Mischievous Geoffrey Bowden, fighting Steve Bassam, and bullish Jason Kitcat

Do you have 3G? I don’t mean the Internet access on your phone or laptop, but Three Geoffrey’s? In the Bible the Three Wise Men travelled from the east to worship the Child God, or something like that. In Brighton and Hove, the Three Wise Men travelled to the west to King’s House. They are the Three G’s – Geoffreys Theobald, Wells and Bowden.

And rumour has it that each of the Three G’s is pulling in a different direction: Geoffrey W to the right, Geoffrey T straight ahead, while Geoffrey B pulling to the hard left (well just left of centre, really). And how do we know this? Well GB has tweeted that “Rumour has it that the Tory’s 2 Geoffreys – Wells & Theobald r @ war with Wells threatening 2 resign Tory whip @ full council on 15th”.

I know little more than what GB has tweeted, but hopefully one of my dear friends in the Tory Party will enlighten me further. Is this further evidence of the split between the Hove and Pavilion Tories on one hand, and the Kemptown Tories on the other?

But Geoffrey Bowden has been stirring it elsewhere. In another tweet, designed to get Warren Morgan spluttering, once again, over hi Sugar Puffs, he wrote: “Rallying Lab troops 2 help in Westbourne Warren Morgan reveals his fears Greens will look @ seat in E.Brighton if not stopped in bi-election.” Naughty, Geoffrey.

Less edifying on Twitter has been the ongoing obsession that Chuck Vere has about where Caroline Lucas lives. Most activists have long accepted that Ms Lucas has her only home in the Brighton Pavilion constituency, and Lady Everton, Alex Phillips, unambiguously made that clear on Twitter. Ms Lucas’s two main opponents at the general election, Chuck herself and Nancy Platts, both wasted little time returning to London after the election. Caroline Lucas is well and truly settled in Brighton Pavilion, and can expect a long incumbency as its Member of Parliament.

But what has been more interesting this week than the split between the two Blue Geoffreys, Labour’s fears for East Brighton, and Chuck Vere’s obsession as to where Caroline Lucas leaves her toothbrush, has been the role of Twitter in the debate on the City Council’s first Green budget. There have been two primary protagonists: in the red corner, Lord Bassam (the former Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council); in the green corner, the Green Administrations Cabinet Member for Finance, Jason Kitcat.

Steve Bassam has peppered Jason Kitcat with questions and comments, which councillor Kitcat has patiently answered over several days. This debate has shown two things: the tribal, street fighting, campaigning instincts of Steve Bassam, and the competence in financial matters of Jason Kitcat. For a new comer to Brighton politics, one would never have believed that, as councillor Bassam, Lord Bassam was responsible for cuts of an equal scale (including the closure of more public toilets than is currently proposed) and rate/council tax rises that makes councillor Kitcat look as though he is the true-born Son of Eric Pickles.

Finally, last week I invited supporters of Labour, the Tories, UKIP and the Lib Dems (if there are any of the latter group left) to send me their alternate budgets, saying I would post them on my blog for my three regular readers to review. But to date Momma Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave have been disappointed. The offer still stands. Perhaps Lord Bassam might oblige …?

Why I will be voting Yes for the hopelessly inadequate Alternative Vote

Dr Faust suggests that I should write a post on the AV referendum. The was a debate last Friday evening in Brighton on the merits or otherwise of AV. Starring for the No campaign was the formidable Chuck Vere. I, sadly, was unable to be reunited with Chuck but from all accounts she has learned from year’s general election campaign and was the model of reasonableness and good humour.

But no matter how charming was Chuck, I will be voting Yes on May 5th, not because it is a great step forward in democracy. In fact, I think it is a very poor imitation of electoral reform, another sell-out by the dispicable Lib Dems. I don’t hold with the argument that it will make politicians work harder – most work incredibly hard already. I will hold my nose and vote Yes for the following reasons:

A Yes vote will indicate that electoral reform is possible;
AV when implemented will be inadequate and the call for proper voting reform will have gained momentum;
A No vote will be interpreted that people don’t want electoral reform and the chance of electoral reform will be lost for a generation;
A Yes vote will set Tories against Cameron, the Coalition and the Lib Dems – worth it watch the in-fighting;
A Yes vote will require politicians to reach out beyond their core vote and ensure that they don’t alienate supporters of other parties by attacking their political opponents.

Hardly a ringing endorsement for AV, I know, but a micro step forward is better than none.

