A new dawn and the hand of history greets the new Labour Party in Brighton and Hove

The new Brighton and Hove Labour Party formally came into being this morning with an all-City AGM. New officers have been elected and my source at the centre of power believes the new line-up of officers makes “a strong team” and that there will be a new focus on campaigning as opposed to endless meetings.

Adrian Morris is the newly elected Chair. (I know it will upset my Labour friends when I remind them that Adrian stood down at the 11th hour as candidate in St Peters and North Laine in the 2011 elections. I hope he has greater staying power this time).

The two new vice-chairs are Nigel Jenner (who did well in the Westbourne by-election in December) and Christine Robinson (who I respect as a strong trade unionist who works for GMB). The new executive committee is made up of Juan Leahy, Tracey Hill, Caroline Penn, former councillor Kevin Allen & Chaun (I am sorry but I don’t know her surname, but
she impressed with what sounds what appeared to be a great speech).

I understand that this AGM marks a watershed for Labour in Brighton and Hove with a shift of focus away from the internal reviews to a new focus on taking on the Tories & campaigning on national issues. Mike Weatherley will be a main focus of some of the campaigning, but it remains to be seen whether the New New Labour in the City will be able to let go of their obsession with the She Devil and All Her Works (my regular readers, Momma Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave know that that is a reference to Caroline Lucas – not my view but that of the likes of Harris Fitch).

It looks as though Labour will field a candidate for Police Commissioner, which is a shame since the Party has no chance of being successful, where as an independent might just spring a surprise.

The Greens could take a leaf or two out of Labour’s book when it comes to selecting candidates for the European elections. Labour’s selection will have gender balance so if (as expected) Peter Skinner is number 1 on the Labour list, number 2 will be a woman.

So we have a new dawn for Labour in Brighton and Hove which can be nothing but a good thing for the political process. It really isn’t a time for sound bites, but I sense the hand of history on my shoulder …..

(Update: Chaun’s surname is Wilson)
(Update 2: changed ‘sound items’ to ‘sound bites’)

Who is the 3rd Tory candidate in Queens Park and Labour’s mystery candidate in St Peters and North Laine?

Two candidates have mysteriously disappeared from their Party’s list of candidates. In Queens Park, Mike Macfarlane, “the guy lucky enough to keep his toothbrush next to George’s” has been named as one of the three Tory candidates, but on the Kemptown Conservative website, his name, photograph and biography is missing. Gail Woodcock and Anne Glow are there, but no Mike. But fear not, the lovely lad has crossed the Steine and is now the candidate in Regency Ward where he stood unsuccessfully in 2007.

On March 16th I asked what was happening to Adrian Morris, “a great guy and a real supporter of your community”. Rumpled close to Adrian had been saying that he had stood down. I asked whether this was so. I have hear from Labour’s High Command that he has, indeed, stood down. Efforts to persuade him to stay on fell on deaf ears. The official line is that he had to stand down for personal reasons, but word from sources close to Adrian himself suggest something different.

Even though Adrian has now officially resigned, and the hunt is on for a new candidate, we are still told on Labour’s website that Adrian is “a great guy and a real supporter of your community”. “Oh no he isn’t”, “oh yes he is!”.

Who the Tories find to stand in the lost cause that is Queens Park is a mystery. It might appear that Labour has been left high and dry in St Peters and North Laine, but I was told earlier this evening that a candidate has been found and that an announcement will be made in the next couple of days. If my source is to be believed, the candidate comes from another political family, though not as illustrious as the Fitch, Theobald, or Hamilton dynasties. Her candidature, if confirmed, could cause a stir in St Peters and North Laine and might just cause the Greens some concern in what has become its safest seat in Brighton and Hove.

UKIP set to take the local elections by storm (actually a light breeze rustling the leaves)

So there we have it.  It is not the Switch to Fitch movement, nor Christopher Hawtree standing in several seats simultaneously, but UKIP that is set to take Brighton and Hove by storm.  Well, maybe a gentle breeze.  The party is rumoured to have seven candidates (so far ….) to stand in May’s local elections, a candidate in Patcham, St Peter’s and North Laine (I am reliably informed that Labour’s Adrian Morris “a great guy and a real supporter of your community” isn’t standing for UKIP), and Wish.  There will be three UKIP candidates in Rottingdean Coastal including Paul Perrin (the UKIP candidate in Hove at the general election).

