Students effect elections, housing and jobs

Since the local elections there has been much comment about the influence of students on the election. In wards like Hollingdean and Stanmer, the Greens were able to organise the student vote, winning two seats from Labour.

Some have commented that it isn’t right that students who are temporary residents in the City can vote in their home town and in Brighton and Hove. In particular some say that it is wrong that the student vote in 2011 will effect how the City is run well after this generation of students have moved on.

My view is that a lively student population enriches the City, and of course they should be allowed to vote. Part of the problem for the old parties is that they have neglected student voters for many years. Caroline Lucas (thanks to the efforts of Allie Cannell) was able to draw on the student vote, ensuring her election.

Nancy Platts, in an interesting post on the blog Southern Front, comments that it is Labour’s lack of vision damaged her electoral chances against Caroline Lucas: “Brighton is a university town with a history of political activism, especially at Sussex University. Student numbers can swing an election in Brighton and tuition fees were a gift to the Greens. How hard can it be to decide where to place your cross on election day when there are three political positions presented; higher tuition fees from the Tories, a free university education from the Greens or, well, er…a ‘review’ from Labour. Did we forget how to do politics – why would any student vote for a review? The Greens consistently targeted the student vote and increased turnout from the universities.” Her post is well worth a read.

Caroline Penn says that she has “nothing against students. I’m sure most of us here were students once. It’s wrong to blame them as you say for many of the issues that have arisen. While friends have had issues with student parties, a more responsible landlord (and better university liaison) should deal with that.”

Craig Turton comments on the impact of students on the local employment market: “Between Brighton and Sussex universities we have one of the largest rates of post graduate student settlement anywhere outside of London but in a relatively small geographical area. This can be beneficial for employers (ie; a virtually permanent pool of highly educated workers) but can equally create problems (ie; competition from graduates leaves local people with few or no educational qualifications at a disadvantage even for jobs not requiring a degree. Without wishing to appear facetious, we probably have the most over qualified call centre workers and bar staff in England).”

Students are a fact of life, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Where have I heard that before? They student body causes problems, enriches our community, puts huge pressure on housing, and creates unfair competition in the jobs market. But Brighton wouldn’t be Brighton without the students. If you don’t like them, move to Worthing!

If you can’t say somethin’ nice about Caroline Lucas, don’t say nothin’ at all

Craig Turton asks: “Why oh why does BPB keep on banging on about some mythical obsession s/he thinks Labour has with the ‘Evil Princess and All Her Works’?” Well, Craig, spending time with Labour activists during and since the election, they seem to have two obsessions: one with Caroline, the other with the newly minority Green Council.

Labour activists find it almost impossible to have a rational conversation about Caroline Lucas. Take someone at random …. how about ….. Craig Turton. He writes: “The problem with Saint Caroline (BTW I first heard that nickname from a Green during the plot to throw over Keith Taylor) is that being in a minority of one with in essence the status of an independent MP representing the Brighton Pavilion Allotments and Residents Association, means that her ability in Parliament to influence government and its agencies to act as a catalyst in facilitating change for the City is far more limited than that of an MP representing the DUP or Plaid Cymru for example.”

Most people wouldn’t agree with Craig. Allie Cannell predictably, as a Green, writes: “Caroline Lucas does work with other people in parliament?!?!? Plaid Cymru and the SNP give the Greens lots of help in Westminster. She does propose, amend and oppose legislation. How much difference would one more Labour or Tory MP out of hundreds make? As we said over and over again during the general election campaign. I don’t understand your argument……”

I agree with Allie. But then Craig would say: “of course you would”. But Allie makes a good point. Caroline Lucas is one reason why the Greens did so well in the local elections. In fact, every time I hear a Labour activist rubbish Caroline Lucas, it drives me further away from the only party I have ever been a member of, and one which I think about rejoining from time to time. But it is the hostil attitude of Labour activists that is the primary reason for not doing so.

I would suggest Labour activists should spend the next six months following the Thumper Principle (that’s Thumper from Bambi who said “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”).

In fact, I would challenge Craig, Warren, Harris and any other Labour activist who wishes to take up the challenge – post one genuine positive comment about Caroline Lucas. Not a back-handed compliment, something genuine. I won’t hold my breath ….

