Election result that will change the European political landscape for a decade

The last two weeks have seen election result that will change the European political landscape for a decade.

In Britain, France and Greece, the voters have said a resounding “no” to austerity. Even in the voters of Schleswig-Holstein gave Angela Merkel a bloody nose, her CDU party’s worst defeat in Schleswig-Holstein since 1950. Gone is Nicolas Sarkozy, in comes the anti-austerity Francois Hollande as President, and the two pro-austerity centre parties in Greece have been rejected by the voters.

The two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk have been given notice. Writing in today’s Daily Mail, former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, has revealed that he has waged a £1,000 on Cameron being gone by November. He got odds of 10-1.

There is so much to comment on, but the rejection of austerity must be the headline. Other matters, in brief, include:

Labours excellent performance up and down the country and its growing lead in the opinion polls. However, the party should not be complacent and, in light of European election results, needs to show that it is setting its face firmly against austerity. Just saying that they would not have cut so far and so fast is the wrong message. It now needs to give people hope and begin to make firm promises about public increasing expenditure, investing in housing and infrastructure products, and reversing changes in the NHS.

Locally, Labour had an excellent result in Hastings, having secured its most seats ever on the Borough Council and reinforcing its hold in that town. But Hastings is a strange place, having elected a Conservative MP, Amber Rudd, in 2010 on the same day as it elected a Labour council. Sarah Owen, Labour’s energetic and electable young candidate, should not underestimate the Blue Lady, Amber Rudd, who has become a highly respected member of the local political establishment, across party divides.

The Greens have much to be pleased about. They increased their number of councillors by more than any other party other than Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Party. The highlight was the third place secured by Jenny Jones in London’s mayoral election, beating the Lib Dems who came fourth. This was achieved in spite of Brian Paddick being given equal coverage to Boris and Ken with Jenny being treated by the media as an also ran.

As for the Lib Dems themselves, they now have fewer councillors than at any point in their history. Perhaps this is a trend that will see these Tory appeasers returning their lowest number of MPs at the next election. Their claim, that they are preventing the worst excesses of the Conservatives, ring increasingly hollow. They are nothing more than Tory-enablers who, but for their enthusiastic participation in the Coalition, the Conservatives would have been able to force through many of their most extreme measures.

Finally, the relative success of the far right in Europe is extremely worrying. While the BNP lost all the seats it was defending in Britain’s local elections, Marine Le Pen in France and Golden Dawn in Greece sends a chilling warning to all democrats across Europe. I will write more about this soon.

(Note: An earlier draft of this post referred to Rising Dawn. This has been corrected to Golden Dawn)

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The Greens are well placed to have 2 MEPs elected in 2014

Over the next two years there will be two key elections that people in Brighton and Hove will be able to vote in. The first is the election in November of the Police Commissioner. The result of this pan-Sussex vote will almost certainly see the election of a Conservative into what could become a highly politicised, controversial position.

I think it is such a shame that the Labour Party is fielding a candidate since it has no chance whatsoever of winning. I have said before that an independent candidate, such as Ian Chisnell has a much greater chance of producing a shock result than someone from one of the opposition parties.

But the real reason for wanting an independent is that this role should be free from narrow party political influence.

But more intriguing is the election to the European Parliament in 2014. This election is based on a multi-member regional constituency across the South East. 10 MEPs are elected from this region. Last time the parties, all of whom field a slate of candidates, achieved the following results:

  • Conservative 812,288; 34.8%; 4 (total votes; 5 of vote; MEPs elected)
  • UKIP 440,002; 18.8%; 2
  • Liberal Democrats 230,340; 14.1%; 2
  • Green Party 271,506; 11.6%; 1
  • Labour 192,592; 8.2%; 1

No other party polled sufficient votes to have an MEP elected. The British National party, with 101,769 votes (4.4%) came sixth.

The interesting question is what will happen to the Lib Dem vote. It can hardly expect to hold firm. This will be true in every election coming up over the next three years. Some of its vote might transfer to Labour but it is likely that the Greens will benefit most.