Nigel Carter, the UKIP candidate in Brighton Pavilion last May, is standing in Withdene, or is it Hollingbury (sic), or maybe Woodingdean.  Perhaps somewhere else.  They haven’t yet decided.

Paul Perrin told me: “We are in the process of setting up a local branch/association, our only resource is goodwill of local supporters so we are spread a bit thin and rushed …but ….  I think it is safe to say that we are really just local people who think the UK should be putting UK citizens first, and think the local council should be putting its residents first.”  I think I am quite safe in saying that, on that platform, UKIP will not be forming an administration in May or even holding the balance of power.  But their arrival (if it can be called that) adds a bit of colour, especially in Rottingdean Coastal which is fast becoming a four-way marginal – Labour’s Harris Fitch, UKIP’s Paul Perrin, Christopher Hawtree of the Greens are all confident of unseating Mary Mears.  Be afraid Mary Mears, be …. well …. a tad amused. 

But have I got it wrong? ‘rottingdean’ says I should check my sources: “The Lido mob, UKIP or Mr Pickwick might not be the only surprises in Rottingdean, something far bigger is being rumoured to unseat Ms Mears.”  I’ve heard nothing.  I think Mary is safe as houses.

The mysteries of the campaign to save the Number 2 bus, Labour’s “great guy” candidate in St Peters, and the UKIP announcement

“Switch to Fitch” has been ringing out in Rottingdean and Hangleton as the Fantastic Fitches aim to change the face of Brighton politics.  Young Harris has wasted no time in describing his priorities for Rottingdean Coastal although he has been reticent regarding his vote winning campaign to save the Number 2 bus. He writes: “You will have to stay tuned on the bus situation!  I can tell you that our campaign will be very community based, hoping to draw on where the Labour party has helped out before, and intend to help out in the future.  A personal point of mine would be to support the veterans of St Dunstan’s, having been in the Army myself.”

A greater mystery than Harris Fitch’s secret campaign to save the Number 2 is the situation in St Peters and North Laine.  I have asked several prominent Labour activists (including councillors) about the party’s SP&NL candidate Adrian Morris “a great guy and a real supporter of your community” as it says on the Labour website.  I have previously mentioned that ‘sources’ close to Adrian are whispering some interesting things about his candidature.  In fact it is not whispering.  Can someone in Labour come clean and confirm whether he has, in fact resigned just 50 days before the election.  He may be a great guy and a real supporter of your community, but is he a great guy in the eyes of his Labour colleagues and is he a real supporter of your Labour Party? Please will someone come clean.  If my ‘sources’ are wrong, I will gladly retract.

On the question of personal votes and the suggestion that a personal vote never exceeds 300 or so, ‘Clive’ writes: “300 votes out of 900-odd is the kind of personal vote that many councillors would give their eye teeth for, surely?  Picking up on Charlie’s point – it is noticeable that all the women councillors you mention with good personal votes have surnames that come from the early(ish) part of the alphabet. I think it is fairly well accepted that candidates do better the higher up the ballot paper they are.  So the key to the election is nothing to do with Billy Wilder, and everything to do with having a name like Amelia Aardvark.”

And finally, for this evening, tomorrow a big announcement is due from UKIP. On Twitter I asked what this news might be.  One or two people have been very unkind.  Someone said that Carol Vordeman had been chosen as their new leader. Not likely, you don’t need someone who is so good with numbers to count the UKIP vote.  Another suggestion was that they were forming a coalition with the BNP.  Even I don’t find that amusing. Calling for a Yes vote for further European integration? I like that one. “They are going to hell???!!!”  Maybe, but not because of their politics.

Watch out for the announcement due tomorrow.  My ‘source’ within UKIP has provided me with details of the announcement.  All I will say is “Watch out, Harris Fitch.  You may just be outflanked on the campaign to save the No 2.”

