Brighton Politics Blogger to stand as a Conservative candidate in 2015

Brighton Pavilion and Hove Conservatives are seeking candidates for the 2015 City Council elections – and you do not have to be a Party member already

Its website says that “In a bold new move the Conservatives in Brighton Pavilion and Hove have opened up their selection process for the first time to any member of the local community who wants to serve their neighbours by becoming a Councillor. No longer will selection be restricted to those who are already Party members.”

Councillor Andrew Wealls, who led a review of candidate selection, said: “We would like to hear from anyone who wants to work for the local community to ensure the Council better serves local residents and businesses. Of course we would expect them to be broadly sympathetic to Conservative values but the most important consideration is a determination to make life better for all residents, whether by ensuring council tax bills are reduced or delivering council services more effectively.”

In the spirit of the New Conservative Party, I have decided to put my name forward. While I have some difficulties with certain Conservative ‘values’, I am pleased that “the most important consideration is a determination to make life better for all residents”.

I want to make life better for residents, but which residents? Which seat will they let me stand in? Obviously there is a determination by the New Conservatives to make life better for this Blogger, and so will certainly allow me to stand in a safe seat. That rules out all seats in the current Brighton Pavilion constituency, even Withdean and Patcham wards.

So what sort of policies should I stand on? I am a conservative kind of person. I want to conserve socialist values in the Labour Party, a battle that is sadly being lost. I want low Council Tax rises, say 3.5%, in order to avoid bigger cuts last year, and on this issue I can foresee a Phillips-Blogger coalition at next year’s Budget Meeting. The modern Tory Party is committed to creating coalitions to replace the one with the doomed Lib Dems.

So here are some of my ideas for the Blogger’s Conservative manifesto:

  • The mandatory wearing of ties sporting the stars and stripes by all male Conservative councillors at all times;
  • All Tory councillors must abide by the Hyde Rule – having been born within a two mile radius of Brighton Town Hall (to hell with inbreeding, councillor Ania Kitcat);
  • Leading the annual Pride March around Hangleton – pride that the ward is the most anti-traveller ward in the City; and
  • Unlimited extensions for speeches by councillors Janio and Hawtree at all council meetings with tickets for the public gallery being sold to the highest bidders.

Drawing up the battle lines in Brighton, Hove, Lewes, Ditchling, St John (Without) ……….

The lunatic redrawing of constituency boundaries has provoked much comment. Mike Weatherley has, not surprisingly, welcomed the new arrangements. He would, wouldn’t he, as the new Brighton and Hove North constituency is more winnable against a Green campaign that the current Hove constituency. Gone from Brighton and Hove North are the new Green wards of Goldsmid, Brunswick & Adelaide, and the half Green ward of Central Hove, and the arrival of Regency into the Hove constituency has been avoided.

Caroline Lucas will be laughing all the way to her landslide victory in 2015 with a constituency that currently has all Green councillors less Andrew Wealls in Central Hove.

It has been suggested that, contrary to what I said yesterday – that the new boundaries have been designed to contain the Greens – the new boundaries have been proposed in order to minimise the number of both Labour and Lib Dem MP’s. In Brighton and Hove the prospect of seeing a Labour MP elected for the next 25 years is near zero.

And on the matter of Labour, Simon Burgess has announced, through a comment on this blog, that he will not be seeking election in 2015. Perhaps with the proposed boundary changes he felt that he would be on a hiding to nothing. He would be right, but I personally hope that he seeks election, once again, to the City Council.

So who might Labour field in Brighton and Hove? The Brighton Kemp Town with Lewes and all stations to Ditchling constituency could be a fight between Stormin’ Norman (a Lib Dem enabler of the Tories) and Simon Kirby (occasional rebel Tory). What a choice! Could Labour secure enough votes to slip through the middle in a three way contest? Not if their performance in Lewes in recent years is anything to go by. The Greens? Not in 2015 but if they secure support from disillusioned Labour and, more to the point, mightily pissed off Lib Dem supporters, they could put up a challenge in 2015 and lay the foundations for 2020.

