Poor Taste for my SpAd, and New Beginnings for Purna Sen and Nancy Platts

One of my over-promoted SpAds, by the name of Andy Winter, has just bought himself one of those new Apple wrist watches. It’s hideous, a sort of bilious blue. My young intern (lovely gel) tells me  it’s like a teenager’s Swatch, whatever that is. I expect my staff to maintain standards at this Blog. I’m terribly shocked. There don’t seem to be any standards these days. Have you seen the way council officers dress these days, slobbing about in jeans? Quite extraordinary.

I hear the lovely Nancy Platts has been elected as chairman of the Labour Party. Well done Nancy. I’m sure the party will do well under your leadership. Bad luck in the election.  As the incumbent, Simon Kirby had a good opportunity of keeping his ‘grip’ on the seat (I said the jokes would be bad). What wonderful hair he has. I do envy men with a full head of hair. 

Tough about Purna Sen too, but what a fantastic job she’s landed at the UN. Much better than being an MP. No constituents to worry about. Purna, you’re moving into the upper echelons of society, but, be advised, I’m very used to that world. if you need any advice just call on me, the humble blogger.

Whatever you do don’t trust that Obama chap. He ate all the cake and pocketed the spoons last time he came to tea.

Do we have to accept that there will always be minority administrations in Brighton and Hove? by Andy Winter

Little changed in Brighton and Hove as a result of the local elections. Yes, the Green left of centre minority administration was ousted by a Labour left of centre minority, their share of seats roughly reflecting how many the other party had going into the elections. The Conservatives remained roughly where they were, a gain here, a loss there.

Congratulations and good luck to the successful candidates. Commiserations and thanks to those disappointed this time.

Labour and the Greens compete for roughly the same territory. Labour would have hoped to pick up a few extra seats, in Preston Park, Goldsmid and Hanover, whereas the Greens will be aiming to recover the seats they lost in these wards, and in Queens Park, next time.

Before the elections I forecast that the result would be 22 Labour, 22 Conservative, 10 Green. The actual result was 23 Labour, 20 Conservative and 11 Green. I hadn’t predicted the Labour gain in Westbourne or in Central Hove, nor the Green hold in Goldsmid.

So what could change? There are likely to be one or two by-elections. Some candidates, especially those elected unexpectedly, will not have thought about the huge demands there are on councillors, or those who had not realised that other aspects of their lives, particularly careers, must be put on hold for the duration of their terms of office. But even if a couple of seats change hands in by-elections, it won’t change the balance of power on the Council. The last Council saw only one seat change hands in four years, when Emma Daniel took a seat from the Greens in Hanover.

So, let’s look to 2019. Labour will hope to make further gains on the Greens. Depending on how Labour does as the new minority administration, they will benefit or be hindered next time. In a good year they would hope to hold on to what they have and definitely pick up the remaining Green seats in Goldsmid and Preston Park. Further inroads in the remaining strong Green-held wards of Regency and Brunswick and Adelaide are unlikely given this was as bad a bad year for the Greens as could be imagined, and in St Peters and North Laine the loss of this ward is unthinkable. Further Labour gains from the Conservatives are, also, unlikely (unless they can remove the Force of Nature than is Dawn Barnett and Co. in Hangleton and Knoll), and Labour will do well to consolidate their gains in Westbourne and Central Hove. Labour could, realistically, get to 25, possibly 26 seats in 2019.

The Greens will struggle to return to the heady heights achieved in 2011. They used to be a movement but they have become a political party (apart from Caroline Lucas who continues, exceptionally, to attract support from across the party political spectrum). The Greens might pick up a seat here or there, but many of the new Labour councillors are younger, energetic, and will be determined to strengthen, if not increase, their base.

That leaves the Conservatives. There will be some frustration, not least surprise, that seats were lost in Central Hove and, in particular, Westbourne. (On a personal note, I am sorry that my friend, Shaun Gunner, will not be a councillor, for now, at least. Regardless of the party he represents, Shaun is a thoughtful, hard-working and insightful politician. He will, one day, be a respected City Councillor). In a very good year for the Conservatives they will pick up seats in other areas, including in Moulsecoomb (it’s happened twice before) and in the Portslades. They could, just, reach the magic figure of 27, but it would have to be an exceptional year for them.

