Doorstep Brighton 11: Bullish Tories, Modest Greens and Declining Labour

Candidates of all parties are reporting that they are confident of victory in May.  If that is the case there will be 216 councillors elected in May!  Take Adam Campbell, one of the Conservative candidates for Brunswick and Adelaide ward reports that the “doorstep reaction so far has been extremely positive. The electorate would seem to be in the mood for change and to have councillors who work for a living rather than turning their councillorship into the business to pay the bills.  I and my co candidate Richard Latham look forward to what I am sure will be a hard contested election.”

East Brighton Conservative candidate, Peter Booth, is equally bullish: “So Mr (or maybe Ms) BPB, our campaign in East Brighton is ‘ill-fated’. Ill-fated usually translates to doomed! However much you may think that – we do not. I would rather describe our campaign as daring, plucky, hopeful and above all positive! We will not indulge in negative personal campaigning against other candidates (the current spat between labour and greens in Queens Park is unedifying and does nothing to boost the image of politicians with the electorate).
Our campaign is based around ‘a lot of small changes make a big difference’ and above all that is what we seek to be – local councillors dealing with local issues and of course actively participating in debate about the future of our City!  Yes – it may be David against Goliath in EB. Yes we are the underdogs – and YES we are fighting to win!”  (If nothing else, Peter, you run me close for the use of exclamation marks!!!!)

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke also comments on the campaign in East Brighton: “So East Brighton has seen some tory activity then..Booth to pip Turton to the post maybe..Greens become the oppositon and Labour ask for a coalition…be warned Stan Fitch and Dennis Hobden are here and not happy!”  On Hollingdean and Stanmer, he predicts that the Tories might edge a seat: “the tories are fighting hard in this ward making an unusal 3 way fight and to quote Caroline “Servalan” Lucas “we always look to the left of the spectrum for votes” you’ll squeeze each other not the tories if they get out their vote they’ll nick a seat…probably Rachael Bates.”  (Momma Grizzly is going to love that!).

The ‘Ghost of Nobby Clarke’ has predicted that Sven Rufus will get the most votes for the Greens in Hollingdean and Stanmer.  Sven himself responded: “As flattering as it is that people think I will get a larger share of the vote than other Green candidates, for whatever reason, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. The time we have spent out on the doorstep is showing very positive feedback for us here, and it’s got to be said that the degree to which Luke Walter and Christina Summers have got stuck in here, meeting loads of people, representing residents, asking questions at council, leading delegations at council, starting and running campaigns about resident concerns, tackling casework – well, it has left me feeling wholly inadequate as a candidate to be honest. It’s all bets off what order the three of us poll in. Comparisons between our performance as candidates and those of the existing councillors is also interesting and encouraging for us. Not getting complacent, but the canvassing response combined with the fact that we saw such strong support for the Greens here during the general election campaign is giving us confidence for a good result. Of course, the electorate will decide, and we will be content with whatever the outcome, knowing that we have done a good job and been honest with people throughout the campaign.”

Warren Morgan has confirmed something that I have been hinting at – that Labour is in such disaray that it hasn’t yet selected all its candiudates: “Our full candidate list will be out in the next couple of weeks once the last two selections are complete, obviously quite a few have been known for some time and have been campaigning for many months.”  This admission is shocking.  I cannot imagine Labour entering any previous local election campaign without its candidates being selected months, if not a year, ahead.  It demonstrates that the decline of Labour in Brighton and Hove continues, and strtengthens my belief that Labour will reach its lowest point on the Council for several generations.

And finally …. ‘HP’ believes that Goldsmid is a barometer seat and that the Tories are pulling out all the stops to get its team of Estate Agents elected: “It seems to me that a lot is being spent on securing Goldsmid for the Tories, but Goldsmid alone wont keep them in power. On the face of it, the most politically astute part of the budget appears to be the cut in residents parking permit prices – this is the one I read about and thought it was a clever move. But stop a a minute and think about where those residents schemes are. Most are in Brighton wards the tories could never hope to win, a few are in Hove wards they couldn’t possibly contrive to lose. Only in Goldsmid might it really impact on the way people vote and the outcome in that ward. Likewise, the criminal madness that is the plan to dig up the Hove cycle lanes. Though in Central Hove, I imagine the Tories think they will capture some votes from nearby Goldsmid (though God knows why anyone would think voting to remove cycle lanes that were put in 2 years ago – under their administration! – will win any votes). It seems a lot of effort is going into Goldsmid, and while Goldsmid is a useful barometer, it ceases to be useful if the voting there is skewed. likewise, its seats are useful, but I suspect the tories will be losing more seats elsewhere than the 2 they might make up (at best) in Goldsmid.”