George Dore stands down in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean

I am grateful to Luke Walter for alerting me to the decision of Georgina ‘George’ Dore to stand down as Conserative candidate in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. The teacher from Brighton College via Oxford was the subject of some discussion on this blog a week or so ago.

Her candidature was confirmed by the Conservatives on 15th March and videos of her and fellow Conservative, Maria Caulfield, appeared on You Tube. The reason for her standing down is not clear. Speculation includes that the exposure proved too much for her, that she received hostility on the doorstep, and (most likely) the negative publicity she attracted to Brighton College resulted in pressure on her to go.

Mike Macfarlane, “the guy lucky enough to keep his toothbrush next to George’s” remains the Conservative candidate in Regency.

Replacing George is Cath Slater who has lived in Brighton for 13 years. Cath is 36 and has two teenage daughters. She works in school catering. The Tory website reports that “she has worked in a community association for 10 years, has been involved in a youth forum, and helping with domestic violence issues. Cath enjoys helping people with their problems, and hopes to do so working as a councillor.”

This is probably a very opportune turn of events for the Tories. Cath is more likely to go down better in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean that Geore, no matter how humble her origins were. The video of her and Maria were stilted, and probably didn’t show Maria in the best possible light. Maria is a huge asset for the Tories and had she been the Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion, rather than Chuck Vere, the Tories would have come closer, even winning the election. A Conservative team in M&B with Maria, Cath and Ayas Fallon-Khan, is very likely to do very well in May.

As for George, I don’t think we have heard the last of her. She will probably emerge at a general election in a more traditional Conservative seat and before long she will be seen on the green benches at Westminster. Standing somewhere other than Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will be less embarrassing for the brass at Brighton College.

Nancy and Caroline have everything to gain from Charlotte avoiding the Hustings

In a recent blog on her website, Chuck Vere reflects on whether to take part in hustings in the run up to the general election. In a later post she says “You see, if I am not there Labour and them Greens will fight amongst themselves – such a bad thing?”

I imagine the hustings in Brighton Pavilion will be most fascinating, and I can see why Chuck is in two minds about attending. Following the example of Labour in 1996/97, the Tories in 2009/10 are saying as little as possible in order to avoid making mistakes.  But unlike Labour in ’97, the Tories cannot assume an uncomplicated procession into Downing Street.  Its candidates are going to have to fight house to house and street by street in constituencies like Brighton Pavilion.  Hustings will be an important part of that.  Hustings at The Calvary Church will be just one of many that will be arranged.

What Chuck Vere has to do, and what she will find very difficult given the poor organisation of the Tories across Brighton Pavilion, is to get to meet and convince ordinary residents – those who have not moved to Brighton from London in the last five years – that she isn’t just another Tory on the make.  She may be comfortable at the Withdene Sportsman and in the company of members of the local Conservative Association, but how will she get on in Crabtree Avenue, in The Dip, and in Stephens Road.  When will we see her on the Number 46 bus? The Conservative Association is not strong beyond the outlying wards.

Caroline Lucas has the a similar problem, getting across to residents beyond the Muesli Belt where the Greens are particularly strong.  Caroline has momentum but not a strong organisation across the constituency.  Nancy Platts, who is running the most energetic campaign and who is seen around all wards, and understands why the bells tolling this evening at St Peter’s Church is significant, is hampered by a local Party on its knees.

The outcome of a three-way split, in an election campaign being waged by three extraodinary women, may be decided by hustings.  On that basis I would be delighted if Chuck Vere failed to show as it would give the edge to Nancy and Caroline.  However, in the interests of democracy I hope she will be there.

Double barrelled problems for rich, non dom Tories

These are interesting times. The latest opinion poll in the Independent has the Tory’s lead down to just 3 points.  The likelihood of a hung parliament comes ever nearer. And it is great to see the Tories in such trouble.  David Cameron has had to apologise for unfounded attacks on Ed Balls’ handling of allegations against Muslim institutions. Tory candidates, including Brighton Kemptown’s own Simon Radford-Kirby have been advised to drop their double barrel names because they are trying to avoid coming across as Tory toffs.  He is now common-as-muck Simon Kirby.  Failed candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Scott Seaman-Digby, tried to do likewise by promoting himself as plain Scott Digby.  It didn’t work for him and it won’t work for Radford-Kirby.

