In praise of Charlotte Vere ….. and Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas and David Lepper and Desmond Turner!

There’s been a great debate going on in the comments section following earlier blogs regarding election expenses.  The debate largely involves Green and Labour supporters / activists.

A recent comment reflected that many people don’t want either a Labour or a Conservative government.  We are either going to get one of them or we will have a hung parliament.  This blog has longed hoped for a hung parliament and has advocated tactical voting to achieve this.  But there seems to be such bad blood developing in Brighton Pavilion between Labour and Green supporters that my worst fears might be realised -that the anti-Tory vote will be split allowing a Conservative victory.

I have, for many months, been positive about the three candidates, Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Vere.  All three have impressed me, and even though I don’t like her politics, that she is a Tory, and that she has based her campaign largely on attacks against Caroline Lucas, I have grown to like Charlotte Vere and believe that she would make a good constituency MP if elected. But I hope she will not win, at least not for Brighton Pavilion.  I hope that in future she will stand in a safe Conservative seat.

My dilemna has been who to support between Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas.  Both are hard working, both are impressive women, both would make excellent constituency MPs, and both are politicians of the left.   Some months back I called for tactical voting for the Greens as I believed then that the Greens had the best chance of beating the Tories.  That view has changed slightly.  No longer do I see a Green vote in Brighton Pavilion as a ‘negative’ “Keep the Tories Out” vote, but it is now a positive vote for a positive change.  Brighton Pavilion can help make history by electing the first Green MP.  This will provide a platform in domestic politics for the Greens who could yet become a significant force in UK politics, if not in the election after this one, but the one after that.

I would love to see Nancy Platts in parliament, and I believe that she will make it, but this is not her election.  She has the misfortune to be up against Caroline Lucas in a year where Labour will struggle. In another year, in another constituency, she would be the standout candidate.  I wish her well.

As for Caroline Lucas and the Greens.  Her victory will not be a one parliament wonder.  She will nurture the seat and the Greens ongoing success in Brighton and Hove will see the possibility of her being joined in the House by at least one other local Green MP in due course.

Parliament was formally disolved at 11.41am today, meaning that David Lepper and Desmond Turner are no longer Members of Parliament.  Both have given great service to the City since being elected in 1997, and before that as Brighton and East Sussex councillors.  The City should honour them for their service.

Labour Conference: Welcome to Brighton

The Labour Party Conference arrives in Brighton this weekend.  Welcome to all delegates. I hope you enjoy your stay in the City and have a Conference that is a spring-board to success in next year’s General Election.

Unfortunately, I fear that certain leading Members of Parlaiment, will use the next week to position themselves for the leadership campaign that they believe will follow after the election defeat.  Whoever is Leader following the next election, they can learn a great deal from the experience of Labour in Brighton.

In the 1980’s led by David Lepper (now MP for Brighton Pavilion) and Steve (now Lord) Bassam, strengthen by a dynamic and active local Party of 2,000+ members (of left and right), the Party won control of the old Brighton Council. Kinnock’s witch-hunt did for all that and Labour has been in decline ever since. What success it has had has been down to the strengths of individuals (Lepper and Des Turner) as well as the anti-Tory tide that swept New Labour into power in 1997.

But Labour as an administration was a disaster, losing touch with ordinary people, resulting in the Tories regaining control of the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove several years ago.  Any any residual activism, radicalism and enthusiasm rests almost exclusively with the Greens who now match Labour on the City Council and who are heading for a comfortable second place (behind the Tories) at the General Election in Brighton Pavilion.

The Greens might win if it was not for an exceptional Labour candidate, Nancy Platts, who will retain sufficient support for Labour and for herself (in spite of being Labour), to split the anti-Tory vote.  The Green candidate, Caroline Lucas, doesn’t quite have it (or at least she isn’t showing it) to become a successful constuituency candidate to win sufficient votes from the impressive Nancy.

Labour cannot hold Brighton Kemptown which will go Conservative with the Greens running Labour close but still ending in 3rd place.  Labour’s candidate, Simon Burgess, is a decent man but lacks imagination and is running a completely uninspiring, almost invisible, campaign.  He is better suited as someone working behind the scenes in support of a more dynamic candidate. He led Labour to defeat at local elections, losing his (previously safe) seat to the Greens including his Green opponent in Kemptown, Ben Duncan.  (The problem for the Greens is that they struggle to be seen beyond Brighton’s muesli-belt of town-centre wards).

Labour lacks the activist base that personified the local Party in the 1980s. No matter how hard Nancy Platts works, she does not have the support required to mount a sussessful campaign.

If Labour is to win, it needs to offer something to inspire voters.  Competing with the Lib Dems and the Tories on cuts won’t work. Labour has been the architect of its own demise – banking out the banks and bankers, fighting two wars, losing its activist base. There is time, just, to turn things around.  If a radical alternative is not put forward by Gordon Brown on Tuesday, we might as well begin planning and organising for the general elction that is likely to take place in May 2014.

Tactical Voting Campaign: Brighton Kemptown

With Des Turner standing down at the General Election, Simon Burgess, former leader of the City Council, is hoping to succeed him as just the third ever Labour MP for this seat. Simon had a huge set-back when defeated in the last local elections by, amongst others, the Green parliamentry candidate, Ben Duncan.

The Tory candidate, Simon Kirby, has a background in local government but failed to make any real impact. He has extensive business interests but lacks the flair necessary to run an interesting campaign.

The Lib Dem candidate is, allegedly, Juliet Williamson, a complete unknown who has failed to increase her profile since being selection. Her challenge will be to retain her deposit and avoid being beaten into 4th place by UKIP.

So the challenge for non-Conservatives is to decide between Simon Burgess and Ben Duncan.

Simon is probably the more popular and better known of the two, highly thought of by Labour and non-Labour alike, having been effective as a concensus builder. Simon is very much a party man, a hard working organisaer and communicator. But as a loyal servant of the party he can lack the independence to offset some of the negative aspects of being a Labour candidate in 2010.

Ben is the more political of the two, able to articulate clear political views and able to campaign on local issues. Ben has the advantage of not being Labour, but may struggle as the Green’s commit all their resources into Brighton Pavilion. His other weakness is his limited appeal beyong the muesli-belt of south west Kemptown.  Simon,on the other hand is known and respected well beyond Queens Park ward, not least in Whitehawk, Saltdean, Moulsecoomb and similar areas.

It is on the basis of Smon’s wider support base that this blog is urging non-Conservatives to vote Labour and Simon Burgess at the general election.

The 2005 general election result:

Conservative: 13121 (33%)
Labour: 15858 (39.9%)
Liberal Democrat: 6560 (16.5%)
Green: 2800 (7%)
UKIP: 758 (1.9%)
Other: 622 (1.6%)
Majority: 2737 (6.9%)

MP’s Expenses

The ‘official’ details of MP’s expenses was published in the last hour. Brighton and Hove’ representatives are shown to have been amongst the most reasonable claimants, none seeking to maximise claims just because it was in the rules.

David Lepper and Des Turner claimed around just half of what others did for staying away from home, and Celia Barlow claimed nothing at all.

All three claimed towards the upper end for office costs and staff. That is something that the public should accept given that all three are diligent and hard working local MP’s. We are lucky to have all three.