A campaign more interesting and more important that the local elections

Forget the local elections. There is another campaign that is far more interesting and far more important, mentioned on my post yesterday. Who is the top political Tweeter in Brighton and Hove. And it is not the Sugar Puff scoffing Warren Morgan.

According to updood.com, based on the number of followers, Labour’s Tom French is at number 964 of the top 1,000 Tweeters in Brighton and Hove. His Green opponent in Queens Park, Ben Duncan, is well ahead of him at number 472 with Warren Morgan, nudging ahead for Labour, at number 470. But above them (and I apologise for missing anyone out – I did crawl out of my dark basement for a couple of hours today) is Celia Barlow at number 383, and Green Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett at 353.

The highest ranking Labour politician is Dan Wilson at number 315. Momma Grizzly should be there at about number 250, but she has not set her location as Brighton.

But the leading politician is (and no doubt I will be accused of Green bias) is Caroline Lucas at number 9. But the top Twit in Brighton and Hove is the adorable Peter Andre!

I still don’t appear in the top 1,000, a source of considerable angst and a cause for self-loathing, but I still have all my loyal readers – Christopher, Warren, Grizzly, and now a fourth, Valerie. What more could I ask for? An Easter Egg perhaps.

Ten days to go and the campaign has gone oh so quiet

I’ve been silent for much of the last week, listening and observing. I have spent a bit of time in the majority of wards, for one reason or another, and spoken to several candidates in each party. What has emerged is a depressing picture – and election campaign that has failed to catch the imagination of the City, including party activists and members.

With very few exceptions (East Brighton, Queens Park, and seats in west Hove) Labour is in the doldrums. Some candidates and councillors are out and about, but in some seats it has been hard to get any party members to do any door knocking. In one town centre ward, just the three candidates have done in any door knocking and even then one of the three has limited his activity to the minimum.

It is largely candidates and councillors doing 95% of the work for Labour. So disorganised are they in some seats that members have complained about not being given posters for their windows, while others have decided not to out them up at all.

Members in Queens Park are full of praise for the tireless efforts of Tom French (no surprise there) and to a limited extent his running mates. In East Brighton, Warren Morgan (no doubt fortified by regular supplies of Sugar Puffs), Craig Turton (masquerading as the Sugar Monster) and Gill Mitchell, are going about their business with quiet determination (I said QUIET DETERMINATION, Warren). Labour posters are in clear evidence in East Brighton, but other than Hollingdean and Stanmer, and Hangleton and Knoll, this election is resembling a poster-free zone.

Tim Ridgeway recently counted the posters he could see from the number 26 bus (Chuck, the 26 goes from Churchill Square to the Hollingbury Industrial Estate) and he counted less than 10 posters in all. This included the Green heartland of St Peters and North Laine where Labour posters are numbering the same as Green posters. (I’m not predicting a shock result here but my sources have been impressed by the one woman campaign being run by young Clare Calder who is said to be out on the doorstep most days).

The Greens are faring a bit better, with activists turning out and members from beyond Brighton coming in at weekends to help. Momentum has been maintained in their key target seats. Much effort is going into defending the seats in Queens Park and challenging for gains in Brunswick and Adelaide and in Goldsmid where Green posters are clearly in evidence and Labour posters largely absent.

In Hanover and Elm Grove, where Labour is focussing much of its efforts, moving resources from elsewhere in the city, the small advances being made by Labour in what was once its safest seat, will come nowhere near displacing the Buddha (Bill Randall) and his two Green running mates.

Hollingdean and Stanmer continues to be a hot-bed of activism. Momma Grizzly is out most weekends but most of her efforts are focused on Coldean. Jeane Lepper has been here, there and everywhere, like a Catherine Wheel of bonfire night, and always a complimentary word for her Green opponents (well, perhaps not). But it is the Greens that are most evident and winning the poster war. In particular, Luke Walter is campaigning full time. Ironically he could be the loser in this Alphabet Election as he is bottom of the ballot paper and might be pipped to the post by Jeane Lepper.