In Brighton Pavilion and Hove, Labour is likely to field someone who dances to the tune of Tom Lehrer’s Masochism Tango. Caroline Lucas is likely to be returned with one of the largest majorities in the Commons. Labour might struggle to hold its deposit.

In Brighton and Hove North, with Simon Burgess out of consideration in spite of a dedicated Facebook page and talk, as recently as Sunday, that the party machinery was lining him up for the candidacy, the way is left open for Dr Peter Kyle, a favourite of the national leadership and deputy chief executive of the chief executive’s organisation, Acevo. Dr Kyle has begun commenting on this blog which says he is either very discerning or perhaps a bit desperate!

I suspect that the candidate most likely to mount the most effective campaign against Mike Weatherley will be a Green. It will be less likely that this will be a Green gain than before, but after the High Noon Showdown between Kirby and Baker, it will be the most interesting fight in Sussex. Having been one of the most interesting elections in the country, the Brighton Pavilion election result in 2015 will be the most predictable in the country.

New constituency boundaries: containing the Greens and helping the Tories

The new boundaries for Parliamentry constituencies have been leaked, and I am grateful to Dem Soc, Brighton and Hove, and the fascinating Anthony Zacharzewski in particular, for sharing the information.

Enter, stage right, my friend Gerry Mander, who has created new boundaries designed to contain the Greens. There is no rationale other than that. The new Brighton Pavilion and Hove constituency (Brunswick & Adelaide, Central Hove, Goldsmid, Hanover & Elm Grove, Preston Park, Queen’s Park, Regency, St Peter’s & North Laine) guarentees the re-election of Caroline Lucas – the proposed constituency currently has just one non Green councillor, the very non-Tory and all-round nice guy, Andrew Wealls.

That is the tactic, load all Greens into one constituency. A central Brighton and Hove constituency makes some sense, but Brighton & Hove North is a most bizarre concoction: Hangleton & Knoll, Hollingdean & Stanmer, Portslade (north and south), Patcham, Hove Park, Westbourne, Wish, Withdean.

As St Anthony says: “It’s a strange division, as I suspect that the people of Hollingdean (Brighton & Hove North) would see themselves as having more in common with central Brighton than with Hangleton & Knoll or Mile Oak.”

That’s the least of it, AZ, what about residents of Stanmer Village and Portslade South? What on earth do they have in common.

Coalition partners Norman Baker and Simon Kirby will be eyeing up each other with suspicion, even hostility. The new Lewes and East Brighton constituency is made up of Moulsecoomb & Bevendean, East Brighton, Rottingdean Coastal, Woodingdean, all Lewes town wards, Saltdean, Chailey, Wivelsfield, Ditchling, Plumpton, Kingston, East Chiltington, Streat, and St John Without.

I think that this new constituency will see the end of Stormin’ Norman. Why vote for a candidate without backbone who implements Tory policies when you can vote for a candidate with backbone who implements Tory policies.

The aim, I suspect, is to guarantee two Tory seats in Brighton, Hove and Lewes. Simon Kirby will have taken some comfort. Mike Weatherley must be relieved, or is he? What if Caroline Lucas decided not to stand in Brighton Pavilion and Hove but chose, rather, to stand in Brighton and Hove North? She could win it given that she polls well in Withdene, Patcham and Hollingdean and Stanmer, and she could well attract lots of support in some of the current Hove seats. But then again so could another Green candidate, if the Greens choose their candidate with care.

State of the City 2 – The Tories

I like Mary Mears, and I like Geoffrey Theobald. They are two of the great servants of the city, both proud leaders, past and present, of the Conservative Group on the City Council. The problem is, and here I let you into a tiny secret, they are not great fans of each other.

