Stupid statements from Douglas Alexander must have had Brighton & Hove Labour activists in Liverpool squirming

A well attended fringe meeting this week at Labour’s Conference in Liverpool was one that looked at how Labour could see off the threat of the Green Party which was described as a “creeping threat”.

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander demonstrated his shallowness when he described the Greens as a “one policy party”. How Labour activists from Brighton and Hove must have cringed at this. Any reasonably minded person will acknowledge that the Greens have a range of policies, something that marks the Greens from their predecessor, the Ecology Party. With ‘leaders’ such as Alexander, no wonder Labour is struggling to gain credibility.

He said that campaigners should ask the Greens “what have you actually achieved for your party”. Well Shallow Doug, they have won their first seat at Westminster, and they have gained control of their first Council. This compares to you … having been … the election organiser …. in …. 2010 ….? Remind me of the result.

But of course the Greens in Brighton and Hove have begun to implement their manifesto, and nobody who has worked closely with the likes of Bill Randall, Amy Kennedy, Geoffrey Bowden, Ben Duncan, and others will have been very impressed. Council officers have been pleasantly surprised at the leadership being shown by their focus and work rate.

Ben Page, of the polling agency, Ipsos MORI, described Green voters as typically middle aged and middle class, and more likely to have voted Labour in the past. Steady on, Ben. Middle aged? He then contradicted himself by saying that the Greens “are picking up protest votes because the Liberal Democrats are now fatally compromised by their role in the coalition.” In Brighton and Hove it is clear that there has been a move from Labour to the Greens, but it has been more than a protest vote. For some it will be a protest, for others it was tactical – the Greens being best placed to beat the Tories in Brighton Pavilion. But for many, it allowed them to vote with their conscience, for a party that stands for what the Labour used to stand for, and a party without the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter how much Labour activists deny this, it remains a significant factor in the Greens’ rise.

But the Boy Douglas is right when he describes the Greens as a “creeping threat”. I prefer the description coined by Luke Walter (who I have previously described as the best councillor Brighton and Hove doesn’t have … yet). Luke described it as a “Green tide” that started in town centre wards where the Greens had their early success but as they settled down and had families, moved to outlying wards such as Hollingdean and Stanmer and Withdene, where they Greens picked up 3 of the 6 seats available.

The most sensible comment came from Brighton Labour activist, Tim Lunnon, who is a decent, thoughtful man. He said “What I don’t know about losing to the Greens has not been discovered yet.”

What Labour needs to learn is how to beat the Greens, and they won’t get closer to beating the Greens while they have ‘leaders’ like the Boy Wonder Alexander coming out with inane stupidity such as the Greens being a “one policy party”.

The Labour Group “is in good heart” after it’s third thrashing in as many elections!

The Labour Party has been tearing itself apart over the weekend following its beating at the polls on Thursday. I don’t find it easy to intrude on private grief, but here is advice offered, once again in the spirit of comradeship (dismissed in the run-up to the election). I share the following insights, observations and suggestions:

Group leader Gill Mitchell has said: “The new Labour Group met this morning and is in good heart.” You cannot be serious. In good heart? After the third thrashing at the polls in as many elections? The Labour Group should be distraught, should be apologising to the Party and should be asking serious questions about why the Party leadership locally has failed time and time again.

Gill thanks activists for “running such good campaigns”. Gill, other than East Brighton and the Brian Fitch One Man Show in Hangleton and Knoll, the Labour campaigns were generally rubbish, and you know it. That is why you say: “There is now an urgent need to look at how we are organised across the city as a party and how this can be improved to enable us to become a genuine, citywide campaigning party that is regularly in touch with local people.” Gill, you are right but I understand that Labour was once a “citywide campaigning party” that was in touch with local people. So what happened?

Along came Kinnock, Blair and Mandelson who set up a highly centralised party machine and this was replicated at local level. In this election, Labour’s GMB HQ had to be consulted about all aspects of different campaigns. Labour’s Regional Office brought with it the dead hand of bureaucrats.

Nigel Jenner is right when he says: “The Blair factor and also the war etc is still on peoples minds and that is why many jumped to the Greens.” Absolutely right, Nigel. Labour’s recovery will not begin until Labour, locally and nationally, APOLOGISE for Iraq and distance themselves from Blair. But what happened locally just days before the election? David Milliband, a Blairite from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, comes to Brighton, is welcomed by Labour councillors and candidates – and another few hundred votes are lost. What genious thought David Milliband would do anything other than alienate voters? Another avoidable Labour own goal.

D Milliband said after his defeat by E Milliband that he was resigning from front line politics. This demonstrates a mindset that cabinet and shadow cabinet is the front line. And Labour in Brighton goes along with it. If you want to start afresh, perhaps Gill Mitchell could say “we have learned, and we are sorry. David Milliband, so closely identified with Blair and jointly responsible for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is no longer welcome in Brighton and Hove”. Then, and only then, can you hope that the lost voters, the tens of thousands who have deserted Labour locally for the Greens, might just begin to think about voting for the Labour Party again.