The Green Party itself will no doubt benefit from the higher profile that the party has enjoyed following the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster and the election of the first ever Green Council in Brighton and Hove.

My friend, the Enigmatic Flo, will no doubt tell me that Green support itself will not hold firm, with Labour being the main beneficiary. But European elections are not that straightforward and it gives disenchanted voters from across the South East a positive opportunity to vote for, and have elected, non-mainstream parties. I include the Greens and UKIP in this category. Together they had 3 MEPs elected with Labour returning just Peter Skinner.

The Green Party will almost certainly take over from the Lib Dems in third place and, if the UKIP vote weakens, the Greens could be challenging for second place. In either case, it would result, almost certainly, in the election of two Green MEPs.

The Green Party is in the middle of the selection process for its candidates for this election. Particular interest should be given to who comes second and third, assuming that the current MEP, Keith Taylor, is number one on the Green list. The Green party would be well advised to select a woman is number two on its list in order to present a balanced ticket.

Locally, three candidates have put themselves forward, Jason Kitcat, Ania Kitcat and Alex Phillips. My prediction is that Alex Phillips is most likely to appeal to Green Party members in the region and would be a valuable asset at number two on the Green list. I would anticipate that in May 2014 Ms Phillips will join Mr Taylor in Brussels.

The mysteries of the campaign to save the Number 2 bus, Labour’s “great guy” candidate in St Peters, and the UKIP announcement

“Switch to Fitch” has been ringing out in Rottingdean and Hangleton as the Fantastic Fitches aim to change the face of Brighton politics.  Young Harris has wasted no time in describing his priorities for Rottingdean Coastal although he has been reticent regarding his vote winning campaign to save the Number 2 bus. He writes: “You will have to stay tuned on the bus situation!  I can tell you that our campaign will be very community based, hoping to draw on where the Labour party has helped out before, and intend to help out in the future.  A personal point of mine would be to support the veterans of St Dunstan’s, having been in the Army myself.”

A greater mystery than Harris Fitch’s secret campaign to save the Number 2 is the situation in St Peters and North Laine.  I have asked several prominent Labour activists (including councillors) about the party’s SP&NL candidate Adrian Morris “a great guy and a real supporter of your community” as it says on the Labour website.  I have previously mentioned that ‘sources’ close to Adrian are whispering some interesting things about his candidature.  In fact it is not whispering.  Can someone in Labour come clean and confirm whether he has, in fact resigned just 50 days before the election.  He may be a great guy and a real supporter of your community, but is he a great guy in the eyes of his Labour colleagues and is he a real supporter of your Labour Party? Please will someone come clean.  If my ‘sources’ are wrong, I will gladly retract.

On the question of personal votes and the suggestion that a personal vote never exceeds 300 or so, ‘Clive’ writes: “300 votes out of 900-odd is the kind of personal vote that many councillors would give their eye teeth for, surely?  Picking up on Charlie’s point – it is noticeable that all the women councillors you mention with good personal votes have surnames that come from the early(ish) part of the alphabet. I think it is fairly well accepted that candidates do better the higher up the ballot paper they are.  So the key to the election is nothing to do with Billy Wilder, and everything to do with having a name like Amelia Aardvark.”

And finally, for this evening, tomorrow a big announcement is due from UKIP. On Twitter I asked what this news might be.  One or two people have been very unkind.  Someone said that Carol Vordeman had been chosen as their new leader. Not likely, you don’t need someone who is so good with numbers to count the UKIP vote.  Another suggestion was that they were forming a coalition with the BNP.  Even I don’t find that amusing. Calling for a Yes vote for further European integration? I like that one. “They are going to hell???!!!”  Maybe, but not because of their politics.

Watch out for the announcement due tomorrow.  My ‘source’ within UKIP has provided me with details of the announcement.  All I will say is “Watch out, Harris Fitch.  You may just be outflanked on the campaign to save the No 2.”