In Regency, when James Asser isn’t stuck on trains, he and Dan Wilson, along with the Determined Anne Freeman, are working their socks off, but so too are the Kitcat Two. Dan and James may well reduce the Green majority but they have too much to make up.

Finally, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean looks as though it may produce a split result, but the Tories remain narrow favourites to take all three seats but Anne Meadows might yet hold on to her seat.

I still don’t have a feel for the campaigns in Central Hove, Wish and Westbourne wards. Has everyone given up and gone home? And what of Christopher Hawtree? It is very quiet on the Hawtree Front and our readers are missing your daily overview. Just 10 days to go and it will all be almost over …..

Labour lacks what it takes to win again in Brighton and Hove and needs someone like Steve Bassam to lead its recovery

One key factor in this May’s local elections is how well Labour in Brighton and Hove has recovered from last year’s general election defeats. Sadly, the same central Party organisation remains in place, and there is a lack of purpose permeating throughout the Party with a few notable exceptions.

In East Brighton, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and in Hangleton and Knoll, there are reasonable campaigns being run. The team in East Brighton have, in my estimation, the best campaign. In Hanover and Elm Grove, led by Tracey Hill, consistent campaigning is being undertaken, but the challenge facing the Labour team here is too great and the Green campaign will, ultimately, produce a substantial Green victory.

Queens Park remains the seat where Labour migh justbtake a seat from the Greens is characterised by the exhaustive campaigning by Tom French. But round the clock campaigning in the six weeks leading up to polling day will not counter four years consistent service by Green councillors.

Hangleton and Knoll has a massive factor that is absent from all other campaigns being run by Labour. That is the Fitch Factor (Brian, that is. Harris, you don’t have it …yet).

In some seats in the heart of Hove, the candidates are out and about. Celia Barlow and Simon Battle are seasoned campaigners, and will do well on a personal level. There is a sense of impending defeat in Hollingdean and Stanmer, but the Lepper Machine (along with the machine is East Brighton) can be relied on to fight to the last moment. Whether it can save more than Jeane Lepper is something I doubt.

In other areas, such as Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, St Peters and North Laine, Regency, and Brunswick and Adelaide, the campaigns are struggling. Out of these, the campaign in Regency is the strongest, not least because of the candidates James Asser and Dan Wilson, both excellent candidates who should be offered more winnable seats in the future. Apart from the determined Anne Freeman, there is little evidence of a campaign team. In St Peters and North Laine, the lack of organisation is disguised by the energy and profile of the youngest candidate, Clare Calder. In Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, and in Brunswick and Adelaide, the Labour campaigns can be characterised by ….. well nothing, really.

The real problem for Labour is the absence of an inspirational leader and of some fire in the belly of the local organisation. The one thing that you can rely on to get Labour activists going is to mention Caroline Lucas. What is needed is someone who can articulate a vision (and it isn’t coming from Ed Milliband). Why should people join Labour locally, and why should they become active. The Greens articulate a vision, are active and offer what feels like an alternative.

Warren Morgan, Craig Turton, Tracey Hills, Simon Battle, Brian Fitch, Clare Calder, James Asser, Dan Wilson and Celia Barlow, to name a few, are assets for Labour, but Labour needs two or three hundred activists thing, and thirty or forty candidates who are well known and energetic. Instead, the same old faces dominate, and nothing new is heard from them. Gill Mitchell is more than able, but is yet to reach beyond party and Council structures and become recognised by ordinary people in the way that someone like Steve Bassam was. Steve knew how to organise and to mobilise, and someone like Steve is just what Labour needs if it is to recover in the face of the spreading Green tide.

George Dore and le Toothbrush, and the continuing decline of the Lib Dems

Intrigue surrounds George Dore’s move from Moulsecoomb and Bevendean to Preston Park, and that of her beloved, le Toothbrush (Mike Mafarlane) from Queens Park to Regency Ward. Dan Wilson asks: “Why change wards now? Totally bizarre.” Dan’s twin brother, Warren Morgan, observes: “Tories seem to be abandoning Kemptown wards as fast as they are selected. Does not bode well for Mr Kirby.”

