Both Greens and Labour should avoid internal divisions if they wish to win Hollingdan and Stanmer

At the last local elections Hollingdean and Stanmer was keenly fought between Labour and the Greens. I predicted, quite correctly, that two Greens, Sven Rufus and Christina Summers, would win, and that Jeane Lepper would hold her seat for Labour.
The Greens underestimated the personal popularity of Jeane Lepper who, in the ‘Kings House Bubble’, is something of a figure of hate for the Greens. Similarly, Labour overestimated the popularity of the former councillors, Pat Hawkes and Christine Simpson.
Most of my sympathy last year was with Luke Walter, the Green candidate who lost out to Jeane Lepper purely on the grounds that he appeared lower on the ballot paper than the names Rufus and Summers. He wold have made a first rate councillor and I hope that he will consider standing in the future.
The loss of Hollingdean and Stanmer hurt Labour. It was their last remaining stronghold in Brighton Pavilion and the base of the former Labour MP, David Lepper, husband of Jeane Lepper.
It is no wonder that Labour has it as its number one target seat. There are regular campaign mornings targeting the ward and Labour is to select its candidates for the 2015 elections this coming September, a full 30 months before the poll.
And while Labour has got its act together, the Greens have decided to carry out its ‘enquiry’ into the actions of Christina Summers at the Council meeting  on July 19h when she spoke and voted against equal marriage.
In my last post I said that the Greens would be judged by its handling of Summersgate. Depressingly, it is emulating Labour in the 1980’s and 1990’s by taking divisive action against one of its members, action that will have just one winner, Labour.
But Labour is a funny old party. It could yet allow its deep sectarian divisions to scupper its prospects. While the old right calls for tolerance towards Labour’s party-in-a-party, Progress, there is hostility towards the soft left LRC. Labour would be well-advised to put aside its divisions and focus on winning elections. For that matter, so too would the Greens.

22 Responses

  1. It is not at all fair to say that Jeane Lepper is “a figure of hate” for the Greens. I was at a table with her in the interval of a Council meeting, and somehow, I know not how, we found that we share a passion for the movies by Truffaut. The other evening, at the Steve Ovett thing, we had fascinating talk about The Rolling Stones whom she saw in Richmond, where she met future-husband David (who came up to me during knocking-up in St Peter’s 2010 by-election to say that he had enjoyed my obituary of Cy Coleman). i think that the great thing about the Leppers is that they understand that politics should not be all-consuming but a part of a diverse life (as it is for voters).

    • I entirely agree with you about the Leppers. I have almost always enjoyed my dealings with them both, fine public servants but who have lives and interests beyond politics.

    • Had them round to supper yet…with Ken and Sue?

  2. Great blog article – I agree Labour in Brighton need to unite – return to their roots and get organised to win!

  3. Hard to see how the Greens can hang onto Hollingdean and Stanmer after the Christina Summers witch hunt. All indications are they would de-select her or make her life such a misery she would not run again.

  4. Or is it not possible that she might cross the floor and join the Tory party where her views on LGBT marriage would be the norm?

    • Whilst her views on LGBT marriage and abortion would be more in line with the Tories than the Greens, her views on the vast majority of other issues are very much in line with the Green Party’s and out of line with the Tories. If Cllr Summers changes her political affiliation it will almost certainly be her becoming an independent, and she’ll most likely continue to vote with the Greens.

      • I agree with you. And the Greens would not deserve her turn-the-other-cheek loyalty if this outcome were ‘achieved’ by them.

  5. A key issue in H+S is the presence of the Universities within its bounds. I am sure that over the rest of the ward, Labour still holds sway – although probably to as lesser degree than previously. It’s even within my memory that the old East Sussex Hollingbury ward was held by the Tories by a man whose name escapes me, but he ran a shop in the Dip, and was a cheerleader for Derek Spencer when he was the MP.

    If I recall correctly, the odd thing about the election that brought him to power was that Labour was being pilloried for their very small financial support towards what would later become Brighton Pride. How times have changed, (for the better in this case).

    If the student vote stays Green, which would seem likely, then it will remain a winnable seat, however they play out the Christina Summers saga, (probably tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, unless they really mess it up). The Green Party may have more difficulty if Individual Elector Registration is introduced before 2015. It would be another drain on their resources to ensure that students are registered locally.

    Labour selecting candidates early is a positive sign, and will allow them to build up recognition with the voters. The only danger is that there may be sitting Councillors who wish to stand down, and do not wish to declare this so early, or some may be deselected, with all the potential for turmoil that such a situation would create.