For several years there has been a fault running through the local Conservative Party, or should that be Conservative Parties? The Brighton Pavilion and Hove Associations are as one, sharing a single website, but the Brighton Kemptown Association is cast out into deepest outer space.

The exception to this rift is the relationship between the two Conservative MPs, Mike Weatherley (Hove) and Simon Kirby (Brighton Kemptown). The two obviously like each other and often are seen together at events. It is, perhaps, their friendship that might build the bridge between the two sides.

One would have thought that there was more to unite them than to divide them, not least the threat posed by the Greens across Brighton and Hove, although this threat is posed primarily in Brighton Pavlion and in Hove.

So apart from the divisions between the Conservative Associations themselves, where are the dividing lines? Clearly Mary Mears and Geoffrey Theobald have deleted each other from their respective Christmas Card lists. Several supporters of Mary Mears were unsuccessful in May’s local elections, thereby paving the way for Geoffrey Theobald’s successful challenge for the Leadership.

Simon Kirby is close to Mike Weatherley, and Mike appears to be close to Geoffrey, Mary remains close to Simon, perhaps through The Bishop, Brian Oxley, who works for Simon and who was Mary’s loyal Deputy Leader. Brian is a councillor in Hove, a fellow ward councillor in Westbourne with Denise Cobb, now one of Geoffrey’s deputies.

I am advised by one of my sources within the Tory ranks that there is a debate about the right kind of candidate to stand in future elections. Mike Weatherley and Simon Kirby both had hugely successful private sector businesses successes before entering politics. Historically private non-political achievement seemed to be a prerequisite for progressing in Tory Party politics. Now with the bright young things working for Mike (Momma Grizzly, Mike Ireland and Robert Nemeth) it seems to be easier to progress as a political employee than someone with a non-political career. Don’t get me wrong, all three are very talented with strongly held and passionate views, and each one will make a formidable councillor or, as is more likely in the long term (especially with the Grizzly One) member of parliament.

(It is worth noting that a few former Green councillors did not stand again at the recent elections because they found being a councillor was not compatible with progressing their professional careers).

One person who tends to be highly spoken of by all factions (I hope my endorsement does not harm him), and who has even struck up a positive working relationship with fellow ward councillor, the Green Christopher Hawtree, is Andrew Wealls, who is much liked and admired by councillors from both Tory factions and by his political opponents alike.

Like Labour, the Tories need their own ‘Big Idea’ so that at a local level the Tories have something positive to promote.  The standing of the Tory Party nationally will struggle during the lifetime of this parliament.  Further civil unrest will cause further damage.  Cameron, Boris, and the others have hardly covered themselves in glory first time round, not coming home from foreign holidays at the earliest opportunity as London burned.  The Tories are being successful in turning key constituencies against them – the police and the army,  to mention just two.

Mike and Simon continue to work hard, pumping out regular press releases to key media outlets (thanks for all of them, boys).  Bolundary changes might help them, but both have challenging times ahead, particularly Mike with a determined Green Party likely to run him close in 2015.  It’s great to form a government, but it’s not much fun when your party becomes increasingly unpopular.

A vampire, a bishop, and a ‘Labour/Green’ activist all standing for the Tories in Hove!

More on the new Tory website, and an answer to the mystery about the disappearance of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. Momma Grizzly writes: “Just a quick note on Moulsecoomb & Bevendean: it’s covered by the Kemp Town Conservatives rather than the Federation of Brighton Pavilion and Hove & Portslade Conservatives, hence the absence on this site.”

But where better place to start in this next part of my review of the new Tory website than North Portslade and Tevor Alford? Arable writes: “On becoming a councillor, Initially, I spent 3 years on the following committees: Audit Committee; Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee; and Overview & Scrutiny Commission. Since May 2010, I have served on the planning committee and am also the cabinet member for Central Services, an exciting and challenging role.”. And in his spare time he’s pretty good at head-banging along to the likes of Megadeth and Slayer!

