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.

12 Responses

  1. Just to point out that Caroline’s majority was only 2%. Labour polled under 30% in 2010, we are now well over 40% in most polls. The 5% decline in the Green vote and the 13% increase in the Labour vote we saw on Thursday would be more than enough to unseat Caroline Lucas, personal reputation or not.

    • But Warren, you didn’t actually increase your vote on Thursday. You very successfully got your core vote out, despite the wintery weather which is to your credit.

      Meanwhile, all the other parties’ vote declined in East Brighton, pulling down the overall turnout.

      As you have pointed out elsewhere, The Greens put a lot into the by-election (and we did badly).

      However, despite all the Green literature and canvassing, there weren’t hordes of East Brightonians rushing to the polling booths to ensure a Labour victory on Thursday, to keep the evil Greens at bay. Chaun Wilson got less votes than Craig Turton did in 2011.

      If you look at 2005, Labour was on the same opinion poll rates as today. David Lepper got less votes in 2005 than Caroline Lucas in 2010.

      There is no evidence that Labour is winning new voters in Brighton.
      A more significant factor in 2015 will be turnout.

      • Our share of the vote went up by 13% – independent figures. The Green share went down 5%. By-elections rarely have the same kind of turnout as full local elections, yet Chaun was only 100 votes short of what Craig polled last year.

        The Green vote was down between 500 and 200 votes depending on which of their three 2011 candidates in East Brighton (one of whom subsequently defected to TUSC) you compare it to. The Green reverse can’t simply be dismissed as a consequence of low turnout. In 2011 the Greens won power on just 33% of a 44% turnout, so their mandate isn’t exactly huge.

        There were plenty of people on the doorstep who switched from Greens to Labour, plenty of hostility to the Green council and a level of positive support for Labour I haven’t seen since 1997.

  2. I agree with you, BPB 1,000%. Caroline Lucas is an exceptional person and not run-of-the-mill political fodder up for election and it is just so shaming that the local Green Party’s sitting councillors have let her down so badly in recent times and done so much to undermine Green Party credibility that COULD be used against her by cynical, sinister and underhanded political elements in other parties using black propaganda and soiling by association tactics.

    • Good and bad Councillors, MPs and MEPs are very often voted in on the back of national Party popularity, or voted out due to unpopular actions by their parties in Government.

      Whatever Caroline Lucas’s personal qualities, she is a Green Party MP and, with or without help from the Opposition parties, the electorate will associate her with the unpopular actions of the Green Party Administration on the city council. All Green Party councillors got elected using leaflets and newspapers featuring articles and statements by Caroline Lucas, along with photos of them together. The Green candidate in East Brighton had pictures of Caroline Lucas with her on her leaflets, even though the ward is not in Ms Lucas’s constituency.

      It is ludicrous to suggest that somehow Caroline Lucas and the Green Group on the city council will not or should not be associated with each other at the next election. They came to power on her coattails, and they will drag her down with them.

      • Indeed – Lucas dragged them all up, now they will all drag her down.

        Green national policies are as barking as their local policies – and stepping down as party leader won’t get her off the hook for those national policies.

        I take it everyone has heard of ‘speciesism’ now? Its not a one off – I have heard it from at least one other green councillor some time ago.

        It is beyond parody – I wonder how long until we have a green councillor demanding that library books are given human rights too?

        As the ‘acceptable face’ of the Green party Caroline Lucas has opened the door to loons in local government – she deserves to be judged on that.

  3. Don’t usually agree with Warren Morgan but he is spot on about how the move to Labour in the polls will easily unseat Lucas. Put simply, she’s toast!

    Interesting that the new leader of the Greens is also a posh, privately educated protest person. Most certainly not a pleb or prole.

    • I’m not so sure about “easily unseat Lucas”. It is not clear cut at all.

      Labour had 40% throughout opinion polls in 2005 and 39% in the 2005 General Election (same as now). David Lepper got 15,427, which is less than Caroline Lucas’ 16,238 in 2010.

      Over the last three Brighton Pavilion elections the Tories have consistently polled around 24%. The rest have been shared between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens.

      The Lib Dems got 14% in 2010. They will definitely lose thousands of votes, which could be influential.

      The turnout was 70% in 2010, 64% in 2005. Which suggests people were motivated to vote in 2010, so unlikely to rise further.

      Ed Miliband confirmed the Labour Party’s commitment to austerity yesterday and was roundly booed. If Labour continue to pander to “middle England”, they may win votes in other parts of the South of England but I’m not so sure about Brighton.

      I’m not so sure people who voted for Caroline Lucas last time will switch to Labour.

      I suspect the electorate in Brighton will punish the Green council but still support Caroline Lucas.

  4. Wondering if the Greens per se are so lost in their private world that they are incapable of seeing the practical job of work required in serving the vastly greater public need. Whatever her beliefs, you can see Caroline Lucas responding to the problem-solving needs of each moment as it is presented to her – through a Green lens, but usually in a very practical and straightforwardly professional manner.

    No emotional tantrums, hissy fits or grandstanding. Just gets on with it,

  5. I also believe CL is likely to be re-elected in 2015, though certainly no one in the Green party is taking that result for granted.

    I believe, like the Blogger, that CL would also most likely be re-elected even under the proposed new boundaries. However, what no one has pointed out yet, not even the Blogger himself, is that the 2015 election will now almost certainly be fought on the EXISTING boundaries, because of the recent falling out over the matter between the coalition partners. The only reason we are talking about boundaries again is because the Boundary Commission has now published its revised suggestions, as required. But everyone knows it has been overtaken by political events, so the whole thing is now a purely academic exercise. The Argus, as usual, are cynically putting this non-story on their front page, with the spin that Lucas would lose out, simply as yet another attempt to stir up trouble for the Greens. It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

    • CL’s position is not cast-iron for 2015. A lot will happen before then and there could be a negative coat-tails effect from association with the Green council. But all should remember that Nancy Platts didn’t lose by much in a climate negative for Labour in 2010.Another good labour candidate in a better climate for Labour could well win.

  6. The changes would make the seat more competitive but, as Green Dad points out, the election is likely to be on the existing boundaries.

    My recollection of 2010 is that Labour campaigning in Pavilion relied pretty heavily on the argument that a vote for the Greens could let the Tory candidate win. This may have worked in some cases and, of course, it is not a line they can use again.

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