  6. i was out and about for Christina and Sven in Hollingdean the other month. I found a good reaction when talking with people, no hands held up in horror about all this Green ruin of everywhere that some allege. Seems to me that there is another world beyond politics per se: talk with people of many other matters, such as one amazing hidden garden.

    For me, a very good memory is of Christina and myself hefting some 75,000 newspapers about the place in a few swift hours one sunny day. The tang of newsprint, the look of buildings, such as those two carved birds above the shops on the A23 opposite Preston Drove. The builder simply did it.

    • Well done in remember the hard work and dedication that Christina partner in… Isn’t it amazing that despite the level of loyalty and focus that Christina has invested in the Green Party , that she is under question now ??I know for a fact that her diligence and genuine interest in the people in her ward has made a difference.. Not sure I can say the same for Sven though…
      The amazing thing is that someone like scrapperduncan can stir such levels of hostility concerning Christina and in fact being the Green party into disrepute and remain in ” freedom of speech”.and even maintain that a lot of his info is from Green councilors.. Where as Christina even after making it clear twice that she did not represent the party views when she spoke, is indeed under a witch hunt!!
      Amazing how Jason can state at the same meeting that He respects the freedom for each to have different views … And then fails to ensure the simple task of carrying out the reality of “Freedom of speech ” and ” respect” where Christina is concerned??
      If truth be told Christina is one of a rare breed of councilors who actually stand by what they believe…
      Churchill once said ” if you have enemies , then at sometime in your life you stood up for what you believed in”

      Mmmm I wonder in the Green party who else might be in that position ..
      Very disappointing to see the lack of equality and the level of bigotry from the group… This feels like christian phobia …..

    • Hinting at being warmly disposed towards Christina but how will you vote as one of the Inquisitors?

      Your own intolerance towards disabled people within your new role of Chair of Planning (absolute refusal to allow disabled people to sit downstairs in the chamber at Planning to accommodate physical needs) gives me a hint about how you might actually vote.

      I don’t look at the Green Party Councillors and see tolerance.

  7. Welcome back blogger.

    I was at first inclined to take the same line on Cllr Summers as you suggest – why turn a page six story in the Argus into a cause celebre by even discussing it further? Just let her convince the ward membership (or whoever it is selects Green candidates) of her good intentions when the time comes.

    But having seen the coverage on BBC south on Friday, I wonder. The language in the broadcast clip of Cllr Summers speech showed some pretty inflammatory language – how gay marriage would ruin families, all the usual rubbish. How are the many non-traditional families in Brighton and Hove supposed to take bigoted remarks like this? If I were a Hollingbury and Stanmer elector who had voted for her on a Green ticket, I would be mightily pissed off, I know that much.

    Furthermore, you have to ask why this story is all over the media, especially the Christian media channels. Not going to be the Green party press office, is it?

    It’s valid to ask (as it has been) why the subject was even being debated in Council. But Labour put the motion down: what exactly were they up to?

    By her own admission, Cllr Summers did not make this speech off-the-cuff, and must have known these remarks would cause offence to many inside and outside her own party. If she had given a silent vote or simply said that she couldn’t in conscience support the motion, that would have been one thing, but she chose not to, and has since received a lot of publicity for her actions in a way that is quite damaging to her party.

    In such circumstances this can hardly be called a witch-hunt – more like a bid for victim status, and I am not impressed by it. I am also not impressed with posts claiming that the gay marriage issue is being pushed by sinister homosexual cadres within political parties. Actually, I think you’ll find it is being promoted (to his credit, through my gritted teeth) by the Rt Hon David Cameron MP and his cabinet.

    • I think you’ll find that cllr summers has been approached by media due to the loud mouth surges of ” rapper Duncan”.

      Surely the party knew if / what she was going to say and why ?
      Surely the fact that she has said she supports the equal rights of the LGBT community and that it’s the actual religious ceremony that she feels she cannot support.
      It still boils down to the reality that if christians really have the freedom to either back or disagree to this motion then why is there such an inquiry ?
      There is no party whip…she is still for equality.. Then why is the Green partaken in all thhe about this ?
      She is still loyal to the Green party.,surely the running of the city is the priority.

      • Civil marriage is not a religious ceremony. That’s a key point, and this is why the churches don’t have a leg to stand on, since the proposed legislation won’t force them to do anything.

    • It was the Green Party itself which ensured that publicity machines went into overdrive, not Christina.