So in all likelihood, unless there are further demographic changes, or if there is a collapse of one of the three parties in Brighton and Hove, we are likely to see minority administrations for years to come.

Unless, of course, we have a winner-takes-all elected mayor …..!

The Return of the Brighton Politics Blog 

The Brighton Politics Blog was published anonymously between 2009 and 2012 when its primary contributer, Andy Winter, accidently outed himself to Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Vere.

Following a period of intense frustration over the election period, and unrelenting demands from both our regular readers (Doris and the much missed Biker Dave), it is being relaunched in May 2015. All posts will normally be attributed to their author, and the scurilous style that characterised its earlier manifestation will be less in evidence although we still intend to have some fun.

The views expressed on the blog will not necessarily be sensible or coherent, and may offend. They will also not necessarily be representative of the views of the editors who, themselves, often disagree. We will ocassionally invite contributions from people with wide-ranging political views.

You can follow the blog on Twitter http://twitter.com/BrightonPolitic

Brighton Politics Blogger

State of the City – Labour

Good and bad things come in threes, so they say. Before my summer sojourn, there was a report entitled ‘State of the City’ prepared by the City Council, loaded with facts and figures. It is well worth a read. Then there was a debate, ‘State of the City’, organised by the other BHCC, the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, with speakers including Bill Randall, Simon Fanshawe and Roger French.

And now I present the Brighton Politics ‘State of the City’ a review of the political fortunes.

Before I went away I rather tongue in cheek suggested that the top politicians in the City were John Barradell and the Fab Four Super Directors for surviving the change in administration. And still they remain in post and likely to remain so. Here is what I really think.

Starting today with Labour, I have been impressed, as always, with the leadership and determination displayed by the East End ‘Family’. Gill Mitchell has held the group together as they have morphed from being the Labour Group to becoming the Labour and Co-operative Group. Warren Morgan and Craig Turton continue with their best Mitchell Brothers impression, and I for one am determined not to get on the wrong side of them.

Some of the newly elected councillors, not least those in Hove, (Penny Gilbey and Anne Pissadirou), have shown early promise, Penny following in the footsteps of her father, the late George Humphrey, and Anne active in Wish Ward. (She will have to work consistently hard as Wish is now seen as a natural Green target in 2015). A Labour activist that continues to impress is Caroline Penn, on Twitter as @ThePennyDrops – worth following.

But what Labour needs to do locally (because Ed Milliband isn’t doing it for them nationally) is capture the imagination of the people of Brighton and Hove. Labour needs a ‘Big Idea’ that will be seen to be transformational for the City.

Before the local elections, Warren Morgan kept emphasising that Labour was gaining in wards across the City. They may have polled well overall, but they were still a million miles away from forming an administration. If their Big Idea is to wait for the Greens to screw up, they will remain out of power of another decade or more. The Tories are as likely to benefit from a loss of support for the Greens than Labour is.

But the problem for Labour is that it has, since the time of Kinnock, looked almost exclusively to its leader for salvation. But politics has moved on and the electorate are looking for something new, and it isn’t whether Ed or brother David is the one to lead Labour into the next election. Can Labour move beyond the internecine squabbles of recent years? I doubt it in the short term.

What can Labour do that will turn the party’s fortunes around? Perhaps it needs to build a mass base, at it had in the 1980’s before the Kinnockites took over the asylum. Slowly and surely, the life blood was drained from the party. The Party could do worse than engaging once again with those who brought it success, left and right alike – Joyce Edmond Smith, Richard Stanton, Steve Bassam, Gill Sweeting, Andy Winter, etc. Their campaigning ability, their ability to engage with the electorate, is what the Party needs right now.

But there remain elements within the Labour Party that sees activists as a threat. It is fine to have ‘dependable’ people turning out to deliver leaflets, help with telephone banks, and occasionally knock on doors. But they shouldn’t get above and beyond themselves, and certainly should never question the leadership, locally or nationally.

