Doorstep Brighton 3: Is the Tory vote collapsing in Rottingdean Coastal?

Almost a good item in today’s Argus for three Labour candidates in three key marginal seats.  Pictured handing over a petition on school sports to Sally Gunnell are candidates councillor Jeane Lepper (Hollingdean and Stanmer), Tom French (Queen’s Park) and councillor Melanie Davis (Goldsmid).  Melanie gets a good quote but Jeane and Tom are not mentioned.  That’s why it was almost a good story.

Feisty Rachel Bates, the Sarah Palin of Brighton and Hove politics, says that I am wrong to suggest that she is merely a paper candidate. She writes: “It is true that I work for Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade, but this certainly does not mean that I will be in any way neglecting Hollingdean & Stanmer. I have been putting all of my effort in to becoming a councillor in that ward.  I am extremely dedicated to fighting for what I believe is right for the people of Hollingdean & Stanmer. Myself and my fellow Conservative candidates are 100% dedicated to the ward. I have been actively campaigning there long before I was selected as a candidate.  The campaign has been going fantastically, and I certainly do believe that the Conservative message is hitting home in H&S. I for one believe that it is not a lost cause for the Conservatives and look forward to seeing three Conservative councillors in H&S on 5th May.”

Come on, Rachel, get serious.  There is as much chance of a Tory winning H&S as there is of the Tories losing Rottingdean Coastal.  And while on the subject of Rottingdean Central, Christopher Hawtree says that the Tory vote in Ovingdean “has collapsed” with an influx of residents from the Five Ways area of Brighton.  Even if 200 households have moved, and each has 2 voters, and even if all of them vote Green, and if each one has replaced a Tory, the the Tory majority is likely to drop from 2,200 to a mere 2,000.  There’s everything to play for in Rottingdean Central!

Luke Walter seems to have taken exception to me describing himself as the Labour candidate in Hollingdean and Stanmer.  Apologies, he is one of the Green candidates.

But the big news, and probably the most significant of the week so far, is the decision of councillor David Watkins in Brunswick and Adelaide to leave the Lib Dem group and to sit as an independent.  Councillor Paul Elgood, leader of the Lib Dem group on the Council, should experience little opposition from within his group since he is now the only member of his Lib Dem group. Having lost 50% of their members in one go, will the other 50% be lost at th elections? One can but live in hope.

Political Awards 2010: Politician of the Year Part 1

This award has five nominees, one for the three main parties in Brighton and Hove (Conservative, Labour and Green) and one for two of the fringe parties locally (Lib Dem and UKIP). 

The nominee for the Conservative Party is a politician that has established himself and consolidated his position in a relatively short period of time.  Mike Weatherley is the MP for Hove, elected in May with a majority of 1,868 over the sitting Labour MP, Celia Barlow.  This was a good showing by Celia and the narrowness of Weatherley’s majority should not lead to the conclusion that this will be a marginal next time.  Weatherley has quickly established a reputation as a hard-working constituency MP.  He goes about his business with diligence and little fanfare, but he is making it count where it matters – the careful nurturing of communities of interest.  He is following in the tradition of other effective local MP’s such as David Lepper, Des Turner and Andrew Bowden. Weatherley understands that an MP who neglects his core support will struggle to retain the seat in a bad year.  Weatherley is a formidable politician, likely to stick around for many years to come.  Hove is set to become, once again, a safe Tory seat.  This is why Mike Weatherley is the Conservative Politician of the Year.

Paul Perrin of UKIP is not my kind of politician.  For one, he is a member of UKIP.  I am on record as saying I would prefer to stick pins in my eye than vote UKIP.  But Perrin has a slightly obsessive characteristic needed to make a mark on behalf of a party that is going nowhere.  Without the likes of Perrin, it would go somewhere – to deeper, if not permanent obscurity. Perrin blogs and Tweets with great enthusiasm.  He is the only local UKIP activist who I can name, probably because he is the only UKIP activist locally.  But his single-minded determination to fly the UKIP banner in Brighton and Hove means that he is the UKIP Politician of the Year.

Finding a Lib Dem to nominate as Politician of the Year has proven to be a challenge.  There was a temptation to nominate David Watkins simply because he has been deselected by the Lib Dems, not for breaking pledges and promises (that gets you promoted in Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems), but for being basically a decent sort. But the Lib Dem who stood out for me over the last year is its candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Juliet Williams. At one hustings in Brighton Pavilion, she substituted for that constituency’s candidate on the panel. Juliet gave a barnstorming performance, completely on top of her brief, passionate, with grace and humour.  With candidates like her (not forgetting some backbone and principles) the Lib Dems could avoid being trounced at all elections for the next 5 years.  Juliet Williams is the Lib Dem Politician of the Year.

Tomorrow, Labour and the Greens.

Political Awards 2010: Brighton and Hove Councillor of the Year

Forgive me that nominees for this award come from Brighton and Hove alone. There are others who could be included in this, such as Jeremy Birch, Leader of Hastings Borough Council, for seizing control from the Tories in May on the same day as there was a massive swing against Labour throughout the country. 

The nominees are:

Mary Mears (Conservative) for her single-minded determination to restructure the City Council in a way that could yet defy the wishes of the electorate should the Tories lose control this coming May.  By bringing in a new Chief Executive and senior tier of officers, she has embedded her political views at the highest level.  You may disagree with her on many issues, but she is underestimated at your peril.

Bill Randall (Green) for providing the only opposition on the Council.  As Convenor of the Green Group he argues clearly and consistently against the Tories, something that Labour has massively failed to do.  The Greens have momentum going into the local elections, and will do well thanks to Bill.

