The Mears Master Plan: More reaction

Jason Kitcat is not a happy bunny.  He is unhappy about the BBC coverage of the announcement of the Tory budget: He writes on Twitter “Couldn’t BBC News even get a single opposition quote? Weak reporting”.  He is, of course, right on that. 

But of more importance is his reaction to the draft budget itself: “Cynical, irresponsible, gimmicky – take your pick!”. He describes the budget as “breathtaking. It slices HUGE chunks of budgets for children’s services and social care. Almost £5.5m from Children’s & Families services, about £6.1m from Adult Social Care as well as smaller but harmful cuts from planning, licensing and central services including, for example, health & safety support work. Additionally the Tories propose to spend £1.1m capital funds removing cycle lanes from Grand Avenue & The Drove. Yes, that’s right, removing cycle lanes. They also wish to borrow just over £4.5m to refurbish car parks.”

Interestingly, Jason says that “My colleague Bill Randall and I have asked to meet Labour councillors to discuss any joint amendments we might be able to agree on.”  This could be the first real test of whyether Labour and the Greens can work together.  Some how, it is something I doubt.  The anamosity between Labour and Green hacks runs deep, particularly amongst Labour activists and several councillors.  Some long standing Labour councillors still believe that it is their right to control the Council and have the City’s MPs, and they cannot stand these Green upstarts!  Come the first Friday of May, there will remain just a small rump of Labour councillors.  The Greens, I believe, are willing to work with Labour.  They, of course have everything to gain, nothing to lose.

How do others see Mary Mears’ ‘Master Plan’?  Dr Faust doesn’t think its will wash with the public: “I would have thought it likely that any proposed cut from the Council could be more than wiped out by a rise in the police precept – so people might see an overall rise anyway. However the move does present a challange to other parties – how much will they propose to raise Council Tax in order to save jobs and services? The reduction from the Tories just makes the gap larger, and a harder sell. Arguing for a 1% difference is far easier than a 10% one.”

‘Clive’  thinks that the council tax cut is the equivalent of an irresponsible giveaway budget – “it is the kind of behaviour that the coalitionistas are trying to pin on the last government, with very little basis in fact.  It only has to be hoped that enough people see through it – fortunately B&H voters are pretty clued up, in my experience. One percent is not much, either, and it won’t be enough if the opposition parties remember that the Tories are in power here (barely) and it is their seats (the winnable ones) that ought to be targeted.”

Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates) as you would expect, thinks the Tory plan is just grand: “I am indeed extremely pleased with the plans to reduce council tax. I join Rob Buckwell in saying that I hope that those in opposition don’t block this sensible plan which will help hard-working people to retain more of their own money.”

But ‘Steampunk’ disagrees with Grizzly and is united with Dan Wilson’s comment reported in my last post: “Dan exposes the cynicism of the 1% tax cut succinctly with the concrete example that for most ‘hard-working people’ this amounts to around £10 cash back per year (admittedly more for the better-off). To pretend that this is going to help families – or in more abstract terms help the local economy – when the reality is that you would be shutting services and making hundreds of people redundant is totally dishonest.”

More to follow …..

Doorstep Brighton 7: On Selections, De-Selections, Undecided Voters, and Trouncing the Lib Dems

In a recent post I confessed a lack of knowledge regarding the candidates in Preston Park Ward and the future of the three sitting councillors.  Dr Faust advises me that both Kevin Allen and Juliet McCaffrey are certainly standing again for Labour but he is not sure about the third candidate.  Mark Sheppard and James Asser both fill in the gap by advising that the third Labour candidate is Tim Lunnon.

Similarly, I am grateful to Luke Walter who reassures me that Amy Kennedy will be standing for re-election.  He says that the other candidates will be announced formally very shortly.

It does surprise me that in such a key seat as Preston Park the Greens did not select ages ago and announce their candidates last year.  It s not as if this election was announced at the eleventh hour.

On David Watkins deselection, Mark Collins, a leading Hove Lib Dem, writes that “Paul Elgood (and Brian Stone, for that matter) had nothing to do with David’s deselection. Candidates for the Lib Dems (as in other parties) are selected by an approval panel made up of ordinary members, Exec members and at least one person from Regional level. David’s approval was rejected by that panel. It was subsequently appealed to Region, who again rejected the appeal. Neither of these processes had anything to do with Cllr Elgood or Brian Stone. It was an unfortunate episode, because I liked David immensely, but the Ward requires someone who will go out and work with and for the community, not solely speak on its behalf. David’s deselection was purely of his own making, and that is the saddest part of the affair.”