Doorstep Brighton: a round up of campaigning for the local elections

Between now and May 5th, I will be running a ‘Weekend Round Up” reporting on campaign activity in Brighton and Hove.  Please send in brief reports on what is happening in your ward or activities elsewhere.  Send details of turnout, trends on the doorstep, anecdotes, etc.  Either add them as comments to this post or email to brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com. I will reproduce them faithfully except unfounded attacks on opponents.  This will allow readers to assess where momentum is.  This invitation is open to candidates of all parties other than the BNP and other neo-fascist parties.

Already this weekend there have been interesting reports on Labour activities, with Nancy Platts back in town reporting good response on the doorstep, and keen activity by Labour in Regency Ward.  Green candidates in Brunswick and Adelaide, Ollie Sykes and Phelim MacCafferty, report that they had met 2 former Lib Dem supporters who are outraged by this week’s cutting of Education Maintenance Allowance that they are voting Green for the first time in May. 

The Greens have announced their candidates in two of their key seats, Regency (which they hold) and Hollingdean and Stanmer (one of its key targets).  And inspired selections they are, too.  In Regency the Greens are going with Jason Kitcat, one of the best known and impressive ward councillors in the City.  Fellow councillor, Sven Rufus is moving to stand in Hollingdean and Stanmer, where he lives. The challenge for the Greens was to select a candidate who might one day match Jason in the name-recognition stakes.  And the Party has chosen someone by the name of ….. Kitcat.  Yes, Ania Kitcat, wife of Jason. They are up against Labour’s Dan Wilson and James Asser, nice guys but dull in comparison to the twin-pack Kitcat (sorry, that was pathetic).

In Hollingdean and Stanmer, in addition to Sven Rufus, the Greens have selected community activists Luke Walter and Christina Summers.  Both are well known and respected, and in Christina’s case, will reach residents that traditional activists might not reach.  I still believe there will be a split result in H&S, but with this selection I would predict that Jeane Lepper, Sven Rufus and Christina Summers will be elected.  Nothing against Luke, he will lose out because he will appear at the bottom of the ballot paper.

I suggest that those Tweeting should start using #doorstepbrighton.

Candidates should not get hung up about the polls

Parliamentary candidates, a strange breed if ever there was one, see major significance in the most inconsequential events.  Amongst them are the opinion polls.  Polls cannot be dismissed as inconsequential, but they can provide comfort or cause despair when in reality they may be neither.

Polls tend to favour Labour. Historically, swing voters are more prepared to admit being Labour supporters than acknowledging their support for the Tories. In this election, we may find disaffected Tories expressing support for a party like UKIP.  But this May there is a chance that disaffected Labour supporters, reluctant to admit their intention to vote BNP, will be more inclined to acknowledge their support for the more acceptable extremists UKIP.  UKIP can expect to gather votes from former Tories, but also from traditional Labour voters. 

Sadly, Labour can expect in this election to lose support to the BNP.

The national polls, or in fact the actual votes secured, can be misleading as to who will win the election.  The Tories require over 40% of the popular vote to have an overall majority with Labour below 30%.  On the other hand, if both Labour and the Tories secure around 35% then Labour will have an overall majority. 

How will this play locally? There will be little impact in Brighton Pavilion where disaffected Labour and Conservative supporters can vote Green rather than going to one of the extremist parties. Other Labour voters will abstain while som former Tory supporters will g UKIP.  All this is extremely good news for Caroline Lucas who is attracting both this ‘negative’ vote but also those who see a Green vote as a positive and practical vote.

In Brighton Kemptown and in Hove, in the absence of a dynamic campaign such as that in Brighton Pavilion, the result will largely depend on the performance on the leaders.  On today’s performance, where Cameron has landed a number of succesful blows on Brown over National Insurance increases.  Brown himself has focussed on constitutional reform, an issue that gets my pulse racing but is hardly going to set the electorate on fire. It is early days but Brown must do better.

The Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion depends even more on the leader of her Party, but that is easy for her.  She is that impressive leader.