Some of my favourite things about politics in Brighton and Hove

The Greens: Thank goodness we live in a city that has the variety of politics and an openness to new ideas that allows a party like the Greens to thrive and enjoy electoral success. As a tribal Labour loyalist who voted Labour in May, I can’t imagine how very boring politics would be if we were still locked in a two-party dog fight, year in, year out. The Greens are forcing Labour and the Tories to rethink their strategy and policies, and (who knows when) both the old parties may just one day change for the better!

Warren Morgan: Warren will hate to be included in this list but he represents the fighting spirit that remains in parts of the local Labour Party. I can rely on Warren to spill his Sugar Puffs each time I post my latest take on the Greens. For him, it is the Evil Princess and All Her Works (i.e. Caroline Lucas) that personifies everything that is wrong with Brighton politics. Without the likes of Warren, Labour’s decline would be almost terminal.

The Young Tories: Rob Buckwell, Michael Ireland, Mike MacFarlane, George Dore, Kerry Underhill, Robert Nemeth and the incomparable Momma Grizzly, Rachael Bates. The Tory Party needs ‘modernising’ but not in the Blair/Cameron sense (which are no more than a cover for the worst traditions of paternalistic old-fashion politics). This new breed of young Tories will help the Tories break with their past and will challenge Blue Labour, sometimes from the left. Momma Grizzly is an enigma: a right wing, anti-monarchist, pro-Palin, capitalist. Other than her anti-monarchist tendencies, she represents much of what I oppose, but at least she has a sense of humour and passion, but that could make her all the more dangerous.

Community Gardeners: These groups represent the free spirit of campaigning that has long existed in Brightn and Hove. They are bottom up campaigners that genuinely ‘shape place’ to use the jargon of the City Council. Co-operative and communal, they bring forward a model of how things can improve, without consultants and council officers.

Christopher Hawtree: Chris is the latest in a long line of characters that have graced and enriched the political scene in Brighton and Hove over many years: Dennis Hobden, Ruth Larkin, Doreen Radford (the lady who it is said wore a new hat at every Council meeting), Richard Stanton, Sheila Hall, etc. Christopher’s election sent greater shockwaves around senior officers of the Council more than any other result on the night. It is said his election sent shockwaves around the Green Party as well!

The Blogosphere and Twiteratti: My life was sad, lacking in focus, days passing into weeks and weeks into years. I am the shy, retiring type. But then I discovered a whole new world and made loads of new friends: The Ghost, Zombie, Doris Day (she never returns my calls), Baron Pepperpot, Momma Grizzly, Rosa’s Lovely Daughter, Dr Faust, etc. Social media has enriched the political world locally, although no party has yet worked out how to make the most of it. When one party fully utilises Twitter, they can expect to reap electoral success.

The future: I don’t mean the young Tories (see above) or even the impressive young activists in Labour (Harris Fitch, Clare Calder, etc.) or in the Greens (Luke Walter, Allie Cannell, Alex Phillips, etc.) but those who active in their early and mid teens, such as Pearl Ahrens. With committed young activists like her, we can take courage for the future health of the political process.

Report on Gender Equlity: Labour and Greens in Brighton doing OK but could do better

The comments left on this blog by Rosa’s Lovely Daughter, or RLD as we are getting to know her, has provoked a defence of the records of both Labour and the Greens but no response, alas, from the Stepford One, Jason Kitcat.

RLD responded to yesterday’s post by writing: “Your correspondents aren’t so hot on gender politics are they? I thought the Greens would know all about equalities. Stephen Wood says Jason’s comments were “good natured self deprecation”. I don’t think so. What he said was patronising nonsense. Ania got more votes, not because she is good looking, but because she’s a good candidate and because the voters like women candidates. They also like seeing women in positions of authority. That’s why I’m concerned about the make up of the cabinet. Fifty per cent of the city’s population is female. We need fair representation. Come on Bill. Sort it out.”

Neil Harding rallies to the defence of the Stepford One: “I did think Jason’s comments were a bit dopey and sexist. But give the guy a break, it had been a tiring 24 hours and he was probably knackered. I am sure he meant it as a bit of self-deprecating banter.”

