In defence of Dawn Barnett (and even of Tony Janio)

Once again, a democratically elected councillor might be prevented from representing her constituents because councillor Dawn Barnett is being taken before the ‘Standards’ Committee following an anonymous complaint, allegedly from a fellow councillor.

In early summer, shortly after the election of the first-ever Green Administration, councillor Barnett handed out letters to travellers encamped in her ward (Hangleton and Knoll) giving them directions to open spaces in Green-held wards.

I thought it was an imaginative and hilarious protest by councillor Barnett. So much of local politics is taken too seriously. While much of what local government does is serious stuff, occasionally a light hearted and irreverent intervention is to be welcomed. Councillor Barnett’s made one such intervention.

I like, for example, the style of councillor Tony Janio who has strongly held views that can be summarised as small local government, big third and private sectors. He takes a special delight in winding up Green councillors as witnessed by the wearing of a Stars and Stripes tie at Full Council meetings.

Now it may come as a surprise to my three regular readers (Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave) that I might not entirely support each and every political view articulated by the Hangleton Twins (Barnett and Janio). But I like their style.

But back to the attempt to discipline councillor Barnett. I am shocked that the hearing by the ‘Standards’ Committee might be held behind closed doors. Papers relating to the hearing have not been published because the council believes that “the public interest in maintaining the exemption outways the public interest in disclosing the information”. According to Tim Ridgway at the Argus, “It is believed the decision was made by council lawyers as they wanted to ‘downplay’ the publicity surrounding the hearing”.

This is not a matter of process, it is a political show trial. On the panel will be Tory councillor, Ann Norman, Green councillor Leo Littman, and Labour councillor Jeane Lepper. Two ‘independent’ members of the panel (which is scheduled to meet at 10am on Tuesday morning) are Peter Rose and Dr. Michael Wilkinson.

If council officials thinks that by “downplaying” the panel hearing that there will be less publicity, they are completely wrong. Try keeping something confidential, you can be assured it will leak.

And if Labour and Green councillors take a stance against Dawn Barnett because they disagree with her views regarding travellers, the issue will come back to bite them on the butt. For mark my words, if Dawn Barnett is suspended from office for even a micro-second, if she is censured for her actions, she will become a bigger legend in Hangleton and Knoll than she is already. Any chance of Labour regaining that ward will be lost; any thoughts that the Greens might have of gaining a foothold in that ward will be lost.

I opposed the Standards Committee action against Jason Kitcat, against Averil Older, and will do so against anyone else brought before this panel. The only group entitled to replace a democratically elected representative should be the voters who put them there in the first place.

I support the right to recall as strongly as I oppose the Standards Committee. I call on the person who made the complaint against councillor Barnett to withdraw it, and I call on councillors Norman, Littman and Lepper to refuse to hear this matter.

Reasons to be Cheerful … for 39 candidates in Thursday’s elections

‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads was released in July 1979, shortly after Margaret Thatcher had been elected Prime Minister. Cut, cut, and more cuts was the order of the day. On that occasions the Tories were able to make cuts to their hearts content. They didn’t have to rely on those disgraceful, turncoats, the Lib Dems, to help them. (I have gone for more than a week without a cheap comment about the Lib Dems – is this a record?).

But there are a number of people, 39 to be precise, who have reasons to be cheerful – those who I am confident will be elected (whatever the weather and their positions on the ballot papers). Some campaigns are too close to call, and in some wards I am only predicting one or two winners. The figures in brackets are the number of seatsup for election.

Brunswick & Adelaide (2) – too close to call

Central Hove (2) – too close to call

East Brighton (3) – a Labour 1, 2, 3: Gill Mitchell, Warren Morgan, Craig Turton

Goldsmid (3) – Melanie Davis, Alex Phillips (Labour, Green)

Hangleton & Knoll (3) – Dawn Barnett, Brian Fitch (Tory, Labour)

Hanover & Elm Grove (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Matt Follett, Bill Randall, Liz Wakefield

Hollingdean & Stanmer (3) – Jeane Lepper, Sven Rufus, Christina Summers (Labour, Green, Green)

Hove Park (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Jayne Bennett, Vanessa Brown

Moulsecoomb & Bevendean (3) – Maria Caulfield, Ayas Fallon-Khan (Tory, Tory)

North Portslade (2) – Bob Carden (Labour)

Patcham (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Brian Pidgeon, Carol Theobald, Geoffrey Theobald

Preston Park (3) – Amy Kennedy (Green)

Queen’s Park (3) – Ben Duncan (Green)

Regency (2) – a Green 1, 2: Ania Kitcat, Jason Kitcat

Rottingdean Coastal (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Lynda Hyde, Mary Mears, David Smith

South Portslade (2) – Les Hamilton (Labour)

St Peter’s & North Laine (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Ian Davey, Lizzie Deane, Pete West

Westbourne (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Denise Cobb, Brian Oxley

Wish (2) – too close to call

Withdean (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Robert Nemeth, Ann Norman, Ken Norman,

Woodingdean (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Dee Simpson, Geoff Wells

In summary, the above predictions will see elected 8 Labour councillors, 13 Green, and 18 Tories. That leaves 15 seats that are too close to call. Privately, just between me and you, my four regular readers, I predict 8 of these will go Green, 3 to the Tories, and 4 Labour. A hung council made up of 21 Greens, 21 Tories, and 12 Labour councillors. A nightmare scenario for many ….!

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.

