In praise of Charlotte Vere ….. and Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas and David Lepper and Desmond Turner!

There’s been a great debate going on in the comments section following earlier blogs regarding election expenses.  The debate largely involves Green and Labour supporters / activists.

A recent comment reflected that many people don’t want either a Labour or a Conservative government.  We are either going to get one of them or we will have a hung parliament.  This blog has longed hoped for a hung parliament and has advocated tactical voting to achieve this.  But there seems to be such bad blood developing in Brighton Pavilion between Labour and Green supporters that my worst fears might be realised -that the anti-Tory vote will be split allowing a Conservative victory.

I have, for many months, been positive about the three candidates, Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Vere.  All three have impressed me, and even though I don’t like her politics, that she is a Tory, and that she has based her campaign largely on attacks against Caroline Lucas, I have grown to like Charlotte Vere and believe that she would make a good constituency MP if elected. But I hope she will not win, at least not for Brighton Pavilion.  I hope that in future she will stand in a safe Conservative seat.

My dilemna has been who to support between Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas.  Both are hard working, both are impressive women, both would make excellent constituency MPs, and both are politicians of the left.   Some months back I called for tactical voting for the Greens as I believed then that the Greens had the best chance of beating the Tories.  That view has changed slightly.  No longer do I see a Green vote in Brighton Pavilion as a ‘negative’ “Keep the Tories Out” vote, but it is now a positive vote for a positive change.  Brighton Pavilion can help make history by electing the first Green MP.  This will provide a platform in domestic politics for the Greens who could yet become a significant force in UK politics, if not in the election after this one, but the one after that.

I would love to see Nancy Platts in parliament, and I believe that she will make it, but this is not her election.  She has the misfortune to be up against Caroline Lucas in a year where Labour will struggle. In another year, in another constituency, she would be the standout candidate.  I wish her well.

As for Caroline Lucas and the Greens.  Her victory will not be a one parliament wonder.  She will nurture the seat and the Greens ongoing success in Brighton and Hove will see the possibility of her being joined in the House by at least one other local Green MP in due course.

Parliament was formally disolved at 11.41am today, meaning that David Lepper and Desmond Turner are no longer Members of Parliament.  Both have given great service to the City since being elected in 1997, and before that as Brighton and East Sussex councillors.  The City should honour them for their service.

Who would be the best MP in Brighton Pavilion? Nancy, Caroline or Charlotte. Too close to call.

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon debating with a friend the question as who would make the best Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion. The outcome of the election in this constituency is far from certain, and any one of Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas or Charlotte Vere could still make it to Westminster.

When it came to the best constituency MP, we agreed that Nancy had the edge over her two opponents. Like David Lepper, she has a strong base within the community, has made a personal commitment to Brighton and Hove, and would thrive in her role within the constituency.

Charlotte might find the parochialism of Brighton and Hove a bit suffocating, and she would be torn between her life in Brighton and that in London. During the campaign she has shown energy and enthusiasm, but sustaining that for the next 15 to 20 years is perhaps too great an expectation.

Caroline would be least likely to put in the hours necessary to be a worthy successor to David Lepper. As Leader of the Green Party, national campaigning and media commitments would inevitably detract from the role locally. This has been the weakness of her campaign to date.

However, when it comes to being a Westminster MP, Caroline has the experience, ability and stature to make far and away the greatest impact of the three. As she is likely be the only Green MP, she would have the platform that would allow her to demonstrate the abundant talent she has. She would be a breath of fresh air in the Commons. Charlotte Vere would be more at home at Westminster than Nancy, which places her second.

Nancy would be the best constituency MP, Caroline the best Westminster MP. Charlotte is, perhaps, the best all-rounder!

Lib Dems give up on Brighton Pavilion as candidate stands down

I am grateful to Green Ben Duncan for breaking the news that the Lib Dem candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Andrew Falconer, has quit the race to succeed David Lepper. The only thing that has surprised me about this move is that the Lib Dems had a candidate at all. 

I watch politics in Brighton and Hove quite closely but have to admit that I had no idea whatsoever that the Lib Dems had selected anyone.  In fact, only last week I searched the internet, including the Lib Dems Brighton and Hove site, to see who the candidate was, and even the website had not been told about Andrew Falconer’s selection.

The Lib Dems in Brighton and Hove are a joke, holding just 2 seats on the City Council.  What will they do now?  Hold a joke ‘open primary’ like the Tories? S lect a woman in order to elevate the camapign to a level playing field?   Select a charasmatic, public figure to represent them, someone like …?  Actually, apart from Uncle Vince Cable the Lib Dems don’t have anyone known outside their own front room.

I hope the Lib Dems won’t waste their time fielding a candidate, even a token paper candidate, in Brighton Pavilion. They should concentrate their efforts in constituencies such as Lewes where they have a sitting candidate in Stormin’ Norman Baker, and Eastbourne where they have the best chance of beating the Tory Nigel Waterson. The Lib Dems could encourage their supporters to vote Labour or Green in Brighton Pavilion and Labour and the Greens should reciprocate being encouraging their supporters to vote tactically for the Lib Dems in Lewes and Eastbourne.

Labour Conference: Welcome to Brighton

The Labour Party Conference arrives in Brighton this weekend.  Welcome to all delegates. I hope you enjoy your stay in the City and have a Conference that is a spring-board to success in next year’s General Election.

Unfortunately, I fear that certain leading Members of Parlaiment, will use the next week to position themselves for the leadership campaign that they believe will follow after the election defeat.  Whoever is Leader following the next election, they can learn a great deal from the experience of Labour in Brighton.