Warren Morgan highlights Labour’s record on gender equality: “As you have raised equalities RLD, well over half of the Labour Group 2007-11 were women, and over 40% of our candidates at the recent elections were women. Two of our five new councillors are women, so six of the 13 Labour councillors are women. Our Group Leader is a woman, the Chair of our Group is a woman and our new Mayor is a woman. We’ve been pushing equalities and representation in the Labour Party for a long time.”

Allie Cannell responds to RLD’s call for Bill Randall to “sort it out”: “One of the main reasons I am in the Greens is because Bill cannot sort it out! He may be convener of the Green Group and leader of the council but he has no constitutional power over the party.”

Allie reflects more widely on gender in politics: “I think the lack of women in politics is a big problem though (partly because the reasons for it probably put many people of all genders off politics). I would say that the Greens are generally pretty good at attempting a balance though (I think the leader and deputy leader of our party have to be different genders for example). It is a shame that this group of Green councillors has a slightly lower proportion of women then the last one but its still at 40%, which is pretty good for party politics. I don’t know how the make up of the cabinet happened but I would be very supprised if it happened in any sort of discriminatory atmosphere.”

Stephen Wood sums up the position for Labour and the Greens: “So in effect, Labour and the Green Party are broadly comparable locally with our representation of women in elected office, albeit with us ahead on seats.  Around 40% is good, but as RLD says, this can and should be better. In my experience of it, the Green Party nationally is takes gender equity seriously as an organisation and is held to it’s principles by our membership.”

Stephen says that there is still much to do for all parties around equalities in general, such as broadening the demographic base of our supporters, “something which I am particularly keen upon the Green Party engaging more pro-actively with. If the wrong impression has been given in a throwaway comment about our commitment to this, then I would apologise – and hope that recognition is given to the fact that we aspire to represent the rich diversity of Brighton and Hove’s population in how we conduct politics and open up political spaces.  I’ve never thought that we had the monopoly on good ideas – if others are more successful at this, I’d love to collaborate to improve representation in public life.”

I conclude with a question posed by Allie Cannell: “What do you think are the reasons that less women get involved in politics? I’ve never seen someone really analyse that but surely those reasons need to be identified so that we can put the gender balance right.”

Tory young guns firing bullets of indignation

I am not a small-state, socially liberal and fiscally conservative kind of guy. That may come as a surprise to some of you Eco-Marxist, Commie (credit for those labels to Chuck Vere and Paul Perrin – that would be a marriage made Hell) fanatics who have infiltrated the Green Party. I have a problem. I like Michael Ireland, one of the young breed of Tory candidates who stood and fell last Thursday. But Michael describes himself as a “small-state, socially liberal and fiscally conservative kind of guy.” I imagine it’s just a phase he’s going through.

The young Tories had such high hopes only to see each one fall to the Greens or, in the case of Michael, to Labour’s Brian Fitch, and Kerry Underhill also to Labour. Rachael Bates, George Dore, Mike McFarland (the guy lucky enough to leave his toothbrush next to George’s), Robert Nemeth, and Adam Love were beaten by Green opponents.

Young candidates from other parties fared no better with Labour’s Clare Calder, Tom French and Harris Fitch, the Greens’ Luke Walter and Allie Cannell, and the Lib Dems Rebecca Taylor, Tallulah Frankland and Larissa Rowe all lost. In fact no new young councillors were elected, and there remains just one councillor under the age of 30, the Greens’ Alex Phillps.

The young Conservatives are not a happy bunch. Last night I posted comments from a Tory Party member regarding the young Conservatives. Today I have been bombarded by these said Tories denouncing each other as if one of them is my informant. At no point did I intimate that my correspondent was one of their number. But look at how they turn against each other:

Michael Ireland: “I was shocked to see this post after having just cleaned my teeth this morning. Whilst the anonymous poster might have provided a fascinating observation for the blog, their comments, whilst ostensibly representing our group, are merely their own opinion.”

Robert Nemeth: “I’ve never posted on here before but it has been drawn to my attention that it may well be assumed that I am your cowardly friend. As I am neither cowardly nor your friend, I would very much like to distance myself from public attacks on colleagues. There is no real group of young Conservatives as such but, if there were and it did have a spokesman, that person would not be such a sneak. Hopefully it is nobody that I know. For the record, I am dead impressed by the Greens’ organisational skills. I doubt that they managed to get in such a position by sneaking around on blogs.”

