Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner – the protest vote should go to the Independent candidate, Ian Chisnall

With the Procession to Victory, also known as the East Brighton By-Election, fresh in our minds, we turn to the next Procession to Victory, the election to become Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

There are five candidates in this election:
• Tony Armstrong (UKIP)
• Katy Bourne (Conservative)
• Ian Chisnall (Independent)
• Godfrey Daniel (Labour)
• David Rogers (Liberal Democrat)

Katy Bourne (aka The Winner) has two advantages in this election: she is the only woman in the field of five and she is a Conservative. I’m not saying that the overwhelming popularity of the Conservatives at this time will be a particular advantage, but the Sussex-wide constituency should guarantee a Conservative victory.

In any election Katy would be a formidable candidate, cut as she is from the same blue cloth as my own personal favourite Conservative, Chuck Vere. But it is a shame that this election offers so little by way of a true contest.

I have previously posted my view that this election should not be contested on a party political basis. I am pleased that the Greens have decided not to field a candidate (although I imagine that that is due to pure pragmatic reasons such as the cost of running such a campaign).

I think that the only way that a Conservative candidate could have been properly challenged would have been if the other major party, Labour, and the two obscure fringe parties, the Lib Dems and UKIP, had not stood and put their support behind an independent candidate.

I am very pleased that Ian Chisnall has put himself forward as an Independent. I hope that people will vote for him if for no other reason than to make a statement that this role should not be a party political one.

So good luck to Ian Chisnall in this election and best wishes to Katy Bourne who will be elected on November 15 to represent the 1.6 million population of Sussex as the Police and Crime Commissioner. I am sure she will do a fine job.

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Are the political classes in Brighton mature enough to cope with Caroline Lucas disagreeing with the Green Group?

A sign of a mature democracy is how it deals with dissent. It should be able to cope with it without clamping down on freedoms or maligning the dissenter. Similarly, a mature political party should not only accommodate dissent, it should positively welcome it.

Political parties should not try to resemble religious sects, demanding total and uncritical allegiance regardless of the merits of an argument. It is funny that the Blairites in New Labour demanded the same unthinking loyalty as Militant Tendency required of its acolytes.

I have always felt that the Green Party has shown more maturity than some other parties, particularly Labour in Brighton and Hove, when handling dissent. When Cllr Alex Phillips was the lone vote against the Labour/Conservative budget, most members of the Green Group respected the stance she had taken. Her dissent was widely welcomed within the Green Party.

I know plenty of Green Party members who remain supportive of the Green Council in spite of disagreements over particular policies and actions. To suggest, as Labour is doing, that the cuts being forced on the City Council are either “Green cuts” or that Caroline Lucas is somehow responsible for them, is childish politics.

I would imagine, and sources within the Green Party have suggested to me, that Caroline Lucas herself is not comfortable with some of the actions of Green members on the City Council. I believe that she disagreed with the expulsion of Christina Summers even though Ms Lucas’ record on gay marriage is without doubt.

The problem for Caroline Lucas is the immaturity of the political process where activists in parties opposed to the Greens might seize upon any admission of disagreement as a split within the Green Party. It is not a split, it is a disagreement and should any of my occasional readers try to make political capital out of this, they will merely be proving my point about political immaturity.

The Boundary Commission, Brighton Pavilion and Caroline Lucas

Earlier this week the Boundary Commission announced new proposals for the redrawing of Parliamentary constituencies. It has been suggested in the Argus that Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas would have been defeated had the last election been fought on these proposed boundaries.

I find the latest proposals without logic, with Regency ward being moved into the neighbouring Hove constituency and Moulsecoomb and Bevendean wards becoming part of Brighton Pavilion.

Should Labour or Conservative activists be taking heart from this latest set of proposals, they should think again. It will take more than gerrymandering to remove Caroline Lucas. Since the 2010 general election, Ms Lucas has increased her personal support, notwithstanding the current difficulties of the Green administration on Brighton and Hove City Council.

The last general election was a very tight affair with three exceptional women candidates, Nancy Platts for Labour, Charlotte Vere for the Conservatives and Caroline Lucas for the Greens. I got to know all three during the election campaign and came to like and admire them all. Any one of them would have made a first-rate constituency MP. As it was, it was Caroline Lucas who came out triumphant, and as the sitting MP she now has a significant advantage going into 2015.

One of Labour’s main strategies in 2010 was to repeat its claim that Caroline Lucas could not win the seat and that the only way to beat the Conservatives was to vote Labour. A large number of people accepted this line yet Caroline Lucas went on to win the seat. Next time, this false tactical vote argument will not work for Labour and those people who felt cheated by having voted Labour when they may well have voted Green, will vote for the sitting Member of Parliament who has done nothing but strengthened her personal reputation and following.

It would take an excessively unpleasant campaign by Labour or the Conservatives to unseat Caroline Lucas. Should they try such an approach they will lose further support since politicians who behave in such a manner are increasingly rejected by the electorate, particularly against a candidate with such obvious integrity.

Having met Caroline Lucas on a few occasions (I don’t get out much) I have been very impressed by her modesty, diligence and ability. She won’t take anything for granted, which is wise, but should this week’s headlines get her down, she should take heart from assurances of the very widespread and growing support for her.

Chaun Wilson wins the East Brighton by-election for Labour

Congratulations to Chaun Wilson on her victory in today’s East Brighton by-election. Several weeks ago, on 21st September, I described Chaun simply as ‘The Winner’. I wrote: “East Brighton is Labour’s strongest stronghold, thanks to the work of sitting councillors Gill Mitchell and Warren Morgan, and that of the recently resigned Craig Turton. The chances of Labour losing this seat is about as great as someone finding Nick Clegg’s backbone.”

I was wrong. She didn’t just win. It was a landslide:

Carlie Goldsmith (Green Party) 456
Joe Miller (Conservative) 531
Chaun Wilson (Labour) 1,596

Turnout was 26%.

The result will be more than pleasing for Labour as it rebuilds towards 2015. A defeat would have been a disaster. The challenge for Labour is to seek to regain some of the ground lost in 2011 to the Greens and, as important, to make inroads in Tory seats, particularly areas like Hangleton and Knoll. The size of their landslide will give them heart and is a sign that Labour is returning to its former strength in Brighton.

The Greens had hoped for a second place finish so the result will have been disappointing but not particularly relevant as East Brighton does not feature large in their plans. Not much should be read into the Greens third place. Had it been a by-election in a seat in Brighton Pavilion it would have been more worrying, a set back for their hopes of strengthening their position on the Council in 2015. (I will be writing more soon about the prospects for Caroline Lucas in 2015 – my belief that her prospects for re-election will not be dependant on the success or otherwise of the Green Council. Even with the boundary changes, Ms Lucas will win).

The Conservatives put up a brave fight in spite of the hopelessness of their cause in East Brighton. Joe Miller was an ‘interesting’ choice but not one that was likely to cause an upset. He is a nice enough young man but it takes an extraordinary young person to be elected. And Joe Miller is no Alex Phillips.

So in East Brighton, normal service is resumed. Welcome to councillor Chaun Wilson, and I look forward to seeing her in action in the Council Chamber.