Juliet McCaffery touches on something that I have warned Labour about in the run up to the elections – lying to the electorate. Labour did it in Brighton Pavilion in 2010: “only Labour can beat the Tories” and Caroline Lucas exposed the lie and Labour lost several hundred voters in future elections who had swallowed the lie. And then again in this election “Only Labour can form an administration” and the Greens exposed that lie. Why should the electorate believe Labour’s claims about electoral prospects when they have become serial liars.

Juliet is absolutely right when she says: “Several people in Withdean who voted Labour were thinking of voting Green but thought (prompted by me) that Greens had no chance – the danger is that now they will.” The fact is, Labour is finished (in local and general elections) for the next two elections at least in Withdean, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Patcham and, of course, the town centre wards in Brighton Pavilion. In several Hove wards the Greens will, this very evening, be casting their eyes for further gains in 2015. And there will be some idiot in Labour’s ranks drafting a leaflet saying “Only Labour can beat the Tories in Hove”. Stop them now. It’s not true. The Greens are already the main challengers for the Tories in Hove.

Labour should not have lied. Apologise, come clean, and sack whoever was responsible for the lies in 2010 and 2011.

And turning to the Party hierarchy, Kevin Allen, a decent, hard-working, now ex-councillor, is unforgiving: “Regarding Withdean, people have forgotten that local elections are not just about bums on council seats; they are also about keeping people in the habit of voting Labour.  We had three fine candidates who were given absolutely no encouragement by party headquarters.  That’s a disgrace.  Rather than being told to abandon their own ward they should have been advised to canvass hard in order to help rebuild the Labour vote in preparation for the next general election.  What we have now is a Green councillor in Withdean, an entirely avoidable result had our candidates been allowed to campaign properly.”

Get used to it, Kevin. It is going to get worse for Labour before it begins to get better. Labour is offering nothing new. It parades David Milliband, an apologist for war, as the hope for the future. Its party machinery is broken.

I hope to hear something substantial from Labour in the next few days, but I doubt it. And that is a shame for this Blogger who voted Labour last Thursday.

Rachael Bates, a right wing admirer of Daniel Hannan and of a former Labour leader

I’m not into the cult of personality, but today I just couldn’t resist posting a profile of one of the most determined, right wing  and youngest amongst the local Conservative ranks.  It is none other than Momma Grizzly herself, Rachael Bates.  Why her and why today? It is Rachael’s 22nd birthday.

Rachael’s political hero is Daniel Hannan MEP. Immediately you will get an insight to her right-wing views.  She describes Daniel thus: “He has great vision, is spot on about almost everything, is a fantastic orator and is just a lovely guy”.

Rachael graduated last year from that hot bed of Conservative activism, Sussex University, and immediately started working for the newly elected Conservative MP for Hove, Mike Weatherley, one of several bright young activists who support him.

Away from politics, Rachael loves going to the Pav Tav (usually for Guerilla Rocks) and to Belushi’s Below for their fantastic rock and metal night, Abandoned. (I have no idea what I have typed and whether it makes any sense to anyone else.  It certainly is alien to me).

Rachael is a Big Society kind of girl: “Charity is extremely important to me. I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Childreach International. The charity that I champion the most is Help for Heroes. I will never be seen without my Help for Heroes armband”. (Is a Help the Heroes armband essential dress for Belushi’s Below and Abandoned?).

This next view will not go down at all well with Labour activists at all. She says that the opposition politician she admires most “despite disagreeing with a lot of the decisions he made, it has to be Tony Blair.  His strength, determination and devotion to what he believed was right for the country are something I admire very much.”  Rachael, you must be one of the last two people in Britain who thinks what he did (Iraq, Afghanistan, George W Bush, etc) was right.  The other person is …. Tony Blair.

In May’s local elections Rachael is standing for election in Hollingdean and Stanmer. As a Conservative candidate she has absolutely no chance of winning (I know, that’s harsh, especially on her birthday, but it is the truth). But this does not stop Rachael Bates. She is clear about what her priorities would be if, IF, she was elected: “My main priority is to keep council tax low so that hard-working people can have more of their own money in their pockets. I am passionate about letting people run their own lives rather than the government dictating to them.”

She goes on: “Parking is an issue that I find is a massive problem that needs to be addressed, as is the issue of travellers.”  So not compassionate conservatism here.  A true follower of Daniel Hannan.  “I am keen to continue working closely with the two fantastic universities in Brighton and to encourage a good relationship with students and their neighbours.”

Her political ambition is to successfully represent the people of Hollingdean & Stanmer and to make Brighton & Hove’s council tax one of the lowest in the country.  How depressing.  Nothing about making Brighton and Hove a better, fairer place to live.  It is a good thing, then, that she won’t be elected.

But she has expressed one political ambition that I can’t fault her on, and that is to appear on the Brighton Politics Blog!  So, happy birthday, Rachael.  I am glad that I have been able to be part of fulfilling the only ambition that you will achieve this year.

