Some of my favourite things about politics in Brighton and Hove

The Greens: Thank goodness we live in a city that has the variety of politics and an openness to new ideas that allows a party like the Greens to thrive and enjoy electoral success. As a tribal Labour loyalist who voted Labour in May, I can’t imagine how very boring politics would be if we were still locked in a two-party dog fight, year in, year out. The Greens are forcing Labour and the Tories to rethink their strategy and policies, and (who knows when) both the old parties may just one day change for the better!

Warren Morgan: Warren will hate to be included in this list but he represents the fighting spirit that remains in parts of the local Labour Party. I can rely on Warren to spill his Sugar Puffs each time I post my latest take on the Greens. For him, it is the Evil Princess and All Her Works (i.e. Caroline Lucas) that personifies everything that is wrong with Brighton politics. Without the likes of Warren, Labour’s decline would be almost terminal.

The Young Tories: Rob Buckwell, Michael Ireland, Mike MacFarlane, George Dore, Kerry Underhill, Robert Nemeth and the incomparable Momma Grizzly, Rachael Bates. The Tory Party needs ‘modernising’ but not in the Blair/Cameron sense (which are no more than a cover for the worst traditions of paternalistic old-fashion politics). This new breed of young Tories will help the Tories break with their past and will challenge Blue Labour, sometimes from the left. Momma Grizzly is an enigma: a right wing, anti-monarchist, pro-Palin, capitalist. Other than her anti-monarchist tendencies, she represents much of what I oppose, but at least she has a sense of humour and passion, but that could make her all the more dangerous.

Community Gardeners: These groups represent the free spirit of campaigning that has long existed in Brightn and Hove. They are bottom up campaigners that genuinely ‘shape place’ to use the jargon of the City Council. Co-operative and communal, they bring forward a model of how things can improve, without consultants and council officers.

Christopher Hawtree: Chris is the latest in a long line of characters that have graced and enriched the political scene in Brighton and Hove over many years: Dennis Hobden, Ruth Larkin, Doreen Radford (the lady who it is said wore a new hat at every Council meeting), Richard Stanton, Sheila Hall, etc. Christopher’s election sent greater shockwaves around senior officers of the Council more than any other result on the night. It is said his election sent shockwaves around the Green Party as well!

The Blogosphere and Twiteratti: My life was sad, lacking in focus, days passing into weeks and weeks into years. I am the shy, retiring type. But then I discovered a whole new world and made loads of new friends: The Ghost, Zombie, Doris Day (she never returns my calls), Baron Pepperpot, Momma Grizzly, Rosa’s Lovely Daughter, Dr Faust, etc. Social media has enriched the political world locally, although no party has yet worked out how to make the most of it. When one party fully utilises Twitter, they can expect to reap electoral success.

The future: I don’t mean the young Tories (see above) or even the impressive young activists in Labour (Harris Fitch, Clare Calder, etc.) or in the Greens (Luke Walter, Allie Cannell, Alex Phillips, etc.) but those who active in their early and mid teens, such as Pearl Ahrens. With committed young activists like her, we can take courage for the future health of the political process.

Celia Barlow’s candidature in Central Hove makes this seat a three way marginal

When David Miliband was defeated by his brother Ed for the Labour Leadership, he announced that he would be withdrawing from front-line politics. He did not mean he would be resigning his seat in the Commons, withdrawing to become an academic at an Oxford college, or joining the lucrative lecture circuit in the United States (he may well be doing so for all I know). No, he meant that he would no longer be on the front bench. This description of ‘front line politics’ shows just how arrogant he has become, that it was his birthright to be leader of the party of his choice.

Does David Miliband have any idea what the real front line is like – those candidates going from door to door in wet and windy February and March, hoping to persuade the electorate to support them or, more than likely, someone else in the local elections. This is the real front line. David Miliband, and Ed as well, see knocking on a few doors when making a whistle-stop tour to Brighton, Hull or Swindon, as a photo opportunity that might secure them a few votes in an upcoming leadership election.

Is it any wonder that Labour in government became so detached from ordinary people when they see the cosy gentleman’s club of the Westminster Bubble as ‘the front line’.

