Nancy, Charlotte and Caroline have already made this a great campaign even though Gordon is yet to go to the Palace

As Adam Boulton said on Sky News yesterday, Gordon Brown will today be polishing his shoes ready for a trip to the Palace tomorrow or Wednesday to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament in order that a General Election may be held.

May 6th is hardly a surprise.  Most pundits have been predicting this for the last year.  It has been a fascinating 12 months as campaigns have been developed, and candidates have come and gone.   Laura Moffatt, the sitting Labour MP in Crawley, announced her retirement at the eleventh hour, leaving the Party in a bit of a pickle, and again has yet to offer any credible explanation as to her actions.

The original Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Dr. David Bull (if I recall his name correctly) resigned with little explanation, having made next to no impression locally.  This allowed the candidature of Charlotte Vere who, by contrast, has taken the constituency by storm, completing a field of three very impressive women candidates, and helping make the campaign in Brighton Pavilion one of the most fascinating in the country.

The Goldsmid by-election last year has given the Greens a platform from which to launch its campaign in neighbouring Brighton Pavilion, and the momentum built up by Caroline Lucas and her team should see her elected as the Green’s first ever MP.  It was this blog called for tactical voting for Alex Phillips in Goldsmid, before anyone else did so.  So too with Brighton Pavilion, it was this blog that some months back called for tactical voting for Caroline Lucas.  It was a tough call (and remains so) since Labour’s Nancy Platts is a first rate candidate and she would almost certainly have won had it not been for the momentum built up by Ms Lucas. 

This blog was wrong in expressing doubts about Caroline Lucas.  She has strengthened her presence and support locally through dedication, charm and enormous competence.  Most constituencies would be fortunate to have either Nancy or Charlotte elected as its MP.  I have few reservations about Nancy other than she is the candidate for the wrong party, at the wrong time and in the wrong constituency.  I hope the Labour Party will recognise the asset they have in her and that she will find herself in parliament in the not too distant future.

While she remains a Tory I could never advocate support for Charlotte, even though I have grown to like her fighting spirit if not always the stands she has taken and her focus on her opponents – she should leave that to lesser individuals such as bloggers.

It is likely that Caroline Lucas will be elected and I predict that she will rapidly become the stand out newcomer to the Commons, and Brighton will have its reputation enhanced by having her as one of its MPs.

I could comment about the campaigns in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove, but they have been so dull and uninspiring that I just won’t bother!

Brighton Pavilion shortlist reveals Tory class divide and prejudice

The Conservative Party has announced a shortlist of six candidates for the General Election campaign in Brighton Pavilion.  And in so doing it has revealed what a class-divided Party it is.

First there is Scott Digby (or is it Scott Seaman-Digby?), the national Tory commercial director.  Why would he possibly have wanted to drop the Seaman from his surname.  It hasn’t held him back when becoming Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Borough of Hillingdon.  Then we have fellow London Tory councillor, insurance broker Mary Weale, who represents the good folk in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

No 3 is Charlotte Vere, a former finance director, now chief executive of Big White Wall, a charity for those with mental health problems.  She is joined by Anna Firth, who has been described as “a leading campaigner” for better early years education, and by Douglas Chirnside, a TV producer.  There was a TV producer called Douglas Chirnside (a common name amongst TV producers, I am sure) whose finest work was a series called “Sex and Shopping”.

Finally, there is someone from Brighton (you remember Brighton?  This election is for a Brighton seat!). Andrew Wealls was the Tory candidate who was beaten by Alex Phillips in Goldsmid in a by-election in July. I know Andrew and like him.  He is a decent, hard-working chap.  If selected he could put in good effort, but is hardly going to set the campaign on fire, especially against Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas.

More interesting is the absence of Mary Mears and Maria Caulfield, two very strong female candidates, well-known and well-respected.  Either could out-flank Nancy and Caroline, not least on the Council estates in Brighton Pavilion.  Their omission from the shortlist is evidence of the deep class division that runs through the local Conservative Party. This division exists on the City Council where Mary Mears (Open Market) defeated Geoffrey Theobald (Brighton College) for the post of Tory Leader and, consequently, Leader of the Council.

From my point of view, the omission of Mary and Maria is great news as their selection would have almost guaranteed a Tory gain. The Conservative Association, led by the hapless Carol Ramsden, has handed Nancy and Caroline a head start, first by selecting Dr David Bull who then stood down, and now possibly Scott Seaman-Digby-Weale-Vere-Chirnside-Firth IV of the Royal London Borough of Uppity Class, as its candidate.

It may yet be a straight fight between Nancy and Caroline.  Bring it on.

Defending the Greens Record of Campaigning

I have received a robust defence from Green Amy Kennedy of the Green Party’s record in campaigning against the closure of post offices. (see “Greens have been conspicuous by their absence in any campaign to save any single [Post Office)”. She writes:

“When the Brighton & Hove PO closures were announced in October 2007, Greens cllrs were appalled to find that no less than four of the six doomed B&H sub-POs were located in our wards (Trafalgar Street in St Peter’s & North Laine, Elm Grove in Hanover & Elm Grove, and Preston Circus and Preston Road in Preston Park).

“Subsequently, Brighton & Hove Greens were the only political party locally to call a public meeting to try and hold Post Office Ltd to account (http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/2007/11/28/greens-fight-post-office-closures/), which was held on 6th December 2007 at the Friends Meeting House.

“The meeting was Chaired by Peter Crowhurst (North Laine Community Association), and the panel consisted of Caroline Lucas, Selma Montford MBE, David Bull (then Conservative PPC for Brighton Pavilion) Gary Herbert (Post Office Ltd), Malcolm Butler (Postwatch – consumer watchdog), and a CWU rep (sorry, name escapes me). Invitations were also issued to local Labour MPs, but in the event this offer was not taken up.

“Green councillors also organised petitions in all the condemned B&H POs (including the two in Hove), amassing several thousand signatures, in addition to supplying free template letters for customers to send to Post Office Ltd, Postwatch, and their respective MPs. We sent the original petitions to Hazel Blears MP (then CLG minister), and forwarded copies to PO Ltd and Postwatch.

“Needless to say, the axe fell regardless, thanks to the Labour government’s relentless drive to introduce “efficiency” into public services, regardless of the (not necessarily intangible) cost to communities. I have to say it was pretty ironic watching Nancy Platts running around trying to “save the Post Offices” when (if I recall correctly) both David Lepper and Des Turner voted for the proposals to close the B&H sub-POs, and hundreds like them across the country.

“We are still working to try and progress an “Essex model” at local authority level, so watch this space. And we have and will continue to picket with the CWU. So it’s not fair really to suggest that Greens aren’t doing anything to protect post offices and public mail services”.

Thanks, Green Amy. I stand corrected regarding the campaigning of the Greens.

She is right about the role of the Labour government in driving through post office closures. It truly is the Labour version of the Poll Tax. And given reference to the Poll Tax, now that was a real campaign. Not only did we ultimately get the Poll Tax thrown out, we brought down Margaret Thatcher.

Notwithstanding the activities of the Greens, Nancy Platts and others, post offices closed, remain closed and is unlikely to be a massive part of the general election. The campaign has not been successful.