Still in Brunswick and Adelaide, Michael Taggart reports that he bumped into Phelim MacCafferty, one of the Green candidates in the ward.  He describes Phelim as “a very nice young man”  Michael says that Phelim is confident of trouncing Paul Elgood and says the ‘doorstep’ has been pro Green.”

In the interest of balance (I must be having a weak moment) Mark Collins says that in the Lib Dem campaign in Central Hove “things are going steadily, but well. Last week and this week have been tough, the weather hasn’t really helped with encouraging people to open their doors. But those I met yesterday and the week before were positive and engaged. Most voters consider themselves undecided as the election is ‘miles away’.”

I don’t know Mark, or how experienced he is at electoral campaigning (I do sound patronising on occasions), but the hall marks are all there for a disastrous result. People may not be opening the door “because of the weather”, but to think that those voters who describe themselves as ‘undecided’ are very, very unlikely to vote for you.  They are either being polite, embarrassed, or don’t want you to know that they are (most likely) Tories.  Very, very few will genuinely be undecided.  When canvassing, I was always told by my olders and betters that you only describe someone as ‘undecided’ if they say they will be voting for you but you remain undecided that they will actually do so.

From Mark’s own account, we can assume that the Lib Dems are dead and buried in Central Hove.

A Doorstep Brighton report has come in from Woodingdean.  ‘David Weeble’ writes: “Unfortunately the election here in Woodingdean will result in neither excitement nor anyone (elected from the) Left”.  David may well be right, but Woodingdean (and its predecessor Warren Ward) has had a history of returning Labour councillors.  The most recent Labour councillor elected in Woodingdean was the hard-working and well-respected Joan Moorhouse.

James Asser reports on “another productive Saturday for the Regency Labour team” and that he is “very pleased with the amount of Labour support”.  At least Labour in Regency measures it support in terms of Labour supporters, unlike the Lib Dems in Central Hove who do so by measuring those who are undecided!

Doorstep Brighton 6: Official – no Estate Agents standing for the Tories in Goldsmid Ward … or is this denial really true?

Rob Buckwell, who I have met on several occasions and is a very nice, earnest young man, has the wisdom to say that “there are times when (the BPB’s) analysis is sadly incorrect. This is certainly the case with the Conservative campaign in Goldsmid.” 

He goes on with the usual guff that all candidates spout about working extremely hard to get their message out to the people of Goldsmid and reassures us that his party has far from given up on this ward.  He is hardly going to say we are a pathetic bunch of wasters with no hope of election. “On the contrary” he says “we are campaigning extremely hard to win all three seats in this crucial three way marginal. We passionately believe in our priorities for the ward and the city, and I look forward to the time Brighton & Hove has some of the lowest council tax in the country under a Conservative majority council.” 

Young Conservatives are becoming as bad as New Labour types with their on-massage line, with Tories it is looking forward to the time when “Brighton & Hove has some of the lowest council tax in the country”. 

Responding to a comment I made about the three Tory candidates resembling estate agents, he writes: “I can inform you that I am not an Estate Agent!”  But Rob fails to provide the assurance that neither of his fellow candidates are not estate agents either.  What does this omission tell us?

I am always pleased when some controversy surfaces about those wards with less prominence, and even more delighted when it becomes personal.  The shy and retiring ‘Dr Faust’ hesitated before making this comment given what he perceives as my general view of Green councillors, and my particular “affection for Amy Kennedy”.  In response to the headline that Green councillors take their responsibilities more seriously, have more weight of expectation upon them, and work harder (not my view, I hasten to add) he says that in Preston Park ward it “is certainly not the case”.  He says that it is his experience “that Amy rarely replies to issues raised, other than a ‘holding’ response, whereas the Labour members are more likely to.”

‘Steampunk’ jumps to the Good Lady’s defence.  He writes: “A Labour supporting work colleague from Preston Park recently told me that the two Labour councillors in her ward were pathetic (her words) but she found Amy very diligent.” 

I have previously been known to tease Amy by making made reference to her obsession with baking and her Stassi-style tabards (ok, she only wore it once) but I am happy to say that I have great respect and admiration for her as an unapologetic feminist.  I still think the speech she made in 2009, in which she introduced a successful motion calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to celebrate its leadership of women’s rights by adopting the Fawcett Charter, is worth watching (it can be found on You Tube).