Perhaps I look back on days that cannot be relived and successes that cannot be repeated. This is where I will incurr the wrath of Morgan and Turton. The Greens are the ones with the campaigning ability, the ones who have captured the imagination, and who still enjoy the Big Mo – momentum.

Labour has to decide on its parliamentary candidates in the not too distant future, and which should be all-women shortlists. Conventional wisdom has it that boundary changes will see Labour’s chances erode further in Brighton Kemptown. Brighton Pavilion will be a two-way fight between the Greens and the Tories, leaving Hove as its best chance. The Party leadership looks after its own and has ensured that Hove does not have an all-women shortlist, opening the way for Simon Burgess to become the candidate.

And here again, Labour will get it wrong. As I have always said, Simon is a decent, hard-working type who is an asset to Labour, working in a support role. There are few better. But as a candidate, in what could be a three-way marginal between Mike Weatherley, a Green (particularly a dynamic woman candidate) and Labour, he would be destined to be an also ran.

Perhaps Labour locally will need a further drubbing at the polls before it moves on and finds candidates who can match the appeal of Caroline Lucas and whoever the Greens field in Hove. I have an insight who that might be, and Labour will have little chance of matching her appeal.

Who are the best politicians in Brighton and Hove?

At present, given their electoral success, the Greens could claim to be the best politicians in Brighton and Hove. Individual Greens could be seen as having achieving remarkable things. Caroline Lucas continues to be the dominant individual, but a success for the party is the emergence of other Greens. Bill Randall has made a solid start as the Greens’ first ever leader of a local authority, and is impressing all who deal with him. In the elections themselves, Christopher Hawtree stunned all with his victory in Central Hove.

Amongst the Tories, rumour has it that Mike Weatherley is looking for a junior position in the Home Office. He has focussed much of his efforts in recent weeks on home affairs issues – Travellers, squatters, anti-social behaviour, drugs, etc. With the support and influence of Mamma Grizzly, can we expect to see armed police as a norm, even the return of capital punishment? (I have no reason to believe the Grizzly One advocates either, but I know she will always respond to any provocation!)

Labour, as the minority party in Brighton and Hove, with no MPs and few councillors, is finding it hard to be noticed. I retain some admiration for Warren Morgan and his fighting spirit. (Warren was recently photographed with sheep in Sheepcote Valley http://fb.me/BShMUeAA – Warren is the one wearing sunglasses).

Amongst the fringe activists, one has to mention My Pal Paul Perrin of UKIP. He never misses a chance to make anti-European comments, or to attack the political establishment. His latest target is payments to or expenses claimed by politicians. Perhaps he should be known as PayPal Perrin or perhaps No PayPal Paul.

But none of the above rank as the best politician. The are some individuals in the business community, Roger French from Brighton and Hove Buses, Sue Addis from Donatellos, and Mike Holland from Fingers in Many Pies, who have worked politicians of many shades to achieve their own ends. So too in the community and voluntary sector, there are several more than able politicians, who are able to bend with the prevailing wind. I think of Ian Chisnall from a church group, David Standing of Hove YMCA, Andy Winter of the Brighton Housing Trust, and Emma Daniel of the Community and Voluntary Sector Forum.

The best politicians in town, however, the five most accomplished by far, are John Barradell, the Chief Executive, and his Strategic Directors in the City Council (David Murray, Charlie Stewart, Geoff Raw and Terry Parkin). The Greens were committed to abolishing the Fab Four, but it looks as though they will survive and are going about their daily business showing not an iota of care. Such is their combined political nouce, they have made the transition from a Conservative to a Green regime as easy as moving from a starter of blue cheese and biscuits to a serving of steak, egg and chips (except, of course, on meat-free Mondays).

A review of May’s local elections, as seen by birds

I was recently sent an amazing, original review of the local elections. With the agreement of the author, Pearl Ahrens, I reproduce an extract here.

“It’s a week after kestrelection day, and the kites have been counted, cormorants have been congratulated / consoled and meetings have been held. Last year’s kestrelection victory was replayed, with the Grebe Party winning 23 seats on the barnowl, making them the biggest party. The Grebe Group made the announcement on Monday that it will not form a coachicken with the Labullfinch Group, but instead form a minority admoorhenstration.