Green councillors take their responsibilities more seriously, have more weight of expectation upon them, and work harder

Noel Coward once sent Winston Churchill tickets for the first night  of his latest play together with a message, “Dear Mr Churchill, here are two tickets for the first night of my play, a ticket for you and a ticket for a friend (if you have one)”.  Churchill returned the tickets with the following message: “Dear Mr Coward, unfortunately I can’t make the first night of the play but would like to attend the second night (if you have one)”.  I am reminded of this by a comment from the Beast of Regency, Dan Wilson, who poses the tedious questions “Where DOES Caroline Lucas actually live?  It’s a question Bappy won’t answer because it will annoy his Green mates. But we should be told!”

‘Bappy’ is one of the names I am called.  As for Dan’s question, to be honest I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care as long as she is around and about in Brighton Pavilion regularly, which she is, that she is available to her constituents, which she is, and that she represents them in parliament, which she does.  As for my ‘Green mates’, you assume I have mates in the first place, and secondly that they are Greens.  As it happens, unlike Churchill, I do have a friend.  Actually more than one, but as far as I am aware just one is a Green (and a Green councillor as it happens).  As a former Labour activists, many of my friends are current or former Labour Party members.

But more important than my impoverished social life is the local election campaign.  Here are some more updates from Doorstep Brighton:

Christopher Hawtree, more than a mere mortal, is so confident that he will unseat Mary Mears in Rottingdean Coastal that he is now targeting Fortress Withdean. He writes: “After going to Preston Park station this morning, I had a stroll around North Withdean. An interesting area, and all the more so when Ken and Ann Norman went by in a wagon, with two hairy dogs, and wound down the window in some puzzlement. They said that they are “friendly”, which I do not doubt, and seemed to wonder what I made of their territory; I do not think that they themselves are territory: they are unlikely to challenge one to a duel, but it does look as if Withdean is hotting up.” I am sure that Ken and Ann are quacking in their boots, not to mention the imminent derailing of the sparkling political career of Robert Nemeth.

‘Steampunk’ has reacted against Dan Wilson’s critique of Green councillors who he dismisses as “gap year … Greenos who chuck it in after one term”.  Steampunk writes: “Nothing wrong with young people devoting 4 years to serve their community before returning to families, careers and education. And I would venture that Green councillors take their responsibilities more seriously, have more weight of expectation upon them, and work harder compared to elected members of other parties who can afford to just fade into the background”.  I put that quote in so not to upset my Green friend.  I am sure that Labour, Tory and even Lib Dem activists might wish to respond to Steampunk on that observation. I know councillors in all parties that work incredibly hard, well beyond the European Directive on Working Hours.  They are decent, hard-working individuals who should get better paid, if you ask me.

As the battle for East Brighton hots up, I paraded my ignorance of the area by referring to two areas that are in Rottingdean Coastal and not in East Brighton.  Labour councillor Warren Morgan, who I was talking to at an event before Christmas, responded: “I’m happy for the East Brighton Tories to do well in Roedean and The Cliff – neither is in East Brighton ward…”. Peter Booth, one of the three Tory candidates, is united with Dan Wilson: “Roedean and The Cliff are of course in Rottingdean Coastal. We have been active in Whitehawk Way and Whitehawk Road today as our Facebook site East Brighton Conservatives will reveal! Our stay will not be brief!….and of course there is only one Mary Mears! (Thank you for considering us in her league!)”.  Actually, I don’t!

After my dig at the anonymous Goldsmid Conservatives, ‘Clive’ has directed me to their Facebook page. And there they are, the Tories’ Goldsmid council candidates – Adam Love, Debra Livingstone-Wade and Rob Buckwell.  You will not be surprised to hear them say that they “are working hard for the residents and community in Goldsmid ward.  Their priorities to improve the lives of people living in Goldsmid are: 1. Keeping council tax low; 2. Cleaner, safer neighbourhoods; 3. More school places for local children”.  If you are sad like me, with no friends, or “if you have a problem you’d like them to look into, or would like to get involved in the Goldsmid Conservatives, they’d love to hear from you.”  I’ll be on the phone to them first thing!

Regarding the irrepressible Ayas Fallon-Khan, Clive says that it “strikes me that the departure of Mr Fallon-Khan (touted on here as a deselection, not sure on what evidence) might indicate that they are not expecting to win this ward.”  Both are possible.  The Tories may well be divided and Ayas was deselected, AND the Tories have given up leaving the ward to these three estate-agent look-a-likes.

In Brunswick and Adelaide, ‘Andy’ thinks that “the Lib-Dems have increased their chances of holding their seat by ditching (David) Watkins. Watkins was good at turning up for dull council meetings, but not much else. He was never seen out canvassing or at local meetings.”  I don’t agree.  He will have some loyalty votes and some people won’t like what Paul Elgood has done to him.  This could cost Elgood a hundred or so votes and that could cost him the election.  What is more likely is that the Lib Dems, at just 8% in the polls, will be destroyed.  Steampunk says that he has “heard from two separate sources that Watkins is indeed intending to stand as an independent in May, if only to spite his ex-colleagues in the Lib Dems who have betrayed him.”

I also heard this week from the much loved, much missed, much lamented Chuck Vere regarding Rachael Bates.  Chuck writes of Momma Grizzly: “I hope she wins (in Hollingdean and Stanmer) – she has the balls to fight for residents & won’t waste time making empty promises whilst delivering nothing”.

And finally, a welcome to a new blog, from Sussex Socialist Resistance, that describes itself as the ‘Fourth International in Britain’.  Hang on, I thought that mantle was with the Socialist Workers Party, or is it the People’s Front for the Liberation of Judea? Perhaps it was the Judean Peoples Front for … I give up.  Just ask Monty Python.