Rob Buckley: “Your informer, whoever they may be, does not speak for the entire younger generation within the local Conservative Party. I know some of his/her assertions to be inaccurate. This highlights the problem with hiding cowardly behind anonymity.”

And finally, Momma Grizzly: “I entirely agree with Rob Buckwell. Whoever your ‘informant’ is should have the guts to come out from behind the veil of anonymity if they are to say such comments. They certainly do not speak for all of the younger Conservatives and I’m not impressed that this person who has chosen to remain anonymous has taken it upon themselves to say that they represent our views.”

Labour activists reacted with similar indignation when one of their numbers passed on views which were then passed on to this Blogger. Anonymity is something that you may have to get used to. But there are some fascinating insights that I won’t share, which is a shame. For example, today I received a great email from a Labour activist from Hove who asked me to keep his/her comments ‘off line’, a request which I will respect.

But do keep the comments coming, email to brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com and indicate whether I can use them. Alternatively, Direct Message me through Twitter @BrightonPolitic, or simply leave a comment on this blog.

The divisions within the local political parties that provide such gold dust for this Blogger

Allie Cannell, one of the more astute political observers around, and the type of organiser that Labour would kill for, has asked one of the more sensible questions of late: “How do you have such good knowledge of all the campaigns in all the wards, BPB??? The political parties would pay a fortune to be as well informed about the opposition as you are.”

The simple response is that the political parties do have all the information themselves but a condition that effects many politicians is intrigue and division, and this leads to some handy tips coming my way.

On divisions, each of the four parties locally (and out of the kindness of my heart I still refer to the Lib Dems as a party rather than a joke with an appalling punch line), is divided to the core. Starting with the Lib Dems, they had two councillors and they managed to split right down the middle. That takes some doing. Imagine what it would be like if they had more activists to fill a phone box!

The Tories are split between the working class Kemptown Conservative Association and the ‘united’ Brighton Pavilion and Hove association. Could this be a bit of my enemy’s enemy is my friend. A uneasy truce exists within the local Tories, but just wait until the evening of 6th May when the knives will be out for Mary Mears, Dee Simpson and Maria Caulfield, especially if the Tories do badly. Payback time.

I heard that at a recent hustings organised by the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, the Tories were represented by Mary and The Bishop, (Brian Oxley) – Kemptown and Hove together. Mary is said to have responded to every single question while the The Bishop sat serenly by, in silent prayer, without muttering a word!

There are hidden divisions with the Greens, but they are well covered. Originally, the fault line was between those supporting Caroline Lucas for the nomination to fight Brighton Pavilion and those who wanted a local candidate (in the form of Keith Taylor). Dynamic though he may be, Keith is no match for Caroline. I really can’t see that Keith could have pulled off a sensational victory for the Greens last May! Similar divisions persist. Who will be the top two on the Green list for the next European elections. This dispute is simmering. I couldn’t possibly comment on this contest other than to say that women candidates are doing better than male candidates of late, and there are several excellent women Green activists locally.

Labour, traditionally the local party most divided against itself, has few divisions of late, so I am told. Yes, the East Brighton Polituro has taken over from the defeated Queens Park Mafia. So shell-shocked has the party been following two successive and devastating defeats at the polls, that people are pulling together. Yet there was no proper analysis and no changes following previous defeats. But following the third devastating defeat, the reality of which is scheduled to hit home mid afternoon on 6th May, Labour must take a long and hard look at itself.

So why is all of this relevant to Allie’s fascinating question? Politicians of all parties ‘speak’ to me, some directly (you can find me most evenings in the Neptune masquerading as Chris Hawtree), others by Twitter Direct Messaging (@BrightonPolitic) or by emailing me at brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com. My mobile number is 0765 3789 754 123 856 (ha ha ha, as the horse used to say in the John Smith Bitter advert).

I use only a fraction of what I am told. I struggle, believe it or not, to get much out of any Green activist other than Green Amy who sends me the occasional recipe for tasty cakes. The Greens are a disciplined bunch.

As I said above, the parties have all the information that I rely on since most (not all) of it comes from them. I remain just a humble scribe, with few friends and fewer prospects.