The Patcham Mafia (Pidgeon, Theobald G, and Theobald C) have biographies that speak volumes for their years and years and years service to Brighton and Hove, equalled only by the 14 generations of Les Hamiltons in Portslade and the soon-to-be four generations of Fitch’s.

Andrew Hancox, the Tory candidate in Regency, seems to have lost his bearings somewhat: “During this time I have experienced many of the challenges that living in Central Hove presents”. Mr Hancox, you are standing in Re-gen-cy, not Central Hove. It is the other Andrew, Wealls, standing in Central Hove. Re-gen-cy is in Brigh-ton. (It doesn’t really matter since Regency is due to return a Green Kitcat double act. I say this purely to elicit a reaction from my mate Dan Wilson).

Where do I begin with the Tory candidates in South Portslade? The sitting Tory councillor is Steve Harmer-Strange who is joined by Stephen Harbor-Wade! I am not making this up, honest. Any further comment from me would detract from the beauty of the situation.

In Preston Park and in St Peters and North Laine the Tories are fielding paper candidates, an indication that they have written off certain seat as unwinnable. And to think, that the old Preston ward would have gone Tory even if they put up a monkey with a blue rosette up for election. That was the case until Jeane Lepper (I believe it was her) beat a Tory candidate called Nicholas Gibbon! She sure made a monkey out of him …..!

Phlebotomist Denise Cobb is hoping to defend her seat in Westbourne. So busy is Denise she has little time for leisure activities other than “exercise, dance, swimming, cooking, being creative and travelling.” Standing with the Vampire is Bishop Brian, a devout member of the Church of England. Brian Oxley has managed to remain a decent guy in spite of working for Tory MPs for almost 20 years, and is a Tory for whom I have the utmost respect.

In Wish ward the Tories a fielding Garry Peltzer-Dunn. From his statement you would think he was standing for Labour or the Greens: “I have been made increasingly aware by residents that they feel that the City Council is failing to provide even basic services in a proper manner. It is essential that we return to basics and deliver the services residents want in the manner they require.” Garry, it is your party that has been running the show for the past 4 years. It is the Tories that you are saying are failing “to provide even basic services in a proper manner.”

Finally, for today, Withdean. The Barbie and Ken of Brighton politics, the Normans, are joined on the Tory ticket by Robert Nemeth, the third of Mike Weatherley’s staff seeking election. I have previously said that he is one to watch. In fact, all three of Mike’s staff (Robert, Michael Ireland and Momma Grizzly herself, Rachael Bates) have large political futures ahead of them. At some point I will do a review of young politicians locally. These are interesting times, and we have some interesting young activists who should be watched and followed.

On Mary Mears: a shrewd operator you underestimate at your peril

There seems to be a lot of dissention over my appraisal of Mary Mears.  I have said on several occasions that Labour and Green activists underestimate her at their peril.  How she may relate to opposition councillors is one thing, how she relates to the general public is another.  She is one smart cookie (if you forgive the expression).

Mary has gone out of her way over several years to win support and gain respect.  To have become the leader of the Conservative Group in the first place was no mean feat, especially given she was up against establishment figures such as Geoffrey Theobald.  Various people have dismissed my description of an ‘invisible’ split in the local Tory Party.  “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” asks one.  “ Theobald and Mears openly loathe each other.  GT is open about his ambitions”.  However, in my humble opinion, it will take a Tory meltdown to see Mary replaced by Geoffrey.  The working class Tories are a determined bunch.

Under her leadership, the Tories are in much better shape in Brighton and Hove than I understand them to be elsewhere.  Unlike the predicted meltdown of the Lib Dems here, there and everywhere in Brighton and Hove, the Tories will retain a respectable number of seats, enough to deny the Greens overall control.  I suspect that the Tories will even win all three seats in the Labour heartland of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.