“Grebes Phalarope Maccaferty and Owlie Snipes took over from the defector Diverd Waxwing, who was standing again as and indepheasant, and Paul Eagled, a Lib Dem. The Lib Dems selected Brian Rock-Dove as a fellow cormorant for Paul.

“Ania Kitcoot, the only Slavonian Grebe on the barnowl, got a seat next to her husband, Jason Kitcoot.

“Tern Sandfrench lost out on a seat in Quail’s Park that he really wanted, by 325 kites. But Quail’s Park is still grebe, with Ben Dunlin staying on but two new barnowlors taking over: Steph Petrel and Geoffrey Birden.

“In St Pintail’s and Nuthatch Laine, Lizzie Dunnock got about 300 kites more than her fellow Grebe cormorants Ian Diver and Pete Whinchat, but they all got kestre-elected. Clare Curlew (hatchling of Jean Curlew and Andean Condor) put up a good flight but should probably try again in a safer Labullfinch seat.

“Diver Bangs, author of the book ‘Where the meadowpipit meets the waterpipit’, stood in Moulescoomb and Bevendean for Tern Union and Stonechat Coachicken (T.U.S.C.), but to no avail, as, sadly, he only got 267 kites.

“The Consparrowhawks ditched barnowlor Magpie Mears as leader of the Consparrowhawk group in favour of Geoffrey Theobaldeagle, ex-cabinercaillie-member-for-the-envionment. Fellow Rottingdean Seabirds barnowlor Lynda Hide caused outrage at the budgie meeting by squarking at the public gallery to “Pay your taxes!”

“The Consparrowhawks did very badly all over the city. Rob Jayrett, Ruth Bullfinch and Skylarks Philips snatched the former Consparrowhawk stronghold of Goldcrest for the Grebes.

“The result in Patcham was only as expected. All 3 Consparrowhawk barnowlors got kestre-elected with a 609 majority on the runner-up cormorant: Hugh Woodcock, a Grebe. Carol and Geoffrey Theobaldeagle and Brian Pigeon are the barnowlors.

“In a welcome surprise victory, the Grebe Christopher Hawktree won his long-eared long-tailed seat in Central Dove. He famgrousely got challenged to a duel by Tory barnowlor Diverd Smewth in the pages of the Argoose. Hawktree rejackdawed the challenge because he was going to the librookery that day.”

Apologies that I didn’t post this much earlier but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Speculation is rife regarding Labour’s new candidate in St Peters and North Laine

There seems to be a great deal of interest in who the new Labour candidate in St Peters and North Laine might be. The general consensus is that the candidate is female. (I think I may have intimated that already).

The speculation includes former leader of the Council, Lynette Gwyn-Jones who represented the old St Peters ward in the early 1990s. Is she from a family dynasty locally. Her former husband is the former Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown, Des Turner. Interesting.

Someone has suggested Tom French’s mother (whose name I don’t know). She lives in the ward and is an active Labour Party member. But can a one-off by-election candidate qualify the family as a dynasty?

Claire Calder has been suggested by Dani (who often has her pulse on events) and another (Farris Hifch – very funny). Both Claire’s parents, Jean Calder and Andy Winter, were Labour councillors in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This heritage has more credibility than, say, the French family, but they are hardly in the class of Theobald, Firch or Les Hamilton.

Luke Walter suggests someone from the Forrester Clan. Delia Forrester was part of the Queens Park Mafia that was so soundly defeated by the Greens four years ago. Tom Forrester was a Labour councillor in Hanover before defecting to the SDP in the early 1980s. Is Delia making a comeback? Or is another generation of Forrester about to grace us with their candidature?

Harris Fitch, a fourth generation Labour activist and future councillor) has written of the prospective candidate: “The person is a dear friend of mine, they are extremely capable and will make a great candidate and councillor! I don’t know when it’s being planned to be announced but you certainly have it right that the Greens will be worried!”

I suspect that an announcement will be made tomorrow or Saturday.