Greens electoral tactic may just take them over the winning line

The description that the Greens are using to describe themselves gives a fascinating insight into that party’s ambitions for Brighton and Hove City Council. It is employing a tried and tested method of ‘borrowing’ a vote for one of its candidates from the other parties. In certain wards it has described its candidates as “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, “Green Party Second Choice Candidate” and, where there are three seats up for election, “Green Party Third Choice Candidate”.

This tactic is being used in seats where the Greens have concluded that they can’t win outright. Where they believe they can win all the seats, they describe their candidates simply as being from “The Green Party”.

From this we can assume that the Greens are confident of winning St Peters and North Laine, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and Regency. If the Greens were to hold all the seats in these wards they would return 11 councillors. In Preston Park and Goldsmid wards, the Greens are not prioritising any candidates. In Preston Park the Geens are grouped in the middle of the ballot paper with very popular sitting councillor, Amy Noelle Kennedy (Noelle? You’ve kept that quiet, Green Amy!) listed alphabetically just beneath one her fellow Green candidates.

More surprising is the Green’s decision not to prioritise their candidates in Goldsmid. Up against the Greens is another popular sitting councillor, Labour’s Melanie Davies. I have predicting a split result here with Melanie topping the poll with two Greens elected in second and third place. What concerns me is that sitting Green councillor, Alex Phillips, is one from the bottom of the ballot paper, and listed well below her fellow Green candidates who are near the top of the ballot paper. I think that the decision not to prioritise Green candidates in Goldsmid is a mistake and whoever was behind this decision shows a fundamental lack of political and campaigning judgement.

Having said that, I believe that Alex Phillips will be one of the two successful Geens. Her breakthrough in the Goldsmid by-election, when she became the first-ever Green to be elected in Hove, was key to giving the Big Mo to the Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion. Alex Phillips is currently the Baby of the Council Chamber, but she is cut from the same cloth as Caroline Lucas and will, in years to come, be as significant a politicians as her mentor.

Assuming three and two Greens are elected from Preston Park and Goldsmid respectively, that would take the Green total to 16.

Then there is Hollingdean and Stanmer. The Greens have not prioritised candidates in this ward, suggesting it is confident of winning all three seats. I have always said that I expect Jeane Lepper will hold her seat. If the Greens do win two seats here, it would take the Green total to 18.

The Green’s number 1 target is Brunswick and Adelaide. Once again, the Greens are not prioritising its candidates for the two seats up for election in this ward. Success here would take the Greens to 20. Just where the next 7 seats might come from is a matter of guess work. Central Hove could just provide a shock and Chris Hawtree, as the “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, could be elected.

The Greens could pick up the odd seat here and there. Allie Cannell and Chris Hawtree are confident about Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. Rottingdean Coastal and Patcham have been mentioned in dispatches. I don’t see it, but the Caroline Effects may yet prove to be the decisive factor on May 5th.

Finally, the romantic in me wishes George and le Toothbrush a long and happy life together. But their chances of success in May? No chance.

The student vote will swing Hollingdean and Stanmer for the Greens and consolidate their position elsewhere

It seems that the consensus is that the student vote will make a difference primarily in Hollingdean and Stanmer, and has already made a difference in St Peters and North Laine, and in Hanover and Elm Grove, with Regency also benefiting from the student vote.  All this is possibly stating the obvious as these seats have high concentration of students, and all are in Brighton Pavilion where the Green’s organisation has galvanised the student vote.  In Moulscoomb and Bevendean, where Labour and the Greens have little organisation on the ground, the student vote is less influential, allowing the Tories to take seats in this tradional Labour seat.

DAP thinks that students will make the LibDem destruction even more felt everywhere, coming in poor lasts.  He thinks that the “Tories will also be hit (in M&B for example) not because Tory students will change their mind and vote left, but beacuse previously non voting students/first timers will be more inclined to vote Green/Labour because of recent tuition fee rises/high youth umemployment/low graduate employment (as will the parents of future students)”.  Perhaps, but I think that Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will be won, not by issues impacting on students, but on the record of Maria Caulfield as lead councillor for housing. 

My dear Baron Pepperpot agrees with my take on Hollingbury and Stanmer: “The Greens in Hollingdean & Stanmer are heavily targeting the student vote. I understand they are readily campaigning at the campus, and will be there on the day. The Greens campaign in this ward has been in full flow for sometime, and is showing signs of a very carefully thought out strategy. An added advantage too is student hostility towards the coalition and the Lib Dems in particular.If someone wanted to bet me that 3 Greens will be returned from Hollingdean & Stanmer, they wouldn’t see much of a return on their stake!”