No Happy New Year, the only silver lining is the probable election of Caroline Lucas

The Archbishop of Canterbury is right: the last decade was gruelling. If we look back to the optimism at the start of the new millennium we have seen, amongst other things, the election of George W Bush, 9/11, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the London bombings, swine flu, and, most recently, the Recession.

So can we look towards the next decade with any greater optimism? I fear not. The legacy of Tony Blair’s obsession with war has resulted in both Britain and the world becoming more unsafe. The gap between rich and poor nations has grown, and between the rich and poor in Britain likewise.

The Recession will afflict us for years to come, with house prices well beyond the reach of ordinary people, the value of pensions for most being eroded, and the decline in job security will mean that we, our children and their children will be paying the cost of the recession and of Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come.

One of the greatest negative legacies on the domestic front is the institutionalisation of debt. Where previous generations avoided debt, through the introduction of student loans Blair and New Labour have allowed debt to become an accepted part of ordinary life, something encouraged and nurtured by government.

Of equal concern is the central role that alcohol is now playing in most social activities. In a report issued today the NHS Confederation has said that alcohol is placing an “unsustainable burden” on the NHS. Blair’s obsession with deregulation and allowing the market to set limits is not only hurting the economic health of the nation, it is hurting the physical health of ordinary individuals.

These are the legacy of Tony Blair. Gordon Brown had an opportunity to make a clean break from one of the most disastrous prime ministers in British history, but he failed to do so, demonstrating a lack of political acumen and personal courage. Labour should hang its head in shame as it enters an election year.

I would like to wish you a happy New Year, but the outlook is too grim. I would like to say that a heavy defeat in the General Election would be a just reward for New Labour, but the alternative, a Conservative victory and David Cameron becoming Prime Minister, is too frightening to contemplate.

The only silver lining is the probable election in Brighton Pavilion of Caroline Lucas at the General Election.

Ethical Foreign Policy? I think not

Labour was elected with what Robin Cook described as an ethical foreign policy. He went in protest to war.

New Labour has brought us Iraq and Afghanistan. New Labour has denied that rendition flights had used UK airports and bases. They had. New Labour denies torture allegations. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Labour candidates, if you want the support of old Labour voters like me need to demand that Brown apologises for the wars, for rendition collaboration, and agrees, now, to a public enquiry into torture allegations.

He looked pathetic when caving into demands that the Iraq inquiry be held (at least in part) in public. He is in danger of a repeat performance over torture allegations.

If Labour candidates can’t achieve this now, they should individually denounce New Labours unethical foreign policy and offer apologies to their constituents.

Lets be hearing from you, Nancy Platts, Simon Burgess and Celia Barlow. These are extraordinary and difficult times for Labour. Extraordinary and exceptional actions are required from it’s candidates if they are to have any chance at the elections.

The cause of Labour’s defeat in Goldsmid?

Are there any clues as to why Labour performed so badly in the Goldsmit by-election? Could it be the poor campaign, the imposed and uninspiring candidate, the divided Party locally? Perhaps the expenses scandal, Gordon’s leadersip, the disunity of former Cabinet members? Maybe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more and more young men and women coming home in body bags, or Labour’s support for the war-monger Blair as President of Europe? The recession, the housing crisis, bailing out the banks, and the consequential cuts in public funding and services?

It’s kind of hard to see why there wasn’t a Labour landslide!

Bizzarely, I had a call from a Labour friend this morning blaming this blog’s early and consistent endorsement of the Green candidate, now councillor, Alex Phillips. It gave the campaign ‘momentum’ I was advised!

Given that this blog is read by not many more than my mum and a couple of anoraks (apologies Amy and Neil), I hardly feel responsible for this latest Labour disaster. I can but dream.

War in Afghanistan

Gordon Brown is coming under increasing pressure as the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan continues to rise. This week has been particularly bad and there is every indication that the numbers being ‘repatriated’, to use a Ministry of Defence phrase, (or to you and me the number of dead young men and women coming back in body bags) will continue to rise.

Listening to Ministers describing how the objective is to give Afghanistan back to the Afghans is meaningless twaddle. This is a war Brown inherited from Blair and Bush. He would be well advised to say it was ill-advised and was unwinnable from the outset. Afghanistan, even with Taliban, never posed a threat to the UK. Yes, the Taliban accommodated al Qiaida and was one of the most nauseating, repressive, anti-women regime in modern history.

But the reality is that the UK and the USA at some point will have to negotiate with the Taliban. And there are elements within the Taliban that are not anti-women and support, for example, the education of women.

Of course Brown won’t have the courage to come clean on Afghanistan. However, if he is to continue with this misadventure, he should make the objective is clear. What does victory look like? What does it mean to give Afghanistan back to the Afghans? Quite how far are the UK and the USA prepared to go in order to achieve the, as yet unclear, objectives.

As with the USA in Vietnam, it is the sight of body bags and coffins that will sway public opinion and will bring an end to the U.K.’s involvement in Afghanistan. The danger is that there will not be a planned, negotiated, constructive withdrawal, leaving anarchy, revenge, and the worst elements of the Taliban returning to power.

Well done, Tony Blair. Yet another aspect of you fine legacy.