As for the successful candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Chuck Vere, there is no suggestion that she is really Charlotte Alexandra de Pfeffel Johnson-Vere, and certainly not related to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson also known as simple Boris Johnson. No, her problems are more serious.  She is a close associate of Zac Goldsmith.  Today’s Mirror reported that “rising Tory star Zac Goldsmith is avoiding tax by claiming ‘non dom’ status”.  Mr Goldsmith inherited a fortune from his industrialist father Sir James Goldsmith.  There have been calls for David Cameron to sack him. Non-domicile tax status lets people avoid tax on earnings outside the UK.  According to the Lib Dem peer, Lord Oakeshott, “He’s not fit to sit in parliament and must pay the millions he’s dodged to the British taxman.”

Mr Goldsmith has denied he had “dodged” tax and said, “Virtually all my income comes to the UK, where I pay full tax on it.” But he added that he had decided to give up his “non dom” status.  Because of her close association with Zac Goldsmith, Charlotte Vere should make a statement about her attitude to non doms, and she should condemn rich Tories for avoiding tax.

Caroline Lucas ate my hamster, Nancy Platts my goldfish, and Charlotte Vere my gerbil

Sorry about the headline, but I wanted to attract your attention!  This is the 100th post since the Brighton Politics Blog was launched on 8th June. It is odd to see what interests and excites, provokes reaction, and attracts anger. A post on politics or policy gets little attention, as does a comment on a national or international issue.  A post about Gordon Brown announcing the inquiry into the Iraq War was viewed by just 1 person!

On the other hand, if I post something about partisan politics, a comment in favour of Nancy Platts or Caroline Lucas, or even a recent defending the Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Charlotte Vere, gets loads of hits for days, even weeks.  That’s why I have used the misleading (but successful) headline above!

The response through public comments and private messages has been great.  Thank you.  I have been impressed by the engagement of both Nancy Platts and Chuck Vere, and disappointed by the silence from Caroline Lucas and her election team (all adding to my sense of her being aloof).  On the other hand, it could suggest that she is more discerning than Nancy and Chuck.  As one correspondent has put it, that this blog is “not very original. Your blog is not kept up-to-date. It is pretty dull to the average person. In fact it is just not very good”, or as another said that it is just “twaddle”.  If this is the case then Caroline is wise to ignore a blog that is “superficial, snide and irrelevant”!

Having said that, the readership on a daily basis is now surprising me, and it is very gratifying to have items picked up on other blogs, referred to at public events, and quoted in other media.

Over the next six months the focus of this blog will be on the general election campaign, and those seats in Sussex that might return non-Tory MP’s. There will be a definite focus on Brighton Pavilion, and I look forward to getting your views on the campaign, the key issues and the performance of the three main candidates.

Some thoughts for Nancy, Caroline and Chuck

Here are some of my thoughts about the three candidates in Brighton Pavilion.

On issues of poverty, employment, even the economy, Nancy Platts has the advantage. This is her bread and butter. She is working tirelessly, being seen at events and meeting residents every day. She has the advantage of living on the constituency and enjoys increasing name recognition.

Caroline Lucas, for all we know, might have an equally strong track record as Nancy on , but she is not known for it locally. Other than being the leader of the Greens and an MEP for the south east, she isnt really getting through locally. As leader of the Greens she is excellent, but that is a mixed blessing. She will have increasing name recognition but she is and will be distracted and taken away from Brighton Pavilion.

Will the result be all about green politics? I doubt it. Nancy would be well advised to avoid trying to out-green the Greens and the Tories. No matter how good her green credentials are, and they are impressive, this is an issue where she will come third. She should let Caroline and Charlotte slug it out, hopefully from her perspective splitting the green vote.

Caroline Lucas is yet to counter the allegation of being remote and distant. She isn’t even doing the simple things right. For example, when writing to residents in Brighton Pavilion in her capacity as an MEP, she still uses a London address rather than one in Brighton Pavilion. It isn’t a big thing but it all goes towards creating an impression.

As for Charlotte, it is very early days. The open primary was, stating the obvious, great for her but does not seem to have given the Tories the ‘bounce’ they may have hoped for. She is in Brighton today looking at properties to rent or buy. This will give her an advantage over Caroline Lucas. With just 6 months to the election she won’t have time to draw level with Nancy Platts in this respect.

Class-wise, Charlotte is no Mary Mears or Maria Caulfield. She may struggle, as might Caroline, in Hollingdean and other estates in the constituency. Digby Seaman Scott tried (unsuccessfully) by becoming plain old Digby Scott. Perhaps Charlotte might try something similar. How about becoming known as Chuck?