As you know, Baron, I think the Joker in the Pack is Jeane Lepper who I believe will hang on because of her many years careful stewardship of the ward. I still say two Greens and Jeane Lepper for Labour.

Brighton’s own Mr Pickwick, Christopher Hawtree, thinks that the student vote will be influential everywher: “It is not only the student vote that makes Moulescoomb an interesting area for the Greens. Look at the rest of it.” I don’t think so, it requires strong organisation on the ground, and Labour doesn’t have it, and the Greens are targeting their efforts in selected wards.

The activist with probably the best knowledge of the student vote, and someone who has received little public credit for the success of Caroline Lucas’ campaign is Allie Cannell.  He writes: “I think the best reference I have ever got was from Charlotte Vere after the general election when she said in an e-mail to the University of Sussex Conservative Assosiation something along the lines of: ‘We could have won it if the Labour vote had softened but in the end the Greens’ student mobilisation campaign was just too successful’.  I learnt a lot coordinating the campus campaign at the general election last year and it was really really successful (if only i could tell you what the sampling data said), this year we started campaigning earlier on campus and we know how to do it. I’m confident we will get a good Green vote from the students again.”  I am sure you are right.

Regarding the student vote at Brighton University, and those in Kemptown, Allie writes: “We have made some connections with Brighton students, but as you say there hasn’t been a strong campaign there as we have to target. It will be interesting to see how those students vote this time though.  There are a lot of students that live in SPNL, and H&EG too, what a supprise that they’re Green wards.”

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke tends to discount the influence of the student vote: “The Students have always been a questionable influence in the old Stanmer ward and the now H&S ward, will they place Sven “Long Hair Kung-Fu Man” Rufus back on the council,do they know how too tactical vote? or do they let Rachel “momma grizzly” Bates through the middle, she is after all an ex Sussex Uni student and that may count for something with her old campus pals, we could see Ian Fyvie out with his loud hailer!”  Now having Ian Fyvie on the Council would be something, but somehow I think he will just miss out, by a thousand votes or so!

HP thinks it is studentification’ that could be a factor.  Not on students, I think, but on those living in town centre wards who complain about car parking and noisy neighbours, blaiming it all on students. HP writes: “Of course, another way the students might swing the vote is in relation to the party that promises the most effective action to limit the spread of student houses at the cost of family housing. The outgoing Labour Govt was in the process of addressing just that issue, but then the Tories came in and buckled to the demands of their landlord mates and watered down the new rules. However, a locally implementable mechanism exists to stop family houses becoming student lets and I for one would be happy to vote for a party that has the courage to impose it (unless that party is the Tories, obviously I’d never vote for them). We then need more purpose built student accommodation in the right places with sustainable links to the campuses.”

But is any of this speculation meaningful? Dan Wilson thinks not: “Student turnout at local elections is typically very low indeed”  but Mr Pickwick senses something different now: “It seems to me a motivated student vote this time. Many were inspired by first Green MP. That was also apparent in the Lizzie Deane camapign. And that was a summertime when most political types assumed that it would be a snoozy electorate.”

You think Moulsecoomb and Bevendean could go Tory, or Labour, even Green, in May’s local elections

Last night’s prediction that the Conservatives may win all three seats in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean has prompted an interesting response. No surprise that Peter Booth, Tory candidate in East Brighton agrees with my prediction: “Completely agree with your assessment in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean. Maria is a hard-working and popular Councillor and is joined in this campaign by Ayas Fallon-Khan who has gained a solid reputation on Council – and predict all 3 Conservatives will win through.”  Baron Pepperpot (flattery will get you nowhere with me!) couldn’t disagree more: “three Tories in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean? At a time when the cuts will start to bite?”

Allie Cannell makes a prediction that I don’t see as likely: “I’m predicting the Greens will get a seat in M&S. There are over 2,000 students just living in University residences there.   Thats not even counting all the students living in private accomodation.”  The problem with that view is that students are not that likely to turn out in large volumes in a Kemptown seat, even for Green candidates in a local election.  If I am wrong, then all bets are off regarding the final make-up of the Council.  3 Green candidates in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean would suggest major gains by the Greens across the city.  Allie is not alone, Christopher Hawtree is predicting that “the Greens could do well in Moulescoomb.”

