Brighton at its best: united against fascism, against the ‘March for England’, and against the English Defence League

Today the centre Brighton came to a standstill as thousands of anti-fascist demonstrators gave the few hundred on the so-called “March for England” a really hard time. Most people know that the March for England is nothing but a front for the English Defence League (EDL).

From reports on Twitter, it sounds as though there were street fights in Church Road and police horse charges in Queens Road. From reports from those on the counter-demonstration it seems as though the police may have lost control for a short while and were heavy-handed, resorting to baton charges and the use of pepper spray. All this on a glorious spring Sunday afternoon in Brighton!

Brighton has a proud record of opposing all attempts by extreme right-wing groups from marching and meeting here. A new book by the veteran anti-Nazi campaigner, Tony Greenstein, catalogues this opposition.

I understand that both the Green Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, and the Green Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Bill Randall, were on the counter-demonstration. I understand that this was probably the first time in Brighton’s history that both the leader of the council and one of the local MPs have been on such a demonstration. After the appalling massacre in Norway, all anti-fascists, on the left and right, should have been on this demonstration. I’m sure that there were other councillors there and I would have hoped that both Conservative MPs would have realised the importance of taking a stand by being there in order to protect Brighton and Hove’s reputation as a cosmopolitan, inclusive City.

Perhaps readers could let me know which other leading politicians were there today. They, Unite Against Fascism, and the several thousand of other counter-demonstrators deserve our thanks.

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The Greens are well placed to have 2 MEPs elected in 2014

Over the next two years there will be two key elections that people in Brighton and Hove will be able to vote in. The first is the election in November of the Police Commissioner. The result of this pan-Sussex vote will almost certainly see the election of a Conservative into what could become a highly politicised, controversial position.

I think it is such a shame that the Labour Party is fielding a candidate since it has no chance whatsoever of winning. I have said before that an independent candidate, such as Ian Chisnell has a much greater chance of producing a shock result than someone from one of the opposition parties.

But the real reason for wanting an independent is that this role should be free from narrow party political influence.

But more intriguing is the election to the European Parliament in 2014. This election is based on a multi-member regional constituency across the South East. 10 MEPs are elected from this region. Last time the parties, all of whom field a slate of candidates, achieved the following results:

  • Conservative 812,288; 34.8%; 4 (total votes; 5 of vote; MEPs elected)
  • UKIP 440,002; 18.8%; 2
  • Liberal Democrats 230,340; 14.1%; 2
  • Green Party 271,506; 11.6%; 1
  • Labour 192,592; 8.2%; 1

No other party polled sufficient votes to have an MEP elected. The British National party, with 101,769 votes (4.4%) came sixth.

The interesting question is what will happen to the Lib Dem vote. It can hardly expect to hold firm. This will be true in every election coming up over the next three years. Some of its vote might transfer to Labour but it is likely that the Greens will benefit most.

The Green Party itself will no doubt benefit from the higher profile that the party has enjoyed following the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster and the election of the first ever Green Council in Brighton and Hove.

My friend, the Enigmatic Flo, will no doubt tell me that Green support itself will not hold firm, with Labour being the main beneficiary. But European elections are not that straightforward and it gives disenchanted voters from across the South East a positive opportunity to vote for, and have elected, non-mainstream parties. I include the Greens and UKIP in this category. Together they had 3 MEPs elected with Labour returning just Peter Skinner.

The Green Party will almost certainly take over from the Lib Dems in third place and, if the UKIP vote weakens, the Greens could be challenging for second place. In either case, it would result, almost certainly, in the election of two Green MEPs.

The Green Party is in the middle of the selection process for its candidates for this election. Particular interest should be given to who comes second and third, assuming that the current MEP, Keith Taylor, is number one on the Green list. The Green party would be well advised to select a woman is number two on its list in order to present a balanced ticket.

Locally, three candidates have put themselves forward, Jason Kitcat, Ania Kitcat and Alex Phillips. My prediction is that Alex Phillips is most likely to appeal to Green Party members in the region and would be a valuable asset at number two on the Green list. I would anticipate that in May 2014 Ms Phillips will join Mr Taylor in Brussels.

Britain’s first-ever Green Mayor to lead Brighton Naked Bike Ride on 10th June

My regular readers, (Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave) will know that I am often accused of being a crypto-Green. Indeed the Enigmatic Flo has been known to voice such concerns herself. But not today. I must say that the announcement by Mayor-elect, Bill Randall, that one of his first engagements after standing down as Council leader to become the City’s First Citizen, is not in keeping with the status and dignity of the Mayoralty.

Councillor Randall has announced that he will be leading the Naked Bike Ride on 10th June wearing nothing but the Mayoral Chain.

While Brighton and Hove welcomes all-comers, has a raffish-reputation, and (as councillor Randall likes to quote Keith Waterhouse) a town that appears to be helping the police with their enquiries, there are certain things the Mayor should not do.

Quick to condemn the Mayor-elect was Hangleton and Knoll councillor, Dawn Barnett: “I cannot believe the bare-face cheek of this. I certainly hope he won’t be displaying his wares in Hangleton although if he did visit the ward he might frighten off the travellers.”

Fellow Green Christopher Hawtree said: “Bill Randall is a Rabelaisian sort of chap. Not many councillors would do this, but I believe Bill Randall can pull it off.”

Councillor Randall has defended his decision: “The Brighton Naked Bike Ride is part of the World Naked Bike Ride, an event that celebrates bikes and bodies, protests against car culture and demonstrates cyclists’ power and vulnerability. It’s also great fun! Rides have taken place every June since 2006 but this is the first time the Mayor will have blessed it with his or her presence.

“I am a bit nervous but I am sure that the event will flash by.”