The Tory Tipster thinks that the problem lies in the heart of the Kemptown Conservative Association: “And another one bites the dust!!! First Mike Mac then George Dore – something is very wrong in Brighton Kemptown when their most talented candidates are jumping ship! I take on board your comments about Maria Caulfield but at the risk of sounding ungentlemanly, she is now very much past her best and now looks rather tired and sagging. Thank goodness the Hove Association has the good sense to have so many bright young candidates on the ballot paper!”

Linda F asks “Why would Ms Dore finish lower in Preston Park than M&B, if she appeals more to the PP middle class voter? I think she is just the right candidate for the aspirational younger families living in PP. She just needs to make sure her voters come out on the day. This switch is an interesting development anyway.” Well, Linda, Preston Park is a Green / Labour marginal and disillusioned Lib Dems are hardly going to move rightwards but will split their votes between the Greens and Labour. The share of the votes of the left parties will definitely increase in Preston Park. The question that I cannot answer is who will benefit most from the collapse of the Lib Dem vote.

But the Ghost of Nobby Clarke thinks that the Tories should not be written off in Preston Park: “Don’t underestimate the very impressive George Dore in Preston Park. She might just surprise a few people. After all some of us still remember excellent former Tory councillors there such as Doreen Radford and Vic Marchant.”

But what is emerging tonight is how low the Lib Dems have sunk. I wrote yesterday that “It appears that (the Lib Dem) decline continues with some pace. For the first time in living memory, the Yellow Ones are unable to field a full list of candidates. In an area like Brighton and Hove it shows that this party is now a bit part player, not to be taken too seriously (have I ever?) and should be regarded along side other marginal groups such as the Socialist Party and UKIP.” Not for a moment did I suspect that the LibDems could only field 8 (yes that was EIGHT) candidates across Brighton and Hove. According to the Lib Dem website, otherwise known as The Life and Times of Paul Elgood, the Lib Dems are fielding candidates in Regency, Brunswick and Adelaide, Central Hove and South Portslade wards.

I have been criticised in the past for being too harsh on the Lib Dems and that my prediction of their imminent demise was premature. I had never anticipated that they would field just 8 (yes, I repeat, just EIGHT) candidates! With the deadline for nominations closing at 12 noon tomorrow (Monday 4th April), there is still time for the Lib Dems to find a further 46 candidates. But they could, at this late stage, be no more than paper candidates, unwilling and unable to mount a city-wide campaign.

Finally, I was thumbing through some back editions of the Midhurst and Petworth Observer, as one does on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In the edition for Friday, 5 June 2009, I came across the election result for the Billingshurst division of West Sussex County Council. Trailing in third place, behind David Duke of UKIP and the Conservative Amanda Jupp who won the seat, was Larissa Rowe standing for Liberal Democrats. Could this be the same Larissa Rowe who is standing for the Lib Dems in Regency (where le Toothbrush is standing for the Tories)? And could this be an omen that will see the Lib Dems beaten into 5th place by UKIP in a seat that, until recently, returned a Lib Dem councillor? Watch this space for a positive response from UKIP’s own Mr Cumugeon (Paul Perrin).

Welcoming a Labour, Tory and Green love in (while everyone hates the Lib Dems)

Earlier this evening there was a lovely exchange on Twitter. Green Ben Duncan wrote: “Just got canvassed by Labour candidate Tom French – very nice young man. I’ll be voting for me instead though!”. Emma Daniel liked this, writing: “@KemptownBen That’s a really nice tweet! I like it when you guys play nicely!”. Robocop Ben replied: “Well thanks. Me too! We all aspire to be councillors, we have that weirdness in common, whatever our chosen parties!”

Conduct of candidates and councillors has been a theme on this blog in recent days after Craig Turton urged me to focus on issues rather than personalities before rather spoiling it by making some rather personal digs at Maria Caulfield, Mary Mears and Ayas Fallon-Khan.