‘HP’ is less charitable than me (not that I am being charitable).  He says: “A conservative majority will never occur under Mary Mears. When the Goldsmid by-election occured the Tories were on the up nationally (pre-cuts), yet she managed to throw away the tory seat, and with it their effective control of the council, at a time she should have been building the majority.”  I don’t agree.  Goldsmid had the amiable Andrew Wealls as its candidate, and in normal circumstances he would have won.  But it wasn’t the Mears Effect that lost it, it was the Lucas Effect that won it, that and a first rate candidate in Alex Phillips.  At that stage all attention was on Caroline Lucas, and the Greens locally had the Big Mo, momentum.

HP suggests that we “put to bed BPB’s myth that Mears is an intelligent and shrewd operator who is dismissed at your peril. Yes, she has a core vote among the entrepreneurial working class, but she is not a clever person. Time and again my dealings with her have disabused me of my initial notion that I shouldn’t underestimate her. There is a fundamental vacuum of strategic thinking or adequate comprehension at the top of the council while Mears is there – and most of her party group know it.”  Not so.  My dealings with her, and those around her, suggest shrewd political operators.

However, I do find HP’s observation intriguing that the “new directors (and chief exec) were not to overcome a lack of ideas (that really doesn’t bother her). They were in fact part of a decapitation strategy that is presently working fine. As much as Mary Mears dislikes the Greens and Labour, her true enemy is the officer class at the council, who she believes are a load of trots all out to stab her in the back.”   And then he concedes: “Perhaps I was wrong when I said she’s not a shrewd operator……”.

Brighton Pavilion: One thoroughbred and five lame donkeys

Tomorrow is the so-called ‘open primary’ to select the Conservative candidate for Brighton Pavilion. I have spoken to 3 people who applied for tickets but have heard nothing. I personally didn’t even bother . In an earlier post I said that the ‘open primary’ is closed to most people, either through advertising wrong phone numbers or wrong email addresses.  It has been a shambles, deliberate or otherwise.

The reality is that this is a one horse race. Digby Scott was was out of the starting stalls and had a substantial lead well before the other five candidates even knew they were shortlisted. Some have yet to find the starting stalls.  Little has been seen or heard from any of the other five, although the only local candidate, Andrew Wealls, was seen leafletting in Regency Ward.

Even if you have, somehow, managed to get a ticket for the Grand Hotel tomorrow night, don’t waste your time.  This is a stitch up. This time tomorrow, Digby will be the candidate for Brighton Pavilion, and he will be able to continue his slick campaign that he launched in October while five lame donkeys were still enjoying the last of the summer sun.

All new Tory Party: only investment bankers, Lloyds brokers, and management consultants need apply

There has been an unprecedented response to yesterday’s blog regarding the Conservative shortlist for Brighton Pavilion. This blog was accused of taking ‘cheap shots’ at the six prospective candidates.  I promise not to take any cheap shots at them in this post.  I’ll leave them to do that themselves, by quoting from their own blogs or those that will have their blessing.

Charlotte Vere is the ‘Chairman-elect’ (sic) of the Conservative Women’s Organisation. On the CWO’s website is a report of the launch of the Richmond Park CWO which was, you will be relieved to hear “a resounding success”.  The report says “With 30 ladies in attendance and after a sumptuous buffet lunch, the group heard from the Association Chairman, Cllr Pamela Fleming, who organised the lunch, then from the Chairman-elect, Charlotte Vere. Lady Annabel Goldsmith has agreed to become President of the CWO Committee”.

Scott Digby has made the most impressive start, having launched his own website  he appears to have the most professional campaign.  Well, why not.  He is a management consultant.  “One of my clients is the Conservative Party where I act as their Commercial Director, managing their procurement processes, suppliers and the commercial side of the conference activity”. He has already engaged with this blog, providing a robbust and amusing response to last night’s blog which commented (took a cheap shot, actually) at him changing his name from Scott Seaman-Digby to plain Scott Digby. He signed his comment “Scott Whatever-you-wish-to-call-him”.