The highlight of the election to date: the emergence of another Fitch saving the No 2 bus to Rottingdean

Warren Morgan has brought news that will cause celebrations in every street in the City of Brighton and Hove: another Fitch is to make his political debut in this May’s local elections. Harris Fitch, a relation of the Legend that is Brian, is standing as the Labour candidate in the Socialist Republic of Rottingdean Coastal. I am absolutely thrilled since it gives me more opportunity to recall the heroic and largely successful election campaigns of the said Brian. The Political Life of Brian is the stuff of legend. He may not be the Messiah, but he has been known, on occasions, to be a very naughty boy. I think I may have met Harris Fitch and, if my memory serves me correctly, was impressed by his enthusiasm and red-blooded socialism. I await sight of his election address which will no doubt feature large his intention to save the Number 2 bus to Rottingdean which, I am reliably informed, is in imminent threat of being cut.

Labour’s full list of candidates in Rottingdean Coastal is: Harris Fitch, Tony Frisby and Mike Adams (not the Mickey Adams, surely?). Frisby? Next we will have a couple of candidates called Kitcat! Warren also advises that Labour’s candidates in Woodingdean are Julian Hayes and Sue Burns. He says that Labour will update the website with their details soon.

Warren also says that if you want to know more about Labour’s candidates in St Peters and North Laine you should look at their Facebook page. Problem is, Warren, you have to sign up to Facebook to view the page, and Facebook is so …. yesterday! Does Labour have a cunning plan in St Peters and North Laine? Are they creating a sense of intrigue, believing less is more by limiting information about its candidates, creating a sense of mystery? Or is there a problem with one or more of its candidates ….? Surely not. As the website says: “Adrian Morris is a great guy and a real supporter of your community.” Sources close to Adrian are whispering (perhaps whispering is not the right term) some interesting things….

Warren also reports that Bernie Katz is unwell, possibly in hospital. For all who know Bernie, we wish him the very best for a full and speedy recovery.

Finally, Warren makes a fair point regarding the Tories and the Greens: “Can you point me to the comprehensive online lists of the Green and Tory candidates? The Tory website was taken offline after it was pointed ou that most of it was in Latin, and Google can’t find their site. A list of candidates is not readily apparent on the local Green website.” Come on Greens, publish a list of all your candidates.

Brighton and Hove Labour’ website – no poll dancing clubs (thank goodness) but still frightening the children

A few weeks ago I blogged about the Labour Party’s new website. General I thought it was an impressive site even though it was clearly still under construction. I looked a it again this evening and can see a number of improvements since I last looked. But I offer the following observations.

I was pleased to see that Caroline Penn (with Celia Barlow) the Labour candidate in Central Hove, no longer appears to be posing in a poll dancing club. On the matter of photos, several candidates don’t have photographs. Do they think they might frighten the electorate? Actually, some of the photos that are there may well frighten the voters, children and family pets.

Back to Caroline, she has a decent write up of what she believes in and comments on what’s happening on the Council.

That’s a bit better than the write up of the three candidates in St Peter’s and North Laine. This is a seat where Labour is hoping to do a ‘Green’ by persuading the good voters of the ward to give them one vote with the other two votes going to the Greens. That way they might pinch a seat here or there.

I understand that Adrian Morris is the ‘lead candidate in St Peters and North Laine. Yet all it says about him is that “Adrian Morris is a great guy and a real supporter of your community.” It is hardly going to say “Adrian Morris is a miserable git and couldn’t care a stuff about your community.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.

The other two candidates fare equally poorly: “Pete Gillman lives and loves the St. Peter’s & North Laine ward of Brighton & Hove” – that’s it – while candidate number three, James Hallwood “has a great affinity with the St. Peter’s & North Laine ward of Brighton & Hove.”

But the St Peters and North Laine coverage is better than the Hove Park ward where all we are told about Bernie Katz and John Cooper is that their names are Bernie Katz and John Cooper – hardly a winning formula to inspire the electorate.

But at least Labour has candidates in place in every ward, well not quite every ward – no candidates yet in Rottingdean Coastal or Woodingdean (a surprising situation in a ward which had a Labour councillor – Joan Moorhouse – as recently as the 1990’s). If Labour is to challenge again in Brighton Kemptown, it needs to get it’s act together.

And finally, I am pleased that Brian Fitch is still campaigning on buses. He has not been put off by the totally unfair aspersions regarding him having saved, singlehandedly, the number 81 bus and is due to save the number 5 to Hangleton in time for the eve of poll leaflet.