The seven Brightonians who I wish were councillors

This list of the seven people who I wish were councillors does not imply any criticism of the current 54 who hold elected office locally. In alphabetical order:

Dani Ahrens is one of the most principled and consistent campaigners in the City. Dani was part of the early campaign against Section 28, invading the Council Chamber and holding a banner promoting lesbian and gay equality. The then mayor, Joe Townsend, wisely allowed the meeting to proceed while Dani’s protest continued. She continues to provide a conscience for the left and she is also one of the nicest people I know. An official return to the Council Chamber would bring the highest level integrity to the Council.

Roy Brown of Bardsleys Fish and Chip Shop in Baker Street can put the world to rights and fry battered cod and chips in the space of fifteen minutes. Though he is shy and retiring, he has an opinion on every matter and doesn’t care who he might offend in criticising the local authority and councillors themselves. His commitment to the environment is genuine although his ‘No Cod Wednesday’ lasted all of five minutes. Under Roy’s leadership London Road would thrive once against.

Jean Calder is the only former councillor on this list. Jean is a tireless campaigner for the rights of women and children, and led the campaign to save St Peters Church om developers. She is a former Argus columnist whose writings were unlike anything that has appeared before or since. Jean is a first rate listener and story teller, who could bring the experiences of ordinary people into the heart of Council deliberations. A return to the Council Chamber would ensure that issues of women and children rights would not be sidedlined as they can, so often, be.

Roger French is already one of the most influential people in the City, running the bus company and chairing the Local Strategic Partnership. I am an admirer of Roger although a strong critic of his decision to charge double fares on his buses on Boxing Day – a modern day Scrooge! The reason for wanting him on the Council, apart from the City benefiting even more from his vision, is to make him democratically accountable which would be appropriate for someone with his level of influence.

Andrew Manson-Brailsford is the Church of England vicar at St George’s Church in Kemptown. Unlike many CoE clergymen, Father Andrew has a true commitment to his community. He is well liked and widely respected (although not always by the hierarchy of the Church). He has created a thriving community centre within the church. The Council would benefit from his record on regeneration.

Selma Montford has singlehandedly preserved much of the architectural heritage of Brighton. She has fought what sometimes has seemed to be a one woman campaign against the worst excesses of development. Selma has also been able to compromise and has not held up developments required for the economic prosperity of the City, but has done so without compromising her own integrity.

Isla Robertson is one of the most formidable, feisty and fearless women campaigners of her or any other generation. She has chaired the Pensioners’ Association for many years and, if she was in the Council Chamber, would ensure that the interests of pensioners, working class people and women would not be sidelined. God help any Council officer if they got in the way of Ms Robertson and her crusade to highlight inequality.

There could be many others on this list, such as Val Paynter and Val Richards, and others who have put themselves forward to serve the City but who have (yet) not been elected such as Anthea Ballam and Jo Heard. I apologise to all those who aren’t on this list … yet.

The Good, the Bad and the Also Rans

Pete Gillman, one of Labour’s candidates in St Peters and North Laine, writes: “Anyone else got canvassing injuries ? Sunburn, sore heels , repetitive Q and A syndrome ? I have loved campaigning and the Queens Park blitz for Labour on Monday was fun and effective. It will feel strange when all this is over.”

Pete is a great example of a hardworking candidate who has little (although not no) chance of winning next Thursday. For Pete it will be strange when it is all over. For the rest of us it is a shame that he (and many like him) will no longer be active on the doorstep after next week. One of the down sides of our system of government is that there is no place for defeated candidates. For Pete is a man of integrity who is willing to work hard, but who gets little thanks and almost no recognition.

There are many Pete Gillmans in all parties, working their socks off but won’t be amongst the 54 elected ones next Friday. Amongst their numbers I include Christopher Hawtree, Anthea Ballam, Rob Buckwell, Mohammed Asaduzzaman, Rebecca Taylor, Lis Telcs, Tracey Hill, and Momma Grizzly herself, Rachael Emma Bates. I realise that this is damning with faint praise, and will not be well received by the names Good ‘uns who will be fighting all the way hoping to pull off surprise victories next week.

Then there are the Bad. There are at least two candidates – I cannot say which party or which ward – who are on the unpleasant side of dodgy. Fortunately these two are unlikely to be elected, although their party holds out that they could yet be triumphant. If they were to be elected they would, in a short period of time, bring not just their party, but the City Council, into disrepute. All parties should look at the private business activities and vested interests of their potential candidates and councillors.

And finally, the Also Rans who count amongst their numbers David Watkins, the veteran Gerald O’Brien, and Harris Fitch (red rag to this bull – how long will it be before he comments that it’s still all to play for in Rottingdean Coastal?).

Other than ‘the Bad’, best wishes to all candidates. Even if you are a paper candidate, or someone who will be disappointed at the count, our collective thanks to all of you who are putting themselves out to make democracy work.

Greens announce that 83.4% of its candidates are NOT gay

In a shock statement by the Green Party, it announced that 45 of its 54 candidates in May’s local elections are not from the LGBT community.  Actually, what the Greens announced was that nine of its candidates are gay.  That’s just 16.6% of its candidates, a lower ratio than the LGBT population in Brighton as a whole.

Political parties should be careful about making proud statements without thinking through the unexpected consequences.  On this occasion, the Green Party is making much of a modest boast.

Having said that, the Greens do have a strong track record on LGBT issues, on issues around domestic violence and community safety.  But then, so does the Labour Party which (from my knowledge of various candidates) might just be fielding more LGBT candidates than the Greens (although I am not about to out them).

I look forward to a time when Brighton and Hove has matured to the point where it no longer is necessary to mention the sexual orientation of candidates.

However, here is what Phelim Mac Cafferty, Chair of National LGBT Greens and Green candidate in Brunswick and Adelaide, had to say: “I’m delighted that the Green Party has selected nine LGBT candidates to fight for the Green Party at the council elections.  It speaks volumes about Green values that we are standing so many LGBT council candidates for the elections in the LGBT ‘capital’ of the United Kingdom.  The Green Party in Brighton and Hove has a proud history of standing up for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people.”

For the record, the LGBT Green candiates are Anthea Ballam, Central Hove; Dave Walsh, North Portslade; Stephen Watson, South Portslade; Martin Ashby, Hangleton and Knoll; Stuart Hay, Rottingdean Coastal; Geoffrey Bowden and Steph Powell, Queens Park; Mike Jones, Preston Park; and Phelim McCafferty, Brunswick and Adelaide.