Mary Weale is joint MD of Lloyd’s Insurance Brokers, and clearly a candidate in search of a constituency having been included on the Hammersmith shortlist. In 2004 she was beaten by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, when trying to become candidate in in Kensington. After that selection meeting one of the younger members of the association, Paula-Ann Hawkins said she was impressed by the youthful Ms Weale. “The average age in there was about 70. You could say Mary has youth on her side and she is so good she has time to get another seat. You could say that he [Sir Malcolm] had age on his side tonight,” Ms Hawkins said.

Last night I reported that Anna Firth has been described as “a leading campaigner” for better early years education. However, she started off her career in the City where she worked as investment banker for two years before changing to become a Barrister. She was called to the Bar in 1991 and specialised in medical negligence law (although it is unclear whether she represented victims or insurance companies).

Douglas Chirnside, as reported last night, is a TV producer. Does anyone know what else he has produced other than “Sex and Shopping”? (That is a cheap shot, BPB).

Finally, there is local Tory Boy, Andrew Wealls. Well not that local., having moved to Hove in the last couple of years from London. “Andrew Wealls worked in the investment management industry for almost 20 years, most recently at Barclays Global Investors where he gained experience in portfolio management, client relationship development and business planning and management”.

Investment bankers, an insurance broker, a barrister, a management consultant, and a lady who does scrumptuous lunches (while not forgetting Sex and Shopping) – this is David Cameron’s new Conservative Party, opening up the selection process to all comers. Thank goodness it doesn’t look like the old Tory Party that was made up of investment bankers, Lloyds brokers, and management consultants.  Nice one, David!

Brighton Pavilion shortlist reveals Tory class divide and prejudice

The Conservative Party has announced a shortlist of six candidates for the General Election campaign in Brighton Pavilion.  And in so doing it has revealed what a class-divided Party it is.

First there is Scott Digby (or is it Scott Seaman-Digby?), the national Tory commercial director.  Why would he possibly have wanted to drop the Seaman from his surname.  It hasn’t held him back when becoming Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Borough of Hillingdon.  Then we have fellow London Tory councillor, insurance broker Mary Weale, who represents the good folk in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

No 3 is Charlotte Vere, a former finance director, now chief executive of Big White Wall, a charity for those with mental health problems.  She is joined by Anna Firth, who has been described as “a leading campaigner” for better early years education, and by Douglas Chirnside, a TV producer.  There was a TV producer called Douglas Chirnside (a common name amongst TV producers, I am sure) whose finest work was a series called “Sex and Shopping”.

Finally, there is someone from Brighton (you remember Brighton?  This election is for a Brighton seat!). Andrew Wealls was the Tory candidate who was beaten by Alex Phillips in Goldsmid in a by-election in July. I know Andrew and like him.  He is a decent, hard-working chap.  If selected he could put in good effort, but is hardly going to set the campaign on fire, especially against Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas.

More interesting is the absence of Mary Mears and Maria Caulfield, two very strong female candidates, well-known and well-respected.  Either could out-flank Nancy and Caroline, not least on the Council estates in Brighton Pavilion.  Their omission from the shortlist is evidence of the deep class division that runs through the local Conservative Party. This division exists on the City Council where Mary Mears (Open Market) defeated Geoffrey Theobald (Brighton College) for the post of Tory Leader and, consequently, Leader of the Council.

From my point of view, the omission of Mary and Maria is great news as their selection would have almost guaranteed a Tory gain. The Conservative Association, led by the hapless Carol Ramsden, has handed Nancy and Caroline a head start, first by selecting Dr David Bull who then stood down, and now possibly Scott Seaman-Digby-Weale-Vere-Chirnside-Firth IV of the Royal London Borough of Uppity Class, as its candidate.

It may yet be a straight fight between Nancy and Caroline.  Bring it on.