In the 1980’s led by David Lepper (now MP for Brighton Pavilion) and Steve (now Lord) Bassam, strengthen by a dynamic and active local Party of 2,000+ members (of left and right), the Party won control of the old Brighton Council. Kinnock’s witch-hunt did for all that and Labour has been in decline ever since. What success it has had has been down to the strengths of individuals (Lepper and Des Turner) as well as the anti-Tory tide that swept New Labour into power in 1997.

But Labour as an administration was a disaster, losing touch with ordinary people, resulting in the Tories regaining control of the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove several years ago.  Any any residual activism, radicalism and enthusiasm rests almost exclusively with the Greens who now match Labour on the City Council and who are heading for a comfortable second place (behind the Tories) at the General Election in Brighton Pavilion.

The Greens might win if it was not for an exceptional Labour candidate, Nancy Platts, who will retain sufficient support for Labour and for herself (in spite of being Labour), to split the anti-Tory vote.  The Green candidate, Caroline Lucas, doesn’t quite have it (or at least she isn’t showing it) to become a successful constuituency candidate to win sufficient votes from the impressive Nancy.

Labour cannot hold Brighton Kemptown which will go Conservative with the Greens running Labour close but still ending in 3rd place.  Labour’s candidate, Simon Burgess, is a decent man but lacks imagination and is running a completely uninspiring, almost invisible, campaign.  He is better suited as someone working behind the scenes in support of a more dynamic candidate. He led Labour to defeat at local elections, losing his (previously safe) seat to the Greens including his Green opponent in Kemptown, Ben Duncan.  (The problem for the Greens is that they struggle to be seen beyond Brighton’s muesli-belt of town-centre wards).

Labour lacks the activist base that personified the local Party in the 1980s. No matter how hard Nancy Platts works, she does not have the support required to mount a sussessful campaign.

If Labour is to win, it needs to offer something to inspire voters.  Competing with the Lib Dems and the Tories on cuts won’t work. Labour has been the architect of its own demise – banking out the banks and bankers, fighting two wars, losing its activist base. There is time, just, to turn things around.  If a radical alternative is not put forward by Gordon Brown on Tuesday, we might as well begin planning and organising for the general elction that is likely to take place in May 2014.

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.

Labour has lost the ability to campaign

There was a time, in the 1980’s, when Labour was a vibrant, campaigning, grass routes organisation. Through campaigning, led by David Lepper and Steve (Lord) Bassam, the Party won control of the local Council.

The Golsmid by-election demonstrates how the Party has lost it’s ability to campaign, even in elections. Liz Telcs has worked hard (although not as hard or effectively as Green Alex Phillips). She has struggled to get anything of a campaign going, and appeals for help have fell, largely, on deaf ears.

Alex Phillips, on the other hand, has been energetic, enthusiastic and exciting. She reminds me of Labour activists of the early/mid 1980’s. Was she active then? No, she wasn’t even born then!

MP’s Expenses

The ‘official’ details of MP’s expenses was published in the last hour. Brighton and Hove’ representatives are shown to have been amongst the most reasonable claimants, none seeking to maximise claims just because it was in the rules.

David Lepper and Des Turner claimed around just half of what others did for staying away from home, and Celia Barlow claimed nothing at all.

All three claimed towards the upper end for office costs and staff. That is something that the public should accept given that all three are diligent and hard working local MP’s. We are lucky to have all three.

The Greens will never be a national force

In recent postings I have advocated voting Green in Brighton Pavilion at the general election, both as a positive vote and as a way of keeping out the Tories.

I am not a Green and Labour Party friends have been critical of my advocacy for tactical Green voting in the Goldsmit by-election. Let me explain my attitude towards the Greens.

Caroline Lucas is an impressive leader and a very credible candidate. Her honesty and candour contrasts very positively to the well drilled, spin machine of Labour.

Her weakness as a candidate in Brighton Pavilion is her poor record as a local campaigner. When compared to the current MP, David Lepper, who has been a community activist for over 30 years, Lucas comes over as remote and lacking local knowledge. She would struggle to make small talk with fellow passengers on the number 46 bus, if she was ever to catch it.

Being the leader of the Greens and an MEP will not help her overcome this deficit.

The Greens themselves, under Lucas’s leadership, have become a more credible electoral force. There are fewer eccentrics in their ranks and they have some very impressive Brighton and Hove Councillors including Bill Randall and Sven Rufus.

Ultimately, though, the Greens will remain a fringe party, incapable of making the breakthrough achieved in Germany and France because they are not of the left, nor do they present a coherent economic position.

Lucas as an MP will stir things up, but the Greens will never be a meaningful national political force.

Labour has lost the plot in Brighton: vote Green

The Green Party has claimed it could win Brighton Pavilion at the next general election after it secured more votes in Brighton and Hove in the European elections than any other party.

It used to be said that voting Green would let the Tories in. Now, with the Greens on 33.7%, the Conservatives on 23.7% and Labour on 15.6%, it can be argued that voting Labour could let the Conservatives in.

In Caroline Lucas, the Greens have a very impressive party leader. Her weakness is that she doesn’t seem to have much presence on the ground in Brighton. This is a sign of arrogance and could deny the Greens its first ever MP in Britain.

With David Lepper standing down at the general election, Labour loses its greatest asset in Brighton. David has been a diligent MP who has built up a huge personal vote, and he is respected by people of all political persuasions.

Labour’s unimpressive performance on the City Council, and the lacklustre campaigns of its two Parliamentary candidates, suggests that those on the centre-left should support Caroline Lucas in becoming the next MP for Brighton Pavilion, in spite of her shortcomings.