The Campaign Trail – Highs and Lows, by Cllr Emma Daniel

This item was first posted on Cllr Emma Daniel’s own blog on 26th May 2015. She has kindly agreed to allow us to repost it on the Brighton Politics Blog.

It’s been ages since I blogged because campaigning took up every drop of physical and mental and emotional energy I could find. The by-election was quite time limited and, though like a bomb going off in my life, it was in effect a sprint. This last few months has been hitting the wall in the marathon and keeping going, taking a massive amount of optimism and hope to do so. I have never done this before. My colleagues have done it, and won and lost and got back up and done it again. I think my admiration for those with this experience couldn’t get any higher. Nor can my admiration for those with no election experience at all who rose to the occasion. There is nothing like it. If you haven’t volunteered for a political party I genuinely can’t recommend it enough.

I was chased out of a block of flats by a man calling me a war criminal and a paedo. I sprained my knee jumping down entrance steps as a big dog jumped out at me … canvassing with an existing fear of dogs is an emotional resilience mountain, I can tell you. (Yes, I know your dog just growls because he is being friendly, honest!)

I was told that the Greens would have been fine on the council if only those LABOUR MEANIES had supported them and that the i360 was ours (!!) also Valley Gardens (!!) and I mostly sucked that stuff up with good humour because I am good humoured. It goes with the territory. I did once, get a bit snappy with a morris man though which was probably the campaign nadir for me.

Overwhelmingly, though, people were LOVELY. Really and truly. Many were really supportive of political activists and I am lucky to work in one of the most politically knowledgeable and engaged wards in the city … which makes it really good to canvass.

In Hanover and Elm Grove, the campaign was a Labour vs Green council and parliament battleground, though there are a strong and loyal cohort of voters for other parties. It was good natured and I particularly commend David Gibson for his good humour and gentle nature displayed during both elections I fought with him. And next time, I do hope to bring at least one more Labour councillor with me. If we do a fair job on council I think that is possible.

The Parliamentary campaign was less good humoured, with many voters and activists decrying our candidate, Purna Sen, for even standing against Caroline Lucas. I felt this was unnecessary. Surely better to win the argument rather than be handed the seat? And fair play to her, she increased her majority. Our Purna is now working on global women’s issues for the UN and based in New York for the year. A fair and just tribute to her skills and experience. I hope she returns as a parliamentary candidate in future as parliament will be the richer for her participation.

On polling day I ended up sun burnt again! When will I ever learn? But we did an amazing job in Hanover and Elm Grove with a much more politically engaged and genuine relationship with the voters on the small council estates in the ward and an increased membership which just keeps going.

And then it was dark and I was stumbling home with very stiff legs when I saw the exit polls on twitter. It was like being run over. How had we lost the argument nationally so badly? Now there are endless articles explaining it of course – we weren’t left enough … we weren’t centre ground enough. But the thing is, we did lose the argument nationally.

A few days later and we were at the count with new Labour MP Peter Kyle for Hove (a massively cheering feature of the national results) and the former PPC for Kemptown, the lovely Nancy Platts, who despite her own grief at her narrow loss in the parliamentary elections came to stand by the local candidates.

On polling day, and at the count, I was convinced that the Caroline Lucas surge had wiped out the good work we had done in Hanover and Elm Grove on our council campaigning as I spoke to many voters who never normally vote who were going to vote for Caroline and had absolutely no idea there was even a council election on. But I held on and that was absolutely amazing. I am so grateful for the campaign volunteers, the party support and the support of the ward residents who do really care about who runs the council and provides them with a voice.

Going to a count is probably the most amazing and most brutal experience of my life. Seeing experienced and decent councillors wiped out, seeing talented colleagues voted in. I think I hugged everybody. I can’t really describe the count … the amazing officers plugging away with the ballot papers, the scrum of party activists and candidates checking the count and calculating results as they came out. The tears. I cried. And the jubilation. I think it’s the closest I will come to understanding football emotions.

Going through that process it’s clear that the voters of this city haven’t felt that one party has won the argument, and that many vote for councillors they personally believe in. But, they have marginally supported a Labour vision for the city but also giving us the message that they want us to be collaborative with other parties. To seek consensus where we can. And to consider the views of residents in developing schemes and projects.

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4 Responses

  1. My daughter and partner live in Hanover/Elm Grove. They both voted Green for MP and Labour for the council. I think the Labour campaign for the council did therefore impact on them and I suspect hundreds of other residents-hence Emma’s election.I suspect students voted the Green ticket and 2 Green councilors won through coattailing Caroline Lucas.

    • One use of ‘think”, two uses of “suspect”… Where is the data for these assertions?

  2. It seems to me that Cllr Morgan will be stymied by his terrible 2014 Vote of No Confidence in the Green Council. That brought an enduring divide which will make his Administration incredibly difficult. To this day, he does not grasp the special damage he caused himself with so facile a Motion, how frivolous a man he made himself.

    That afternoon – as I stood up and spoke – I thought of two things which which I did not mention in my speech, and perhaps should have done so.

    I had seen the slow and sad decline of Cllr Carden’s wife, Merle. I was upset at her death, and, on the day of her funeral, caught a bus there. This meant I had to walk up Bear Road in the rain with a plastic bag over my head so that I looked fairly presentable when I got there. Cllr Carden later said how pleased he was at people going there for this. I was chuffed at that. I thought it was the least I could do. Furthermore, in December 2013, I thought to send Cllr Pissaridou an e-mail to express my really heartfelt sympathy on the anniversary of her husband’s death: the first twelve months are the worst, and Christmas all the more so (all that celebration everywhere). She told me that I was the only Councillor of any Party to have thought to do so.

    I still feel shocked to recall that 2014 afternoon when I watched across the Chamber and saw her and Cllr Carden duly hold up their hands in accordance with that atrocious Vote Of No Confidence in a Green Administration which had worked very hard to create economic opportunities amidst an atmosphere in which the the GMB’s Spanish practices – if one can use the phrase – had been exposed.

    That afternoon confirmed my disgust in Labour – the fact that it could say one thing in private, and then hold up castigating hands in that, frankly, sickening Motion.

    • This interesting comment expresses a sense of real, but misplaced, anger and hurt. Christopher Hawtree seems to me to misunderstand the importance of the party whip. He also doesn’t acknowledge the difference between personal and party loyalties.

      The Greens choose not to whip their councillors, but in that they are very unusual. Other parties do whip and expect their councillors to obey. No labour or conservative councillor would break the party whip lightly (I know because, years ago, I did it) and they are certainly unlikely to do so for reasons of individual personal affection or respect. It should be possible to disagree in the chamber, but have cordial or at least respectful relationship elsewhere.

      I know nothing about the confidence vote described, neither do I know the individual councillors concerned. However, on the basis of what Christopher has written I think there is no reason to think Cllrs Carden and Pissadirou anything other than sincere.

      The Green failure to whip allows councillors to act according to individual conscience. However this makes them unpredictable. Voters can never be sure that all councillors will follow the manifesto or pull in the same direction. This may foster division and suspicion.

      Jean Calder

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