My ‘spies’ in Preston Park ward tell me that Amy has been fantastic as a ward councillor, and several of them involved in the protracted campaign against the development of land alongside London Road station have been so impressed by her that at least two activists (both former Labour Party members) have joined the Green Party.

Preston Park remains one of the most interesting seats in the City, a key battleground between Labour (with two councillors – Kevin Allen and Juliet McCaffery) and the Greens.  Rumours have it that both Juliet and Amy will not be seeking re-election.  In both cases, a great shame.  Perhaps someone could let me know if this is actually the case, and who the candidates are for both Labour and the Greens.

‘Clive’ takes me to task by saying that I you never took up his point regarding David Watkins and Ann Giebeler who ended up as independents, and how little renegade independents seem to prosper. I agree, Clive.  I think it is a shame that there are so few independents elected at local level across the country.  Clive refers to the exception that was Jayne Bennett, but asks, “how renegade was she anyway?”.  Indeed. 

And here ends the latest Doorstep Brighton update – with no mention of Christopher Hawtree.  Oh, damn.  Ruined it …

What will the ‘Caroline Effect’ be in May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove?

I am in a state of shock.  Allie Cannell left a comment on my blog which I reproduce in full: “I agree with BPB”. I’m not used to such support! And I will return the compliment: I agree with Allie Cannell” when he says that the ‘Caroline Effect’ breaks the idea that voting Green is a wasted vote.  HP on the other hand is totally wrong when he/she says that Caroline Lucas has had no effect since “she shows up at parliament every day and effectively p*sses in the wind as she sits in a group of one, just 325 seats short of being able to do anything”.  It could be said that Labour MP’s are having the same effect as one Green MP, showing up at parliament every day and effectively p*sses in the wind as they sit in a group of 258, about 70 seats short of being able to do anything.

Dr Faust asks whether Labour and the Greens should actively work together with a view to sharing power?  I agree with HP’s comment about the desirability of this locally: “The Tory core is going to hold up okay but there are enough seats to be taken off them to get a more progressive group into power. If the Greens and Labour cannot work together to achieve this then all voters of a leftish pursuasion will have been sold short by both parties”.  I know it is wishful thinking, but it is worth thinking about.

The Caroline Effect will be a significant factor in May.  Voters will be less likely to fall for the Labour line of “Vote Labour or let the Tories in”.  That is a discredited line and those Labour candidates who allow it to be used deserve to be beaten.  The Caroline Effect continues to motivate and enthuse Green activists.  And supporters of other parties, Labour and Tories alike, are not immune either from the Caroline Effect.  But most of all, Lib Dem supporters are most likely to be swayed by the Caroline effect as they desert in droves.

Christopher Hawtree, the Champion of Rottingdean, sums up my feelings about May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove, that this is “very interesting times” with “many moves on the chess board”.

Labour more guilty than the Greens of misleading the voters of Brighton Pavilion

A feature of the campaign in Brighton Pavilion were the claims and counter claims by the Greens and Labour Party in their election material regarding whether a vote for the other would let the Tories in.  This ‘debate’ has continued since Friday morning.  For example, on this blog, Dr Faust has commented that “the Green argument – that Labour couldn’t beat the Tory – was bollocks as well, and I am certain that more people believed them than Labour. Why should only Labour and not the Greens lose credibility from using the same argument?”.

So I thought I would check out who has said what about the prospects of the other party and what we can conclude about their claims.  Any emphasis is by me.

As far back as the summer of 2009, in ‘the brighton paper’ put out on behalf of Nancy Platts, Labour said “Voting Green will mean a Tory MP for Brighton”.  Wrong.  In a later edition of ‘the brighton paper’ distributed during the campaign, Labour claimed that “a vote for the Greens or the Lib Dems here risks a Conservative government nationally”.  Had Labour won Brighton Pavilion, it would not have changed a thing nationally.  So wrong again.  In a leaflet distributed in the last week or so, in the context of previous results in Brighton Pavilion, Labour asserted that “Only Labour can stop the Conservatives”. Wrong again.  In a letter dated May 2010, Nancy writes “A Green vote will mean the Conservatives slip through the middle”. Wrong x 4.  In another direct mailing to voters, Nancy asks “Greens to come third again?”.  On this occasion she leaves it as a question.  That is acceptable but on page 2 of the letter, as a post script, she states, “A Green or LibDem vote risks letting the Conservatives in through the back door”.  This is still just on the right side, presenting it as a possibility rather than saying that it would.  In an eve of poll card, Labour  says “A vote for any Party will let the Conservatives in”. This is a fifth example of Labour misleading voters.