Kelvin Poplett, another East Brighton Conservative, says: “Surprisingly- I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Booth. From our time spent knocking on the doors in traditional Labour areas, we are finding Conservatives everywhere. Through sheer hard work we may just surprise you.”  You would surprise me if you found enough Tory votes to unseat Mitchell, Turton and Morgan. Peter Booth says that the Tories in East Brighton “are David against Goliath – Yes we oppose your particular favourite (and that favouritism does shine through in your blog) but do not under-estimate the campaign of East Brighton Conservatives – who are all in this campaign – fighting for every vote until 10pm on 5th May, and who may just surprise you and your friend Mr Morgan. There are no no-go areas in East Brighton for EB Conservatives!”  I have no favourites (other than Green Amy but she never writes, never calls – thanks to Dan Wilson for that line).

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke asks: “Is Mr Morgan rattled I wonder!, This ward has never been worked by the tories has it Peter?”.  Actually, that’s not true and it did go Tory in the early 1990s when it was Marine Ward.

My “favourite” Warren Morgan, draws attention to the fall-out in 2007 from the stock transfer issue that so damaged Labour: “Woodingdean looks pretty safe for the Tories based on the 2007 results, but interestingly the ward was split three ways at the GE count with the Lib Dem matching Simons Burgess and Kirby.  The traditionally strong Labour vote in Woodingdean (we did win a seat there in the 90s) was artificially depressed there in 2007 by the stock transfer vote fallout, as it was in Portslade, Moulsecoomb and Queens Park. Geoff is busy being mayor and Dee is busy with Cabinet duties which may explain DAPs comment above. We’ve selected some keen, new candidates both there and in Rottingdean Coastal, all hopeful of putting up a good campaign and earning safer seats next time (as BPB said in an earlier post). And complacency is a stealthy enemy in politics, as some of my colleagues found out last time.  Don’t forget in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean that the Respect candidate Dave Bangs scored over 300 votes last time (equivalent to a constituency wide Respect/Socialist vote at a GE) capitalising on the stock transfer issue, and with what he portrayed as the endorsement of two retiring councillors. And yes, the students will be a factor, particularly if they vote tactically for Labour rather than the Greens who are not in contention in M&B.”

Clive points to another issue that damaged Labour in 2007: “Another elephant that is no longer in the room is the King Alfred. Last time, this surely helped the Tories in Westbourne, Central Hove and (to a lesser extent) Goldsmid.”  He also points out the state of the parties in national polls: “the national opinion polls in April 2007 – just before the last local elections – were, taking a rough average of all taken: Conservative 37, Labour 31, LD 19. Therefore it’s hard not to conceive of Labour enjoying some kind of general uplift given that they are now polling around ten points ahead of that.”  The counter argument to that, Clive, at least in Brighton Pavilion, is the Caroline Effect and how that constituency should be seen apart from the national position.

The good Baron agrees with my assessment for Queens Park where he lives, that “it’s too close to call, but I’m not sure you’re right about which Labour candidate would be returned in the event of a split vote.”

Finally, a couple of comments have been left on this blog earlier today which are not in the spirit of debate and friendly provocation.  I haven’t approved one as it may contain a libel or two, and I have removed another offending reference in another.  Please keep to the spirit of the blog.  I really don’t want to have to moderate comments left.

Labour to win May’s local elections or a 3-way split or even a Tory victory. 2 exciting months to go!

I did ask, and you responded, but I honestly did not expect anyone to suggest that Labour would win May’s local elections.  But then I did not allow for Warren Morgan who predicts Labour winning 26 seats, just one short of a majority (with the Mayor’s casting vote).  He says he did a “3 minute, a literally back of the envelope job (and I’m not saying who I think will win what and where). Unsurprisingly I think Labour will do much better than BPB does:

Conservatives 19
Labour 26
Greens 9”

He says that there is a “margin of error of 2/3 or maybe 4 seats either way for all 3 main parties. And maybe 1 for the Lib Dems.  I think incumbency will help – all 13 Labour cllrs are seeking re-election in the same wards, at least 5 Greens are standing down or moving wards, and at least 3 Tories are standing down or moving wards. Half the Green group stood down at the last two elections and they did well, but that was against a Labour council and govt.” 