This being Sunday, Craig has come to confession: “Yep BPB, I admit one could take my references to certain opposition councillors as slightly hypocritical when calling on you to look at issues rather than personalities (GOTCHA in Sun-speak) but my references aren’t nasty, just light hearted (unlike recent Tory vitriol). Politics aside, I get on with Ayas very well but also Maria and they’re both big enough to take a ribbing.”

And before I knew it, a mutual love-in had begun with Jason Kitcat writing: “I agree with Craig, there has been a steady decline in the standards of behaviour on the council. It’s frankly embarrassing to see some of the personal attacks, point scoring and name calling that goes on in some tax-payer funded public council meetings. Governance committee has been particularly bad as well as full council.”

So will everyone sign up to the Reverand Father BPB’s Charter: “Love Your Election Opponent as Much as You Love Yourself”? I won’t hold my breath …. (PS. The Lib Dems are exempt from this Charter!)

Meanwhile, the speculation over Labour’s candidate in St Peters and North Laine is over with Dan Wilson reporting that the “very brilliant Clare Calder will be on Labour’s slate in SPNL”. Fellow Labour candidate in SPNL, Pete Gillman, writes: “Excellent news today regarding the announcement of Clare our new candidate who is a superb addition to the team.”

Clare does make an interesting addition to the body politic. At 18, she is the youngest ever candidate to stand for election for Brighton and Hove City Council, and she makes Momma Grizzly, at 22, look rather aged. Perhaps Grandmomma Grizzly should be her new name! The Calder name is well known in St Peters given that her mother, former Argus columnist Jean Calder, is a former councillor in the area. (My apologies to Clare for having misspelt her name in earlier posts).

So is everyone is happy and are there group hugs in SPNL? Well, no. Geoffrey Bowden, Green candidate in Queens Park sounds a discordant note: “Who cares who Labour is putting up in St Peter’s North Laine at this late stage in the campaign? The Green Party’s sitting councillors and the very large local party team have been campaigning for months and are practically through the third canvas of the ward. Nothing is being taken for granted, but the returns indicate that the majorities for all three Green candidates will be as large as last year’s bi-election win for Lizzie Dean.”

Possibly, but stranger things have happened…

The Friends of George Dore promise great things from the Tory’s best kept secret

My post yesterday ‘Matt Lucas to stand in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean’ about Georgina ‘George’ Dore’s candidature has attracted a fierce response from George’s supporters.

Mike Macfarlane perhaps is not the most objective correspondent, he is, after all “the guy lucky enough to keep his toothbrush next to George’s.” I think that this implies that he and George are stepping out together. He says that “this cheap pun isn’t funny. Why would any normal person want to satirize such a beautiful and talented young lady in this way?”. In my defence I have never claimed to be a “normal person”.

Mike clearly loves George, which is very touching: “The premise of some of the comments here seems to be that you can’t possibly be clever and have a normal background. I assure readers that George is one of the smartest, articulate and most lovely people you will ever meet with an obvious weight of intellect that soon explains her Oxford education.”

Linda F says: “I admire Georgina (absolutely no resemblance to Matt Lucas- why did you think there was a similarity?) for having gone to Oxford from a local Comprehensive. She must have exceptional ability to have gained a place and I’m sure it was a hard process…good for her.” Linda suggests I have a chip on my shoulder. “I realise you are a ‘left of centre’ blog, but the ‘chippiness’ of the Left against aspiration really does let you down.”

George, herself, has commented: “I went to a school called King Alfred’s Sports and Community College in Wantage and my father was a Chippie building bridges and lock gates on the Thames for over forty years before his retirement. … I can’t help but feel that by perpetuating the myth that attending Oxford is synonymous with being privately educated and /or privileged compounds the access issues that face pupils from state school backgrounds.”

The Tory Tipster (I know who you are but will respect your anonymity) writes of George: “This bright young lady is the Conservatives best kept secret both locally and nationally. Expect great things from her!”.

‘Clive’ thinks I have done something worthwhile: “The blogger has shone a light where you would rather it had not been shone, that’s all.”

