Are Labour and the Tories ‘doing politics’ better than the Greens

Momma Grizzly cares! Earlier this evening she left a message on this blog with the simple question: “Are you still alive, Baps?”

Indeed I am but from time to time I am not in a position to post. However, the last week has been interesting. Mike Weatherley has been active (well supported by Grizzly, Mike Ireland and Robert Nemeth). He has been trying to take the political initiative on anti-social behaviour, dilapidated ‘heritage’ signs in Hove, calling for the Olympic flame to come not just to Brighton but also to Hove, has called for the new Green Administration to “get tough on travellers, squatters and quasi-protesters who are vandalising parts of Brighton & Hove”, suggested greater courage in architectural issues, and called on people to give blood!

So why this activity? Well Mike has always been an active MP but he must see that the advance of the Greens into Hove as a threat to his re-election.

The Greens are not doing themselves many favours as they have fed Mr Weatherley issue after issue – protest camp in the Old Steine, invitation to demonstrators, etc. The latest is the call by Caroline Lucas to decriminalise drugs could yet be spun by Mike, although I suspect he is not a million miles away from Ms Lucas on this issue. But it is an issue that does not play well with the public.

The Greens need to ensure that they maintain the initiative otherwise they will be bashed at every turn. But the transformation from opposition into an administration is not an easy one. New portfolios need to be taken on, briefs understood, and invitation after invitation to be responded to. Time to do politics is being squeezed.

But doing politics is what the Greens need to do. It is easy to be seduced by office. But the Greens have offered a new style of engagement – openness and engagement, but already here are murmerings that some Cabinet members have become remote and communication within the council are not easy, in spite of what the Greens wish to achieve.

Labour and Tory councillors are putting themselves around and are presenting themselves as accessible to the community. This is not difficult while in opposition. One or two councillors have undertaken some publicity-catching initiatives, such as Dawn Barnett who visited travellers in her ward to give them directions to sites in wards represented by Green councillors. Dee Simpson, too, has shown some populist campaigning with the launch of a petition.

There is scope for the Greens, particularly those not in the Cabinet, to maintain the populist touch. They need to be the match for the newly liberated Tory councillors and the long liberated Labourites. The Greens should allow their non-Cabinet colleagues to have freedom to raise issues, even those for which fellow Greens are responsible.

Reasons to be Cheerful … for 39 candidates in Thursday’s elections

‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads was released in July 1979, shortly after Margaret Thatcher had been elected Prime Minister. Cut, cut, and more cuts was the order of the day. On that occasions the Tories were able to make cuts to their hearts content. They didn’t have to rely on those disgraceful, turncoats, the Lib Dems, to help them. (I have gone for more than a week without a cheap comment about the Lib Dems – is this a record?).

But there are a number of people, 39 to be precise, who have reasons to be cheerful – those who I am confident will be elected (whatever the weather and their positions on the ballot papers). Some campaigns are too close to call, and in some wards I am only predicting one or two winners. The figures in brackets are the number of seatsup for election.

Brunswick & Adelaide (2) – too close to call

Central Hove (2) – too close to call

East Brighton (3) – a Labour 1, 2, 3: Gill Mitchell, Warren Morgan, Craig Turton

Goldsmid (3) – Melanie Davis, Alex Phillips (Labour, Green)

Hangleton & Knoll (3) – Dawn Barnett, Brian Fitch (Tory, Labour)

Hanover & Elm Grove (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Matt Follett, Bill Randall, Liz Wakefield

Hollingdean & Stanmer (3) – Jeane Lepper, Sven Rufus, Christina Summers (Labour, Green, Green)

Hove Park (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Jayne Bennett, Vanessa Brown

Moulsecoomb & Bevendean (3) – Maria Caulfield, Ayas Fallon-Khan (Tory, Tory)

North Portslade (2) – Bob Carden (Labour)

Patcham (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Brian Pidgeon, Carol Theobald, Geoffrey Theobald

Preston Park (3) – Amy Kennedy (Green)

Queen’s Park (3) – Ben Duncan (Green)

Regency (2) – a Green 1, 2: Ania Kitcat, Jason Kitcat

Rottingdean Coastal (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Lynda Hyde, Mary Mears, David Smith

South Portslade (2) – Les Hamilton (Labour)

St Peter’s & North Laine (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Ian Davey, Lizzie Deane, Pete West

Westbourne (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Denise Cobb, Brian Oxley

Wish (2) – too close to call

Withdean (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Robert Nemeth, Ann Norman, Ken Norman,

Woodingdean (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Dee Simpson, Geoff Wells

In summary, the above predictions will see elected 8 Labour councillors, 13 Green, and 18 Tories. That leaves 15 seats that are too close to call. Privately, just between me and you, my four regular readers, I predict 8 of these will go Green, 3 to the Tories, and 4 Labour. A hung council made up of 21 Greens, 21 Tories, and 12 Labour councillors. A nightmare scenario for many ….!

The divisions within the local political parties that provide such gold dust for this Blogger

Allie Cannell, one of the more astute political observers around, and the type of organiser that Labour would kill for, has asked one of the more sensible questions of late: “How do you have such good knowledge of all the campaigns in all the wards, BPB??? The political parties would pay a fortune to be as well informed about the opposition as you are.”