I can’t see this happening.  It requires a highly motivated party, a strong mood in favour of Labour and against all others.  It ain’t going to happen.

Jason Bull predicts something quite different: “My prediction is Conservative 24, Green 16, Labour 14. This includes the Greens taking both Brunswick & Adelaide seats, Labour, Conservative and Greens getting 1 each in Goldsmid. I predict that the Greens will pick up just 1 seat in Hollingbury & Stanmer with Labour holding 2 of the seats. I think Labour will take all 3 seats from the Greens in Queens Park. I believe Mr & Mrs Kitcat will win by massive majorities in Regency, which will cease to be a marginal ward and become a rock solid Green ward. These are not the results I would wish for but I think they may be close the actual result.”

I think you are well off the mark, Jason.  Jason and Ania will romp to victory in Regency (sorry Dan and James, this won’t be your year although you would both make good councillors). Regency was once safe Tory, then it became a marginal Labour seat, then safe Labour, a Labour/Lib Dem marginal, and now safe Green.  I just hope the Estate Agents don’t target it.

I don’t see a three way split in Goldsmid.  Possibly 2 Labour and 1 Green, or two Green and one Labour.  With the stagnation in the housing market, the Estate Agents won’t make it this time.

Allie Cannell would be “very surprised if the Greens lost all of the seats in Queens Park (definately one of the most interesting wards). Although councillors standing down can be a disadvantage it can also be an advantage. It means there are more people committed to working very hard for the campaign.  The current Green councillors there are great at elections. Paul Steadman was target constituency coordinator (or something like that) for the general election. And they are all still working hard to make sure that Greens get re-elected, the new candidates have access to loads of experience. Personally I’m pretty hopeful that we’ll keep all three seats. Worst case scenario would be losing 1 or 2.”  He predicts that the Greens will get between 16 and 18 seats.

MJ has the most intriguing prediction: “The council will be split evenly three ways almost exactly. Tories, Labour, Green on 16-18 each, 2 Lib Dems, and 3 Saltdean Lido in Rottingdean.”  No way, MJ! No Lib Dems, no Saltdean Lido types, and no way 16 – 18 Labour.

A prediction that might be quite close to the final result comes from the Ghost of Nobby Clarke, but then he has an advantage being in a different realm (a bit being at a full council meeting but with the Angelic Host rather than a rowdy public gallery). He predicts the Conservatives 21, Labour 14, Greens 19.  I might be persuaded that this could be the result, but I think the Greens will be slightly up form this, Labour down and the Tories there or there abouts. 

But the Ghost explains: “people will turn out to vote Labour and some tories will stay at home or vote UKIP if they have that choice, but can you get the people on the ground to get out your vote like The Green Machine?  Barlow will possibly pinch a seat and you may grab a couple elsewhere maybe Portslade or Queens Park but expect to drop some along the way with Turton edged out and the Goldsmid seat taken by the machine and Simpson possibly losing Hollingdean and Stanmer.  Those were the day’s ‘Backwell, Simpson,Sweeting’.”  Wow, Ghost, you go back to a by-gone age.  Celia Barlow winning Central Hove could be a headline grabbing result. I really doubt that Craig Turton will be unseated.  The East Brighton Labour team is particularly strong and working hard.  (Even today Warren Morgan reported over 50% Labour support in a Tory area of the ward).  Christine Simpson, and to a lesser degree, Pat Hawkes, are vulnerable in Hollingdean and Stanmer.

Baron Pepperpot has a word of caution: “It is, after all, prediction. And how many of us can honestly say we are totally objective. I think we are all looking forward to the drama, (although for those of us who are not standing, perhaps without the added nervous edge).  I think there is much water to go under the bridge nationally, even in the next two months. For me there are two main questions that need to be asked to determine how the vote will go at the time. One is national, one is local: How much more unpopular can the coalition become? (Mr Elgood may be taking note of this nervously). Do people see the Greens as a serious coalition leader in Brighton? (Now they are getting close to real power).”

The Baron concludes: “Two exciting months to go chaps!”  Indeed, Baron. I look forward  to the publication of the manifestos.