I have apologised if I have caused any offence to George. None was intended. This blog (apart from being left of centre) is usually light-hearted in tone. My army of regular readers (Dan Wilson, Christopher Hawtree, Paul Perrin and Momma Grizzly) will know that I have tipped the Tories in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean to do well in May. However, when standing for election you do open yourself up to some scrutiny. And if one hopes to represent M&B one must expect some comment regarding Oxford and Brighton College. I am yet to meet George, but look forward to doing so.

Finally, NG praises my blog: “Your comments about George Dore are really quite childish aren’t they? Please try a bit harder to get out of the playground.” Ouch. Childish, perhaps, but I hope that at least George will acknowledge that this blog has boosted her profile and name recognition. A couple of days ago most activists would have struggled to name her as the third Tory candidate in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. Now for the 1,000 or so daily readers of this blog (Dan Wilson, Christopher Hawtree, Paul Perrin and Momma Grizzly probably make around 250 unique visits each!) she is no longer the Tory’s best kept secret. We know know who she is, will remember her name, and above all we know she is the girl lucky enough to keep her toothbrush next to Mike Macfarlane’s.

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.

Is the Brighton Politics Blogger too irreverent? Mr Pickwick thinks so

Brighton’s Mr Pickwick, Christopher Hawtree, has taken me and the tone of this blog to task.  Following a genial evening in the pub with Dan Wilson, he commented: “We agreed that the Election, so far, does not have a great deal of fun about it. Perhaps this is the nature of the times; perhaps it is the systems of campaigning; perhaps it’s the winter.  We also agreed that, in such fora as this one, it can seem the stuff of banter – predictions being akin to hoping to nudge pennies from a moving shovel in a Palace Pier arcade’s glass case – but in fact it is people’s lives: I came back yesterday evening, the mind full of sometimes harrowing stories heard on doorsteps or from people who had asked me in.  People sometimes jeer at Councillors as a bunch of freeloaders but I should say that in almost any area a Councillor who gives his or her time to it has quite a load. And, in the nature of things, that sort of work is not made public.”

Green Chris and Labour Dan are absolutely correct.  Politics is serious business.  The decision of the electorate will decide which party will dominate Brighton politics for the next four years, and the decisions of our new leaders will have an impact on the lives of hundreds and thousands of people.  As an activist, I too have heard many harrowing stories on the doorstep. I have seen how people’s lives can be blighted by a bad decision here, or improved by a good decision there.  A councillor who can work with officers to deal with a noise complaint can see an immediate improvement in the lives of neighbours. 

I have an ex who was a county councillor for a while and I am aware of how hard councillors do work and how much of what they do is unrecognised and unappreciated.  While I might take a light-hearted view of election campaigns, and make irreverent reference to Momma Grizzly, the Estate Agents, the Wise Owl and even Mr Pickwick, this blog aims to encourage interest in local politics.  Sometimes serious, more often light-hearted, I will continue in a similar vein unless enough of you ask me not to.

The student vote will swing Hollingdean and Stanmer for the Greens and consolidate their position elsewhere

It seems that the consensus is that the student vote will make a difference primarily in Hollingdean and Stanmer, and has already made a difference in St Peters and North Laine, and in Hanover and Elm Grove, with Regency also benefiting from the student vote.  All this is possibly stating the obvious as these seats have high concentration of students, and all are in Brighton Pavilion where the Green’s organisation has galvanised the student vote.  In Moulscoomb and Bevendean, where Labour and the Greens have little organisation on the ground, the student vote is less influential, allowing the Tories to take seats in this tradional Labour seat.

DAP thinks that students will make the LibDem destruction even more felt everywhere, coming in poor lasts.  He thinks that the “Tories will also be hit (in M&B for example) not because Tory students will change their mind and vote left, but beacuse previously non voting students/first timers will be more inclined to vote Green/Labour because of recent tuition fee rises/high youth umemployment/low graduate employment (as will the parents of future students)”.  Perhaps, but I think that Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will be won, not by issues impacting on students, but on the record of Maria Caulfield as lead councillor for housing. 