The simple response is that the political parties do have all the information themselves but a condition that effects many politicians is intrigue and division, and this leads to some handy tips coming my way.

On divisions, each of the four parties locally (and out of the kindness of my heart I still refer to the Lib Dems as a party rather than a joke with an appalling punch line), is divided to the core. Starting with the Lib Dems, they had two councillors and they managed to split right down the middle. That takes some doing. Imagine what it would be like if they had more activists to fill a phone box!

The Tories are split between the working class Kemptown Conservative Association and the ‘united’ Brighton Pavilion and Hove association. Could this be a bit of my enemy’s enemy is my friend. A uneasy truce exists within the local Tories, but just wait until the evening of 6th May when the knives will be out for Mary Mears, Dee Simpson and Maria Caulfield, especially if the Tories do badly. Payback time.

I heard that at a recent hustings organised by the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, the Tories were represented by Mary and The Bishop, (Brian Oxley) – Kemptown and Hove together. Mary is said to have responded to every single question while the The Bishop sat serenly by, in silent prayer, without muttering a word!

There are hidden divisions with the Greens, but they are well covered. Originally, the fault line was between those supporting Caroline Lucas for the nomination to fight Brighton Pavilion and those who wanted a local candidate (in the form of Keith Taylor). Dynamic though he may be, Keith is no match for Caroline. I really can’t see that Keith could have pulled off a sensational victory for the Greens last May! Similar divisions persist. Who will be the top two on the Green list for the next European elections. This dispute is simmering. I couldn’t possibly comment on this contest other than to say that women candidates are doing better than male candidates of late, and there are several excellent women Green activists locally.

Labour, traditionally the local party most divided against itself, has few divisions of late, so I am told. Yes, the East Brighton Polituro has taken over from the defeated Queens Park Mafia. So shell-shocked has the party been following two successive and devastating defeats at the polls, that people are pulling together. Yet there was no proper analysis and no changes following previous defeats. But following the third devastating defeat, the reality of which is scheduled to hit home mid afternoon on 6th May, Labour must take a long and hard look at itself.

So why is all of this relevant to Allie’s fascinating question? Politicians of all parties ‘speak’ to me, some directly (you can find me most evenings in the Neptune masquerading as Chris Hawtree), others by Twitter Direct Messaging (@BrightonPolitic) or by emailing me at brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com. My mobile number is 0765 3789 754 123 856 (ha ha ha, as the horse used to say in the John Smith Bitter advert).

I use only a fraction of what I am told. I struggle, believe it or not, to get much out of any Green activist other than Green Amy who sends me the occasional recipe for tasty cakes. The Greens are a disciplined bunch.

As I said above, the parties have all the information that I rely on since most (not all) of it comes from them. I remain just a humble scribe, with few friends and fewer prospects.

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.

Results in Brighton Kemptown that will have Nobby Clarke and Dennis Hobden spinning in their graves

This evening I take a look at the Council seats up for election in the Brighton Kemptown constituency. This is far less exciting than several of the seats in Brighton Pavilion.  The Conservatives will retain all three seats in Rottingdean Coastal.  Even with the Green Tide of Progress described by Luke Walter, where Green voters move from town centre wards such as Queens Park, Regency and St Peters & North Laine to outlying, the Greens (and Labour) will fail to win this seat by a country mile.

Neighbouring East Brighton will remain solid Labour.  Even in a bad year for Labour (and this is not one of them) East Brighton should remain Labour. With Warren Morgan, Gill Mitchell and Craig Turton, Labour has a strong and active team.

Woodingdean’s two seats will be retained by Conservatives Dee Simpson and Geoff Wells.  Dee is a hard-working champion of the ward while Geoff Wells is a likeable if somewhat ‘unconventional’ Mayor. 

That leaves Queens Park and Moulsecoomb & Bevendean.  Labour faces tough battles in both, in Queens Park from the Greens who hold all three seats, in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean from the Tories who will be seeking to increase their single seat (that of the highly respected Maria Caulfield).  Queens Park is probably too close to call at present, with an energetic campaign being run by the Labour team.  Chris Cooke is most likely to take a seat from the Greens, but the Green councillors (two of whom are standing down) have gained a huge reputation for hard work and community focus.  If I had to make a prediction (and you know how I shy away from saying anything definitive …. ) I would predict two Greens and one Labour councillors returned from Queens Park.  But then again, it could be three Greens, or perhaps two Labour and a Green, and there again it could be three Labour …  What an interesting contest!

But it is Moulsecoomb and Bevendean that will be a headline result in May.  I predict that the reputation of Maria Caulfield, one of the most popular ward councillors that I have ever observed, will bring through her two Tory running mates, seeing two gains for the Conservatives with Maria holding her seat with a substantial majority.  What a state of affairs for Labour!  Nobby Clarke and Dennis Hobden will be spinning in their graves (or in Dennis’ case, whatever afterlife he has moved on to!).

So, from Brighton Kemptown there will be 8 Conservatives, between 3 and 6 Labour councillors, and up to three Greens.