Speculation is rife regarding Labour’s new candidate in St Peters and North Laine

There seems to be a great deal of interest in who the new Labour candidate in St Peters and North Laine might be. The general consensus is that the candidate is female. (I think I may have intimated that already).

The speculation includes former leader of the Council, Lynette Gwyn-Jones who represented the old St Peters ward in the early 1990s. Is she from a family dynasty locally. Her former husband is the former Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown, Des Turner. Interesting.

Someone has suggested Tom French’s mother (whose name I don’t know). She lives in the ward and is an active Labour Party member. But can a one-off by-election candidate qualify the family as a dynasty?

Claire Calder has been suggested by Dani (who often has her pulse on events) and another (Farris Hifch – very funny). Both Claire’s parents, Jean Calder and Andy Winter, were Labour councillors in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This heritage has more credibility than, say, the French family, but they are hardly in the class of Theobald, Firch or Les Hamilton.

Luke Walter suggests someone from the Forrester Clan. Delia Forrester was part of the Queens Park Mafia that was so soundly defeated by the Greens four years ago. Tom Forrester was a Labour councillor in Hanover before defecting to the SDP in the early 1980s. Is Delia making a comeback? Or is another generation of Forrester about to grace us with their candidature?

Harris Fitch, a fourth generation Labour activist and future councillor) has written of the prospective candidate: “The person is a dear friend of mine, they are extremely capable and will make a great candidate and councillor! I don’t know when it’s being planned to be announced but you certainly have it right that the Greens will be worried!”

I suspect that an announcement will be made tomorrow or Saturday.

The campaign in Queens Park is getting lively and turning nasty!

Labour’s Tom French alleges that Green Queens Park councillor Ben Duncan was “slated by member of public for not attending 6 Police Authority meetings”.  Really?  The public no less.  Everyone of them?  Tom French then says that the Tories  “refuse to protect local bus services in Queen’s Park”.  The infamous, number 81 no less, the one with ‘Brian Fitch’ on the front.  He calls on another Green councillor, Jason Kitcat, to support the campaign to save the number 81.  Councillor Kitcat replies “if valued bus services are being actually cut then I’d be very very worried. But no firm signs of that yet”.  Then councillor Kitcat says “AFAIK”. What could he possibly mean?

The Queens Park campaign is likely to be one of the liveliest in the city.  The three Labour candidates, media-savvy Tom French, local community activist-extraordinaire Chris Cooke, and the other one (the lovely Dan Chapman) are hard workers, part of the new breed of Labour activists who lack electoral experience (which is a good thing given the tired out hacks on the council radiate doom and defeat). 

But up against them is the Green Dream Team, sitting councillor Ben Duncan (who cares if he misses the occasional meeting – focus on your own campaign, Tom French.  Attacking a popular and hardworking councillor like Ben Duncan makes you look shallow).  Steph Powell, a youth worker, is energetic and personable, and offers an alternative to voters because it is rumoured she is not a gay man!  Again it is rumoured that Labour tried to recruit her as recently as November.  Geoffrey Bowden, the Sussex Square, matches Tom French in his use of new media.  He is a communications consultant, no less. 

Queens Park was the outstanding result last time for the Greens.  Ben Duncan, the very popular Rachel Fryer and the much respected Paul Steedman ousted Labour’s leadership on the Council, Simon Burgess, Ken Bodfish and Delia Forrester.  Ben beat Delia by a mere 15 votes, but it would be wrong to think that a small swing to Labour nationally will even things up and allow Labour back in.  Rachel, Paul and Ben have consolidated the Greens position and the Greens could be on the verge of being the natural party to represent Queens Park.

But one shouldn’t forget Chris Cooke who has been everywhere in Queens Park over the last few years, with a profile as high as that of an active councillor.  We could get a split decision here.  My prediction is that Queens Park will return 3 Greens or 2 Greens and one Labour councillor.  No wonder it is a lively battle, and no wonder it is getting dirty!

Labour in Brighton: no vision, little leadership, few prospects for success in May

Ed Miliband was in Hove yesterday.  It is said that his secret appearance before a carefully invited group of ‘local residents’ was part of Labour’s campaign for this May’s local elections.  He is touring the country in a series of events aimed at understanding what voters want as part of a comprehensive policy review.

At the meeting he said that he understood that people felt that Labour hadn’t represented the needs of people in the last stages of the Labour government.  Actually, Mr Miliband, it was more than that.  It was Iraq, tuition fees, Labour’s unethical foreign policy, the third runway at Heathrow, to mention just a few.  All Ed Miliband is offering is a poor impression of a Labour Leader.  He is doing quite well at Prime Minister’s Questions, but he needs to offer a vision.

And the problem for Labour in Brighton and Hove is just the same.  Labour ended as a very unpopular administration, and saw the decapitation of its leadership at the last local elections (Simon Burgess, Ken Bodfish, Sue John, Delia Forrester).  Moving into the vacuum was Gill Mitchell, very pleasant but hardly dynamic.  Against Labour is a confident, ambitious Green Party to whom Labour has haemorrhaged support.  And in Mary Mears, the Conservatives have a confident, working class leader who is more able to connect with ordinary people that anyone Labour can field.

Since the late 1980’s, and from 1997 in particular, Labour had become the ruling party in the City, controlling the Council and with all three Members of Parliament.  Today they are nowhere, no MP’s, little leadership, fewer prospects.

Where is Labour’s vision for the City?  What is the Party putting forward to inspire the electorate and to regain those votes lost to the Greens?  The best Labour activists come up with is to attack the Greens.  Continue to do that and Labour deserves to experience more pain in the polls in May.