So how do the Greens compare? In the spring edition of ‘GreenLeaf’ the interpretation of the 2009 European elections “suggests the likelihood of a Green win in Brighton Pavilion”. In a leaflet during the campaign,  the Greens state that the “LibDems cannot win her” – correct – and that the ICM poll “showed Greens ahead, with Labour & LibDems trailing the Tories”. Again correct since they did not claim that Labour would come third.  In an eve of poll leaflet, the Greens claimed that “a vote for the Green Party really could lead to the first Green MP in Westminster”. Again, correct (even had the Greens just lost).  In another leaflet claimed that “the Green Party are favourites to win in Brighton Pavilion constituency”. Apart from poor grammar (Caroline, you should know it should have been “The Green Party is favourite to win …”), this was accurate since the bookies had the Greens as evens favourite to win.  Finally, in a further leaflet the Greens warn of Labour scare-mongering, but do state “Only a Green vote can keep the Tories out of Brighton Pavilion”.  Wrong.  This is the only example I have been able to find of a misleading statement from the Greens.

On balance, the Labour Party’s credibility will be damaged because of publishing consistently misleading and incorrect statements.  The Greens should not have made their categorical statement, but the Greens did keep the issue open. To answer Dr Faust’s question about Labour and the Greens losing credibility, Labour repeatedly misled the electorate, the Greens did so just once.  The Greens were more open in their statements, and the Greens ultimately …. won.

Having said that, it was generally a clean campaign, and both Caroline Lucas and Nancy Platts emerge with their reputations and integrity firmly intact.

Labour supporters would be well advised to follow the mature and measured leadership of Dan Wilson who has commented:  “No bitterness here. The Green campaign was well won and I offer my sincere congratulations to Caroline and the Green team. I think it’s also worth noting too that no bitterness is coming out of Nancy’s core campaign team or from Nancy herself. I strongly disassociate myself from any comments that don’t show grace in defeat. But yes, Labour in Brighton Pavilion has lots of reflection to do and plenty of decisions to make. Best done quietly, and in private, over the next few weeks and months, I think. Looking ahead to next May, we must crystallise our vision for Brighton, run bravura, positive campaigns and make sure we’re rooted firmly in our communities. Negative comments laced with bitterness don’t help us much. I’d say we’re down but not out. Not yet. And again, best wishes to Brighton’s new Green MP, Caroline Lucas”.

Next year in the local elections I hope we can avoid the ‘numbers game’.  The Green Party is in the ascendency, Labour has its work cut out to recover,  I hope both parties will put forward positive visions for Brighton and Hove and let the voters decide which vision they want.

To the Greens, stand aside in Kemptown and Hove; Labour, please stand aside in Pavilion

An interesting comment has been left by Dr Faust regarding voting options and tactical voting in Brighton Kemptown, Brighton Pavilion and Hove.  I thought it worthy of repeating:

“In Kemptown and Hove/Portslade this is very straightforward – if you don’t want a Tory MP then vote Labour. If you want a Green MP content yourself with working in Pavilion and trying to elect Caroline.”

“In Pavilion the picture is more unclear. Three parties can clearly still win – and despite the best efforts of all three, it is not clear who is trailing behind. Some Labour supporters will also be anxious to not have a Green MP given the effect this could have on the next Council elections.”

“If people vote for what they believe in then we will probably have two Tory and one Green MP in the city, a Tory government, and an end to speculation about PR for the forseeable future. If people vote tactically we can have two/three Labour and/or, possibly one Green MP – a minotity government, a real chance of reform, and another election shortly down the road at which a new voting system might apply.”

“I can’t see why any Green supporter would prefer the first option.”

Thanks, Dr Faust.  Where I disagree with you is that I am certain that the Greens lead in Brighton Pavilion.  What has disappointed me over the last few days is the hostility that has developed between Labour and Green supporters.

I would plead to both sides, lay off each other.  You both have progressive candidates, particularly in Brighton Pavilion.  To the Greens I would say, stand aside in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove. To Labour, I am sorry to have to ask you to stand aside in Brighton Pavilion.  We must not let what Dr Faust has warned about, that we might end up with three Tory MPs.  Rather, lets elect two Labour MPs and one Green MP.