Why do I mention this now? I wish to pay tribute to the decision of Celia Barlow, the former Labour MP for Hove and Portslade, who is standing for election to Brighton and Hove City Council on May 5th in Central Hove. I say good luck to Celia. Many former MPs see local government well beneath them after the have scaled the lofty heights of Westminster. I do not include David Lepper or Des Turner in this criticism. Both had given a lifetime of service as local councillors and had they not been elected to Parliament they would probably be thinking about hanging up their canvassing cards and Council gowns (oh, those were the days) about now anyway.

Celia said: “Politics is in my blood. I have been a member of the Labour Party since I was 16 and even served as a parish councillor in my time. I do not think it’s that unusual. I know of people in Parliament who have gone back to being councillors”. The last one I can think of locally, Celia, was Dennis Hobden when he lost his Kemptown seat to Andrew Bowden in 1970. But Dennis was not, I am told, your usual politician. Nor, in this respect is Celia.

Celia has a huge mountain to climb, and again this is to her credit that she has chosen a tough seat to fight. The two Labour candidates came seventh and eighth in Central Hove behind the Conservatives, Lib Dems and the Greens. Celia’s candidature should boost Labour because of name recognition (which is second only to Mr Pickwick himself, Christopher Hawtree, rumoured to have made the ultimate sacrifice by switching from the safe Green target of Rottingdean Coastal to Central Hove). Celia can certainly beat the Lib Dems. Let’s face it, anyone can beat the Lib Dems these days, even Leo Artreides who polled just 19 votes at the general election in Brighton Pavilion. We could have a situation where there is a split result. I think that Jan Young will hold on. Andrew Wealls, a decent Conservative (most at local government are), may yet again be a Tory candidate fighting the wrong seat at the wrong election. He was beaten by the unstoppable Alex Phillips in the Goldsmid by-election a couple of years ago. The Greens will have hopes of making a breakthrough here, especially if the Lib Dem vote does collapse as spectacularly as the polls suggest. And then there is Celia.

I think that it will be a split result, Jan Young and either Celia or a Green. But the Greens better get their skates on and decide who will be their ‘lead’ candidate is to be in Central Hove.

The final word goes to Jan Young, and she pays a huge compliment to Celia: “Of all the wards in all the city she had to choose mine”. Perhaps, if Celia is successful, along with Jan, it could be the start of a very beautiful friendship ….

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.

Doorstep Brighton 11: Bullish Tories, Modest Greens and Declining Labour

Candidates of all parties are reporting that they are confident of victory in May.  If that is the case there will be 216 councillors elected in May!  Take Adam Campbell, one of the Conservative candidates for Brunswick and Adelaide ward reports that the “doorstep reaction so far has been extremely positive. The electorate would seem to be in the mood for change and to have councillors who work for a living rather than turning their councillorship into the business to pay the bills.  I and my co candidate Richard Latham look forward to what I am sure will be a hard contested election.”

East Brighton Conservative candidate, Peter Booth, is equally bullish: “So Mr (or maybe Ms) BPB, our campaign in East Brighton is ‘ill-fated’. Ill-fated usually translates to doomed! However much you may think that – we do not. I would rather describe our campaign as daring, plucky, hopeful and above all positive! We will not indulge in negative personal campaigning against other candidates (the current spat between labour and greens in Queens Park is unedifying and does nothing to boost the image of politicians with the electorate).
Our campaign is based around ‘a lot of small changes make a big difference’ and above all that is what we seek to be – local councillors dealing with local issues and of course actively participating in debate about the future of our City!  Yes – it may be David against Goliath in EB. Yes we are the underdogs – and YES we are fighting to win!”  (If nothing else, Peter, you run me close for the use of exclamation marks!!!!)

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke also comments on the campaign in East Brighton: “So East Brighton has seen some tory activity then..Booth to pip Turton to the post maybe..Greens become the oppositon and Labour ask for a coalition…be warned Stan Fitch and Dennis Hobden are here and not happy!”  On Hollingdean and Stanmer, he predicts that the Tories might edge a seat: “the tories are fighting hard in this ward making an unusal 3 way fight and to quote Caroline “Servalan” Lucas “we always look to the left of the spectrum for votes” you’ll squeeze each other not the tories if they get out their vote they’ll nick a seat…probably Rachael Bates.”  (Momma Grizzly is going to love that!).