Doorstep Brighton 10: General round up and more on the Mary Mears Budget

I have been overwhelmed by the reaction that this blog is having of late, not least the volume of comments, emails and direct messages received.  Apologies to those who I have been unable to respond to or include in subsequent posts.  A feature of the responses that amuses/interests me is the number of Tories who are reacting including comments from Adam Campbell (Brunswick and Adelaide, Maria Caulfield (Moulsecoomb and Bevendean), Peter Booth (East Brighton), Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates, Hollingdean and Stanmer) and Rob Buckwell (Estate Agents, Seven Dials, sorry Goldsmid Ward).  But they are equalled by Labour and Green activists, and the occasional sad Lib Dem.  I am aware my posts are getting longer and longer.  It is, in fact, your fault, Dear Readers.  I will try to make them briefer, but it may take longer to comment and respond to you, let alone post something original of my own.

Regarding the Mary Mears budget, Serenus Zeitblom makes a very interesting observation regarding the text of the letter to the Times sent by 88 Liberal Democrat council group leaders last week. “It’s arguing that local government cuts should not be front-loaded but spread more evenly over the next four years. In effect, that’s exactly what Mary Mears and co appear to have done, drawing on reserves to cover funding for next year while keeping the big cuts in reserve. (The Lib Dem letter looks rather Micawberish to me, founded on a pious hope that future cuts will be softened because something will turn up).  Strange – we all know that the Liberal Democrats are irrelevant in Brighton and Hove, but here are Brighton Tories implementing Liberal Democrat policies in apparent defiance of Eric Pickles.  If Mary Mears brings this one off it may be testimony as much to her bare-faced cheek as to her strategic sense!”

Andy Richards (do read his blog People’s Republic of Hove – stuck a bit in the 1980’s but nevertheless providing an important Unison/Left perspective)  takes issue with Rachael Bates: “What a joke. The council tax cut is being financed by a central government grant. I’m presuming that Rachael knows where the government’s money comes from? We’re paying for our own tax cut!”  And in reply to a comment from Rob Buckwell who had said he hoped that opposition councillors would not block the cut in Council Tax, Andy writes: “I am sure you DO hope the opposition parties block it. If it goes through, people will be able to reflect at leisure about what a meaningless gimmick it is. If the opposition blocks it, this will provide you with some short-term ammo for the election campaign. The Tories don’t actually believe that this measure brings any real benefit any more than anyone else does.”  You are absolutely correct, Andy.  It is why I believe Mary Mears to be a cunning political operator.

I recently asked whether I should lay off those absolutely dreadful Lib Dems, you know who I mean: the Party that betrayed the electorate over student tuition fees, the ones that have enabled the Tories to form a government, the ones who deserve to be at 8% in the opinion polls, the ones destined to be wiped out in Brighton and Hove come May’s local elections.  It has been suggested I might, on occasions, show my bias against that party. Michael Taggart writes: “They were amusing when they wore long beards, chewed dung and danced around Stone Henge in their shoes made of lettuce. And that was just the women. The nasty Lib Dems of 2011 are just annoying. I think it’s time to send them to Room 101 where they can be afforded space to come up with a big plan for a return to relevance.” ‘DAP’ concurs: “They deserves all they get; belonging to a party who have lied and mislead their voters (especially Students on tuition fees) and who are now carrying the Tory cuts through Parliament (however recognition here to Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd who voted against the Tuition fee rise)… A disgrace to what used to be thought of as a principled party… and as your analysis shows; i wouldnt be surprised (in fact; slightly pleased) to see no LibDems in the Council come May.”

DAP also makes a compelling statement regarding LGBT candidates being named by political parties: “Im glad parties have candidates who are openly LGBT. Im not naive enough to think that LGBT people in Brighton & Hove will vote for the candidates with the same sexuality as them (and i dont think thats why the Greens/any other party announce it), but openly showing than LGBT people can hold office and achieve great things is an inspiration to the younger LGBT community. Having more ‘out’ LGBT role models can be nothing but a bad thing.”  I agree.

Following my identity being ‘outed’ as Roy Pennington, Dan Wilson isn’t convinced. He asks: “People from all parties are asking me who you are Bappy. I have no shame in asking a simple question: Do you reside in the city of Brighton and Hove?”.  Perhaps the Ghost of Nobby Clarke is closing in: “Hove resident I think…councillor maybe.”  Maybe Hove, maybe a councillor.  But there again, maybe not.  Who knows.  In fact, who cares?  But a straight answer to Desperate Dan: Yes, I live in Brighton … or Hove.

A Hove councillor (who will remain nameless) recently told me that her campaign for re-election was going well (I predicted she would hold her seat in a marginal fight) but said that she wondered what my ward predictions are based on.  A bit of knowledge, an understanding of electoral politics, a bit of feedback, a lot of guess work.  My track record isn’t too bad.  For example, I predicted the result in the Goldsmid by-election well before polling day.

More tomorrow ….