Was Charlotte Vere’s apology empty words? It appears so.

Charlotte Vere has made a point of apologising for the “snowstorm in a teacup” yesterday for re-Tweeting a link to a blog that likened the policies of the Greens to those of the BNP.   The blog she thought worthy of promoting was headed “Vote Green – Go Blackshirt”.  Disgusting and outrageous.  Yesterday she has said in her blog  “As I have explained in a subsequent letter to The Argus, retweeting or RT on Twitter is rather like nudging someone on a train and muttering “have you seen what this says about …”. And that is all I did. I retweeted a message, which was originally sent to Caroline Lucas, which linked to an old blog post about the respective policies of the Green Party and the BNP by someone I have never heard of. If I have caused offence, I apologise – it was certainly not intended”.

So should we leave it at that? Actually, no.  In her ‘apology’ Ms Vere once again provides a link to the offending blog.  She should remove the link and make a clear statement that she does not in any way subscrive to the view that the poolicies of the Greens in any way resemble those of the BNP, and she should remove the link to the website.

Already a Facebook site has been created calling for her resignation as candidate.  I think that that call is premature, but she must take this matter seriously.  It is more than a snowstorm in a teacup.

How effective are Nancy, Caroline and Chuck in using new technology in Brighton Pavilion?

The “snowstorm in a teacup” incident where Charlotte Vere re-tweeted a link to an outrageous blog that likened the policies of the Green Party to those of the BNP (for which Charlotte apologised), raises the two edged sword that is the mighty Twitter.  It is so easy to Tweet or re-Tweet something and for it then to get ‘legs’.  It has caused me to think about how the three candidates for Brighton Pavilion are using Twitter and other new media.

Nancy Platts has for some considerable time made very effective, and at times, humourous use of new technologies.  Her style is warm and engaged with a strong focus on local issues and what she is doing.  Anyone following her will have no doubt about her commitment to Brighton Pavilion and be impressed by her personal campaign.  A great example of her blogging can be found on “Tory stories, Tory cuts, my thoughts on what it’s meant leaving social care in Tory hands in Brighton” . Nancy has had a very high profile regarding the campaign to save the Preston Circus Fire Station, just one example of street-level activity for which she is know and respected.  Nancy has 693 Twitter followers.

Caroline Lucas, as the national leader of the Greens, has a different focus – more on national issues and events.  Even though this blog has called for a Green tactical vote in Brighton Pavilion, there remain concerns about Caroline as a local candidate.  Her Tweets refect this, although there is an increased focus on local issues, such as the campaign to save the Brighton History Museum.  That campaign has a high Twitter profile and can easily be supporter from Brussels.  What Caroline needs to do is to raise some original, local issues that are original to her, and not issues fed by her campaign team or joined online.  Her new website is impressive, but again the local issues are all those championed by Green councillors locally.  Caroline has 978 Twitter followers.  As yet she has chosen not to follow @BrightonPolitic, the rather wonderful Twitter of the Brighton Politics Blogger which this blog highly and without reservations recommends!

Chuck Vere (you notice that, following her apology, it is back to the rather familiar and intimate ‘Chuck’ as opposed to the sterner Ms Vere) has, as previously stated on this blog, hit the ground running with her website although she is yet to define herself as either local or London.  A lot of her Tweeting and blogging is on issues such as Gordon Brown’s leadership.  She doesn’t need to do that since it does not add to the overall debate and makes her come across as a party political hack, and being a cheerleader for David Cameron is not going to be a big vote winner, even if she thinks it will.  She also adds to an image as a hack by making direct and rather shallow jibes at Caroline over her expenses as an MEP.  Chuck has 190 Twitter followers.

Where Caroline has done well is to avoid responding directly to the jibes from Chuck Vere.  She addresses the issues but gives no name-check to Chuck.  She knows the number 1 rule of local political campaigning.  The electorate don’t respond positively to name-calling by candidates against their opponents.  To quote that great political strategist, Thumper, from the Disney film Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.