Jason Kitcat (Green) for being a campaigning, high profile back-bencher, getting right up the noses of the Tories, raising issues on behalf of his Regency Ward constituents, and becoming a colourful, controversial councillor.  He is the sort of councillor we all deserve yet few of us have.

There are no Labour councillors to nominate since they have, as a group, excelled themselves by being so unremarkable and unimpressive.  As for the Lib Dems, they feature in a category of their own – ‘Bust Up in a Telephone Box Award’ .  That award goes jointly to Councillors David Elgood and Paul Watkins who can be seen on a clear day warmly shaking each other by the throat.

And the winner is … Jason Kitcat.  Jason follows a long line of hard working, or controversial, or colourful councillors in Regency Ward, from Alf Feld (a millionaire Tory hotelier), Chris Giles (a Tory money-lender), and the late and much missed Nimrod Charles Baden Ping (with a name like that he makes the name Kitcat look bland).  Expect Jason to win by a landslide in May.

Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats having a bust-up in a telephone box

What on earth is happening to the local Liberal Democrats?  They have deselect David Watkins, one of just two councillors they have on the City Council.  It is not that the Lib Dems are top of the popularity stakes just now and can afford to dispense with the service of David who is well liked and respected in Brunswick and Adelaide.

The other Lib Dem councillor, Paul Elgood, seems to be doing everything possible to attack Labour.  Could it be that he is looking to jump ship in order to join the Tories while David is looking towards Labour?  In the Argus on Tuesday, Elgood praises the Coalition Government for plans to improve post offices.  Funny, he makes no mention of proposed cuts across the public sector.  In his blog he praises Mark Collins, the Liberal Democrat Candidate for Central Hove ward in next May’s city elections, who “has re-affirmed our commitment to oppose any increase in the tuition fees”.  This leaves me a bit confused.  Does Cllr Elgood not know that his Leader, Nick Clegg, is justifying an increase in tuition fees as “progressive”?  Is he not aware that public anger is focused well and truly at the Lib Dems for betraying the commitment to vote against any increase in tuition fees?

Roll on May 2011.  It will be “farewell, Liberal Democrats in Brighton and Hove” (and in many places across the country).

Jason Kitcat – total vindication as he is cleared in Council witchhunt

“A victory for openness and democracy” claimed Green councillor Jason Kitcat as the case against him was thrown out by a Tribunal set up to hear the case.  Brighton and Hove City Council is said to have spend “thousands” bringing the case, at a time when they are planning millions of Pounds of cuts.

Those councillors who made the initial allegation against Jason (that would be Tory councillor Ted Kemble, supported by Council Leader Mary Mears and Deputy Leader Brian Oxley) and those who sat on the panel (Labour councillor Jeane Lepper and Lib Dem councillor David Watkins) should hang their heads in shame.

Better still, their involvement in this shameful episode, should be made an electoral issue next May.

Not only is there wide support for Jason Kitcat, condemnation of the action taken against him, not least the squandering of public funds for what some may feel has been party political ends, has come from Tory government ministers Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps.

So a great result for Jason Kitcat and for democracy.  Councillors should not have undemocratic power to deny political representation to voters, particularly when that representation is provided by those councillors’ political opponents.

So, is the end of the affair.  I hope not.  There must be full disclosure regarding the waste of public funds.  I would also suggest those who took action against Jason Kitcat should consider their suitability to hold specific office within the Council.

Don’t let Lib Dems defect to Labour or the Greens

What would you do if you were a Lib Dem councillor in Brighton and Hove?  Faced with a backlash against that party in next May’s local elections, do you rely on your personal vote to see you home even though the tide is very much against your party?

At the last locals, Joyce Edmond-Smith, a long-standing and highly respected Labour councillor in Hanover and Elm Grove, faced the Greens who had momentum on their side.  Joyce was Labour’s foremost green activist, with a better environmental record than many Greens.  She enjoyed a large personal vote, well-deserved and hard-earned over many years, but it wasn’t enough to save her and she was beaten by 624 votes.

David Watkins and Paul Elgood bear no comparison to Joyce when it comes to a personal vote.  Brunswick and Adelaide has a highly transient population and turnout is traditionally low.  Last time turnover was below 28%.  Being a Lib Dem councillor can’t be much fun at the moment.

So what do you do? I think that there is a chance that they will either not stand again so to avoid being beaten, or they may cross the floor and join either Labour or the Greens.  Their applications should be rejected.  If they really find the ConDem coalition distasteful, they should have taken a principled stand at the time.  Any defection now will be opportunistic and self-serving.

Brunswick & Adelaide (Brighton & Hove) – vote tactically for the Greens in May 2011

This is the first of several posts that will look at the each of the wards in Brighton and Hove in preparation for next May’s local election. There will be recommendations for tactical voting, but you can be assured that there will b no recommendation for an anti-Tory tactical vote for the Lib Dems.

Brunswick and Adelaide is the only Lib Dem seat on the Council. The two ward councillors, Paul Elgood and David Watkins, are active councillors in the best Liberal tradition, but the damage caused to all Lib Dems by the ConDem coalition makes this a vulnerable seat.

In 2007, at the last local elections, the result the election of Elgood (942 votes) and Watkins (729).  The Greens were next with 482 and 431 votes, and then the Tories with 368 and 357.  Labour came a poor fourth with 284 and 265 votes.

There is no doubt that Brunswick and Adelaide will be a priority target for the Greens, and Labour supporters should cut their losses and back the Greens.  Should the Lib Dems lose the seat, they will disappear altogether in Brighton and Hove.