The ‘Ghost of Nobby Clarke’ has predicted that Sven Rufus will get the most votes for the Greens in Hollingdean and Stanmer.  Sven himself responded: “As flattering as it is that people think I will get a larger share of the vote than other Green candidates, for whatever reason, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. The time we have spent out on the doorstep is showing very positive feedback for us here, and it’s got to be said that the degree to which Luke Walter and Christina Summers have got stuck in here, meeting loads of people, representing residents, asking questions at council, leading delegations at council, starting and running campaigns about resident concerns, tackling casework – well, it has left me feeling wholly inadequate as a candidate to be honest. It’s all bets off what order the three of us poll in. Comparisons between our performance as candidates and those of the existing councillors is also interesting and encouraging for us. Not getting complacent, but the canvassing response combined with the fact that we saw such strong support for the Greens here during the general election campaign is giving us confidence for a good result. Of course, the electorate will decide, and we will be content with whatever the outcome, knowing that we have done a good job and been honest with people throughout the campaign.”

Warren Morgan has confirmed something that I have been hinting at – that Labour is in such disaray that it hasn’t yet selected all its candiudates: “Our full candidate list will be out in the next couple of weeks once the last two selections are complete, obviously quite a few have been known for some time and have been campaigning for many months.”  This admission is shocking.  I cannot imagine Labour entering any previous local election campaign without its candidates being selected months, if not a year, ahead.  It demonstrates that the decline of Labour in Brighton and Hove continues, and strtengthens my belief that Labour will reach its lowest point on the Council for several generations.

And finally …. ‘HP’ believes that Goldsmid is a barometer seat and that the Tories are pulling out all the stops to get its team of Estate Agents elected: “It seems to me that a lot is being spent on securing Goldsmid for the Tories, but Goldsmid alone wont keep them in power. On the face of it, the most politically astute part of the budget appears to be the cut in residents parking permit prices – this is the one I read about and thought it was a clever move. But stop a a minute and think about where those residents schemes are. Most are in Brighton wards the tories could never hope to win, a few are in Hove wards they couldn’t possibly contrive to lose. Only in Goldsmid might it really impact on the way people vote and the outcome in that ward. Likewise, the criminal madness that is the plan to dig up the Hove cycle lanes. Though in Central Hove, I imagine the Tories think they will capture some votes from nearby Goldsmid (though God knows why anyone would think voting to remove cycle lanes that were put in 2 years ago – under their administration! – will win any votes). It seems a lot of effort is going into Goldsmid, and while Goldsmid is a useful barometer, it ceases to be useful if the voting there is skewed. likewise, its seats are useful, but I suspect the tories will be losing more seats elsewhere than the 2 they might make up (at best) in Goldsmid.”

Dave Hill, aka Peter Stringfellow (what?) and David Essex (huh?) is a rare character in today’s politics

The Daddy of the Left in Brighton and Hove has shown that he has lost nothing of his ability for self-promotion. If you were to ask the TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidate for Brighton Kemptown, Dave Hill, whethere his campaign was about policy or personalities, he would reply “policy”.

But look at this weekend’s Argus.  Front page – Dave Hill saying that he is being confused with Peter Stringfellow.  Photos of Mr Stringfellow appear alongside Mr Hill, sorry Professor Hill.  Dave, did someone really ask if you were PS or was it an inspired way of comanding the attention of the Argus in what is otherwise a completely dull campaign in Brighton Kemptown? 

But not content with this dubious comparison, Dave Hill says that as a younger man he used to be confused with David Essex.  What?  But fair play to him, on the inside of the Argus are more photos of Dave Hill, today and as a young man.

But what I did love was how the Argus presented Dave Hill as the main candidate, mentioning as an aside that the other candidates inclue Simon Burgess, etc.

What it does sho is the lack of ‘characters’ in politics today.  In the 1980s Dave Hill was forever creating stories, controversies and campaigns.  His equal was former councillor Brian Fitch.  More measured but equally effective was the late Dennis Hobden, and younger councillors like Steve (now Lord) Bassam, Richard Stanton and Andy Winter (who co-incidentally also appeared on the front page of the Argus today in a story about debt).

Now debt is an issue that Dave Hill could campaign on.