      When she did go on TV, it followed the deluge of vitriol (whipped into a frenzy in the mind of Scrapper Duncan as he seemed to obsess about it) everywhere from Twitter on through to the blogs, etc. with the Argus printing the intoning plans of the Inquisitors.(will they wear black hoods at their meeting, hmmm).

      If Lbour were mischievous in raising the Notice of Motion, then the Greenswalked right into it, didn’t they.

  8. You’re either for equality or you’re not. You can’t say ‘I’m in favour of equality, except for this group wanting to do this thing’ (still less get elected on a manifesto which says the opposite) and expect to retain any credibility whatsoever.

    LGBT marriage isn’t a matter of conscience. It’s a matter of equality before the law. If it’s not allowed then our claims to equality are a sham.

    • There are definitional problems around the word ‘equality’. A five year old has equality rights identical to a 30 year old where access to food is concerned, etc. but they do not have the same rights of care and protection, say. A five year old has the right to be dependent, but a 30 year old doesn’t.

      The term equality does not, alone, mean you can have whatever you demand.

      For instance, Christina Summers does not have equal rights of “freedom of a different view” as given by Jason Kitcat, not in the eyes of his fellow Inquisitors who will meet (tonight, is it?) to decide her fate. If Jason meant what he said, he should have used his power as Leader to put a quiet underlining stop to the whole witch hunt in the interests of the party’s standing in the community.

      The Green Party now looks pretty savage and intolerant to me.

      • There may indeed be definitional issues about ‘equality’ but his is a poor analogy. We are talking about marriage/partnership between adults. What have five year olds got to do with it?

        The line in Cllr Summers’ speech I am talking about is this:
        ‘When you touch marriage, you are touching family, and you are hitting at the very heart of God’.

        This carries a pretty strong inference that gay and lesbian people are not part of ‘family’ in some way shape or form, which of course we all are, some as parents.

        There is also an inherent assumption that marriage is an exclusively religious ceremony which, in this country, has not been the case since 1837. I repeat, it is only civil marriages that will be affected by these proposals. Churches will continue to marry only those they think fit to. There is no cause for all this fire and brimstone stuff.

        What the Green party choose to do about this is down to them, but calling them ‘savage and intolerant’ seems a bit OTT given that this investigation has not yet taken place. Freedom of speech is also subject to one or two ‘definitional issues’ – Cllr Summers chose to belong to a political party, and holds elected office. The least she could have done is weigh her words a bit more carefully, even if she couldn’t bring herself to support gay marriage.

        In the dreadfully one-sided BBC item on Friday, Cllr Summers says of the LGBT lobby: ‘It is a very strong minority grouping, but they have a very loud voice’. Well, touché – the main difference being that the LGBT lobby hasn’t been a bastion of privilege and power for the last two millennia.

  9. Very good reply to me, Clive, And you end it in a way I can agree with. Christina Summers should indeed have been a great deal more careful with her choice of language – a political skill, of course. And the Greens are still acquiring ‘political skills’ of obfuscatory, spinning, circumlocutory, etc. ways of not saying what is meant or saying things so they mean different things to different voters.

    So it boils down to this: Christina can be damned for speaking from the heart instead of speaking as a programmed politician.

    • Yes Val, but you are putting your own spin on spin! Expressing one’s views in a way that does not needlessly antagonise can surely be regarded as a virtue, rather than as a vice?

      You are probably right that we could do with a bit more plain speaking in politics generally, but what puts me off party politics more than mealy mouthed statements are political stunts designed purely to embarrass opponents. I suspect that this is what Labour have been up to here and I don’t like it.

      Maybe I need to accept that this is all part of the game, but in my book it diminishes those that do it, and is just a terrible waste of life.

  10. Hollingdean and Stanmer’s residential areas are in normal circumstances marginally Labour.The 1000 plus votes at the Unis are the Green’s majority. The uni voters are unlikely to be concerned with local politics and the Greens have been the repository of youthful protest and idealism it seems to me. I have argued before that the Unis should be hived off into a one-member council ward.

    H & S’s Hollingdean, Bates’s, and Coldean residents are less transient than in the inner areas and demographically are more likely to be
    quite representative of the country as a whole.They are quite likely to support Christina Summers’ views on gay marriage.If Greens drop Christina for being honest, it plays into Labour’s hands.

    A couple more years of Coalition rule and the undergrads will have forgotten Labour’s failings in government and will be more likely to return to Labour. I think that explains the return of the york university ward to Labour from Green. The key to who wins H & S is the uni vote-perhaps it will wither if the Coalition alter student enfranchisement.

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