My dear Baron Pepperpot agrees with my take on Hollingbury and Stanmer: “The Greens in Hollingdean & Stanmer are heavily targeting the student vote. I understand they are readily campaigning at the campus, and will be there on the day. The Greens campaign in this ward has been in full flow for sometime, and is showing signs of a very carefully thought out strategy. An added advantage too is student hostility towards the coalition and the Lib Dems in particular.If someone wanted to bet me that 3 Greens will be returned from Hollingdean & Stanmer, they wouldn’t see much of a return on their stake!”

As you know, Baron, I think the Joker in the Pack is Jeane Lepper who I believe will hang on because of her many years careful stewardship of the ward. I still say two Greens and Jeane Lepper for Labour.

Brighton’s own Mr Pickwick, Christopher Hawtree, thinks that the student vote will be influential everywher: “It is not only the student vote that makes Moulescoomb an interesting area for the Greens. Look at the rest of it.” I don’t think so, it requires strong organisation on the ground, and Labour doesn’t have it, and the Greens are targeting their efforts in selected wards.

The activist with probably the best knowledge of the student vote, and someone who has received little public credit for the success of Caroline Lucas’ campaign is Allie Cannell.  He writes: “I think the best reference I have ever got was from Charlotte Vere after the general election when she said in an e-mail to the University of Sussex Conservative Assosiation something along the lines of: ‘We could have won it if the Labour vote had softened but in the end the Greens’ student mobilisation campaign was just too successful’.  I learnt a lot coordinating the campus campaign at the general election last year and it was really really successful (if only i could tell you what the sampling data said), this year we started campaigning earlier on campus and we know how to do it. I’m confident we will get a good Green vote from the students again.”  I am sure you are right.

Regarding the student vote at Brighton University, and those in Kemptown, Allie writes: “We have made some connections with Brighton students, but as you say there hasn’t been a strong campaign there as we have to target. It will be interesting to see how those students vote this time though.  There are a lot of students that live in SPNL, and H&EG too, what a supprise that they’re Green wards.”

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke tends to discount the influence of the student vote: “The Students have always been a questionable influence in the old Stanmer ward and the now H&S ward, will they place Sven “Long Hair Kung-Fu Man” Rufus back on the council,do they know how too tactical vote? or do they let Rachel “momma grizzly” Bates through the middle, she is after all an ex Sussex Uni student and that may count for something with her old campus pals, we could see Ian Fyvie out with his loud hailer!”  Now having Ian Fyvie on the Council would be something, but somehow I think he will just miss out, by a thousand votes or so!

HP thinks it is studentification’ that could be a factor.  Not on students, I think, but on those living in town centre wards who complain about car parking and noisy neighbours, blaiming it all on students. HP writes: “Of course, another way the students might swing the vote is in relation to the party that promises the most effective action to limit the spread of student houses at the cost of family housing. The outgoing Labour Govt was in the process of addressing just that issue, but then the Tories came in and buckled to the demands of their landlord mates and watered down the new rules. However, a locally implementable mechanism exists to stop family houses becoming student lets and I for one would be happy to vote for a party that has the courage to impose it (unless that party is the Tories, obviously I’d never vote for them). We then need more purpose built student accommodation in the right places with sustainable links to the campuses.”

But is any of this speculation meaningful? Dan Wilson thinks not: “Student turnout at local elections is typically very low indeed”  but Mr Pickwick senses something different now: “It seems to me a motivated student vote this time. Many were inspired by first Green MP. That was also apparent in the Lizzie Deane camapign. And that was a summertime when most political types assumed that it would be a snoozy electorate.”

You think Moulsecoomb and Bevendean could go Tory, or Labour, even Green, in May’s local elections

Last night’s prediction that the Conservatives may win all three seats in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean has prompted an interesting response. No surprise that Peter Booth, Tory candidate in East Brighton agrees with my prediction: “Completely agree with your assessment in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean. Maria is a hard-working and popular Councillor and is joined in this campaign by Ayas Fallon-Khan who has gained a solid reputation on Council – and predict all 3 Conservatives will win through.”  Baron Pepperpot (flattery will get you nowhere with me!) couldn’t disagree more: “three Tories in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean? At a time when the cuts will start to bite?”

