourne result: a good Green result (second or first) would have seriously muddied the waters as to who could claim to be main opposition in the parliamentary seat (be it Hove or Brighton and Hove North).

    Hove’s Tory MP must now be looking nervously over his shoulder – bear in mind the 11,000-plus Lib Dem votes in Hove in 2010. How many of those can he realistically hope to pick up next time?

    Whether they go to Labour or stay at home depends on the kind of candidate Labour pick and the kind of campaign they run, of course.
    If they run as a party of the centre-right many may decide not to bother.

    Are there any figures on the number of postal votes at the byelection? Be interesting (very interesting) to know who did best out of these.

  13. I should have thought that the point about The Wizard of Oz/ Westbourne Ward is that it moves from by-election black and white to the full election colour of New Church Yellow Brick Road. And takes on other dimensions within the Parliamentary constituency, where no candidate should think it one mighty, er, Baum, to victory.

  14. […] & Hove City Council. He has been described, by the infamous Brighton Politics Blogger, as an inspired choice by the local Conservative Party. Perhaps this plaudit has gone to his head? He’s rushed into the blogosphere and will find it […]

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