The division in the Tory ranks is deep and it is wide

When I was a member of the Boys Brigade, we used to sing a song that went “Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a fountain flowing deep and wide …”. We had hand actions to emphasise thewords, and the speed of the song increased with each verse.

Walking along a corridor in Kings House the other day, I came across a group of Tory councillors singing that song, complete with hand movements. But the words have been changed: “Deep and wide, deep and wide, the division’s so deep and wide …”.

The split in the Tory Party is, indeed, deep and wide. And no more so than in Hangleton and Knoll. Following the untimely death of councillor David Smart, it had been expected that Jo Heard, the daughter of the retiring councillor for Central Hove, Averill Older, would be his natural successor.

But no, one of the Young Turks, Michael Ireland, has been parachuted into the seat. This is a source of a lot of unhappiness in the local Conservative association. Several members are in open rebellion and Jo Heard has, herself, cut her losses with the Tories and is standing as an Independent.

Jo is very well known in the area, has campaigned for years on various issues and is a highly respected fundraiser (for the Alzheimer’s Society). She has routes in the Church, having been active in St Andrew’s Church in Hove. I assume that Bishop Brian (Oxley) is sympathetic to Jo, but party loyalties prevent him from speaking out.

Another of Jo’s claim to fame was having her photograph reproduced on the side of a bus, dressed in a blue dress (appropriate for a Tory) and her arms spread wide “Deep and wide, deep and wide, etc etc”. Believe it or not, the bus was the number 5 to Hangleton, the very one that is about to be saved by Brian Fitch. What a tangled web we weave!

But what happened to that bus and Jo’s image. In June 2009 the bus was, sadly, repainted. And so, too, has Jo repainted her political allegiance. A Tory no more, she is standing as an independent.

Her entry into this election makes the outcome in Hangleton and Knoll most unpredictable. Dawn Barnett remains the favourite for re-election, but Tony Janio’s future is more uncertain. Michael Ireland is the Tory least likely to be elected. Brian Fitch, one of the most able and energetic campaigners inspite of approaching three score years and ten, can be counted on to make a very strong challenge. His cause is helped by Jo’s candidature. It is tough for an independent to be elected, but I would not rule Jo out altogether.

New Tory website claims that all its candidates are gay (not really)

The Brighton and Hove Conservatives have launched their new website, full of details about their candidates. The site is simple to navigate but a bit clunky when trying to see the different candidates in each ward. You can’t see all in one go and it takes two clicks to navigate from, for example, one Estate Agent in Goldsmid ward to another. But that said, it is a helpful site for those wanting to know who is standing where (and for a blogger wishing to have some sport).

The Tories have a number of bright young things standing in highly winnable seats, not least Michael Ireland who works for Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove, as his parliamentary researcher. Keep an eye on Michael, he is destined to go far. In my dealings with him I have found him to be incredibly personable and very bright. He has a big future ahead of him. His one misjudgement is to be a Conservative! Michael is standing in Hangleton and Knoll, hoping to succeed the late David Smart who passed away just before Christmas.

Standing with him in H&K is Dawn Barnett, certain to be re-elected, and Tony Janio, Hove’s own Bruce Willis. Bruce writes “My main fear is that a return of another Labour/Green Administration will bring an end to the improvements we have seen.” His ‘main fear’? Surely a more worrying fear is a nuclear accident along the Channel, a global financial meltdown, or Eric Pickles becoming prime minister. And for the record, “another Labour/Green Administration …”? I have looked back but don’t think we have ever had one ….. yet.

No details are given for the candidates in Hanover and Elm Grove. A sign that the Tories can field paper candidates throughout the city but are unable to put up a fight everywhere?

In Hollingdean and Stanmer we have Momma Grizzly herself, Rachael Bates, another of Mike Weatherley’s bright young things. She provides more information than just about any candidate, including “I enjoy going to rock and metal nights. I frequently go to the Pav Tav (usually for Guerilla Rocks) and to Belushi’s Below for Abandoned.” I have commented before that this is alien territory for this confused blogger, but I am waiting for Grizzly to offer to take me out her town to sample Guerilla Rocks which I assume is some sort of rhythm and beat combo.

Fellow candidate Rob Labs is “a preacher and co-founder of a faith group, the light house parish of the redeemed Christian Church of God, based in Brighton. I am passionate about strong family values.” I guess we won’t be seeing Rob at Pride, with or without a ticket, this year.

More tomorrow

The crucial votes of Paul Elgood and David Watkins in today’s Brighton and Hove Budget vote

‘Clive’ is right. He said that my comment yesterday, in respect of the Labour/Green Alternative Budget, that the Lib Dems were “floundering somewhere in the middle” is “just lazy. It a) ignores the political reality of the last ten years, pre May 2010 anyway, and b) ignores the important point that Paul Elgood’s vote is pretty crucial on this budget and the amendments, as is that of the former Lib Dem, David Watkins.” Fair points, all. Their votes are important, and yes, it was a sloppy comment by me. Usually I try to provide a better analysis, particularly in regard to the Lib Dems, as well as Labour, Greens and the Tories. (I trust I will be given some blogging licence when it comes to UKIP and the Estate Agents in the Tory Party!).

Today’s budget vote is fascinating. Of the 54 councillors, the Tories are down to 25 councillors following the untimely death of Hangleton and Knoll councillor David Smart, there are 13 Labour councillors, 13 Greens, one Lib Dem and one Independent (following David Watkins resignation of the Lib Dem whip), with one seat vacant.

Assuming that all 53 councillors are present, Labour and the Greens voting together would outvote the Tories if Elgood and Watkins abstain. If either votes with the Tories, and the other abstains, the Tory budget will be carried one the casting vote of the Tory mayor, Geoff Wells. What is most likely, though, is that one or both will vote with Labour and the Greens. I agree with Clive that it is most likely that Paul Elgood will vote for the Alternative Budget. To vote against would be political suicide. Paul has an uphill battle to retain his Brunswick and Adelaide seat. He hardly wants to be defeated AND become known as Hove’s Nick Clegg!

I understand that you can watch the Budget debate on the internet now that the public gallery has been cleared. Did you see me in the Public Gallery? …… I was the one with the red bow tie, glasses, scraggly hair wearing no more than a sheet and a smile!

Hangleton and Knoll – a real test for Labour but one it is likely to fail

Hangleton and Knoll epitomised Labour’s decline in 2007 when the Tories performed particularly well with the election of three councillors, Dawn Barnett (2,651 votes), Tony Janio (2,237) and David Smart (2,217).  What is more they saw off veteran Labour councillor, Brian Fitch, who polled 1,820 votes.

Next May, even if the Tories lump in the polls, the three sitting councillors are likely to hold on to their seats as they have proven to be hard-working ward councillors. 

This is a seat that Labour should reclaim if they are to return, once again, to be a force on the City Council.  All indications are, however, that Labour is in terminal decline in traditional working class areas such as Hangleton and Knoll.  Labour has lost the common touch which councillors Barnett, Janio and Smart have in abundance.

The chattering classes might mock the Magnificent Three but they know how to nurse a ward, and the election results are likely to provide yet another harsh lesson for Labour in Hangleton and Knoll.

The Greens are nowhere in this area, so the only choice for non-Conservative voters is a tactical vote for Labour.  With an excellent candidate, Labour may just oust David Smart, but Dawn Barnett and Tony Janio are safe as houses.