Allie Cannell makes a prediction that I don’t see as likely: “I’m predicting the Greens will get a seat in M&S. There are over 2,000 students just living in University residences there.   Thats not even counting all the students living in private accomodation.”  The problem with that view is that students are not that likely to turn out in large volumes in a Kemptown seat, even for Green candidates in a local election.  If I am wrong, then all bets are off regarding the final make-up of the Council.  3 Green candidates in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean would suggest major gains by the Greens across the city.  Allie is not alone, Christopher Hawtree is predicting that “the Greens could do well in Moulescoomb.”

Kelvin Poplett, another East Brighton Conservative, says: “Surprisingly- I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Booth. From our time spent knocking on the doors in traditional Labour areas, we are finding Conservatives everywhere. Through sheer hard work we may just surprise you.”  You would surprise me if you found enough Tory votes to unseat Mitchell, Turton and Morgan. Peter Booth says that the Tories in East Brighton “are David against Goliath – Yes we oppose your particular favourite (and that favouritism does shine through in your blog) but do not under-estimate the campaign of East Brighton Conservatives – who are all in this campaign – fighting for every vote until 10pm on 5th May, and who may just surprise you and your friend Mr Morgan. There are no no-go areas in East Brighton for EB Conservatives!”  I have no favourites (other than Green Amy but she never writes, never calls – thanks to Dan Wilson for that line).

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke asks: “Is Mr Morgan rattled I wonder!, This ward has never been worked by the tories has it Peter?”.  Actually, that’s not true and it did go Tory in the early 1990s when it was Marine Ward.

My “favourite” Warren Morgan, draws attention to the fall-out in 2007 from the stock transfer issue that so damaged Labour: “Woodingdean looks pretty safe for the Tories based on the 2007 results, but interestingly the ward was split three ways at the GE count with the Lib Dem matching Simons Burgess and Kirby.  The traditionally strong Labour vote in Woodingdean (we did win a seat there in the 90s) was artificially depressed there in 2007 by the stock transfer vote fallout, as it was in Portslade, Moulsecoomb and Queens Park. Geoff is busy being mayor and Dee is busy with Cabinet duties which may explain DAPs comment above. We’ve selected some keen, new candidates both there and in Rottingdean Coastal, all hopeful of putting up a good campaign and earning safer seats next time (as BPB said in an earlier post). And complacency is a stealthy enemy in politics, as some of my colleagues found out last time.  Don’t forget in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean that the Respect candidate Dave Bangs scored over 300 votes last time (equivalent to a constituency wide Respect/Socialist vote at a GE) capitalising on the stock transfer issue, and with what he portrayed as the endorsement of two retiring councillors. And yes, the students will be a factor, particularly if they vote tactically for Labour rather than the Greens who are not in contention in M&B.”

Clive points to another issue that damaged Labour in 2007: “Another elephant that is no longer in the room is the King Alfred. Last time, this surely helped the Tories in Westbourne, Central Hove and (to a lesser extent) Goldsmid.”  He also points out the state of the parties in national polls: “the national opinion polls in April 2007 – just before the last local elections – were, taking a rough average of all taken: Conservative 37, Labour 31, LD 19. Therefore it’s hard not to conceive of Labour enjoying some kind of general uplift given that they are now polling around ten points ahead of that.”  The counter argument to that, Clive, at least in Brighton Pavilion, is the Caroline Effect and how that constituency should be seen apart from the national position.

The good Baron agrees with my assessment for Queens Park where he lives, that “it’s too close to call, but I’m not sure you’re right about which Labour candidate would be returned in the event of a split vote.”

Finally, a couple of comments have been left on this blog earlier today which are not in the spirit of debate and friendly provocation.  I haven’t approved one as it may contain a libel or two, and I have removed another offending reference in another.  Please keep to the spirit of the blog.  I really don’t want to have to moderate comments left.