Chaun Wilson wins the East Brighton by-election for Labour

Congratulations to Chaun Wilson on her victory in today’s East Brighton by-election. Several weeks ago, on 21st September, I described Chaun simply as ‘The Winner’. I wrote: “East Brighton is Labour’s strongest stronghold, thanks to the work of sitting councillors Gill Mitchell and Warren Morgan, and that of the recently resigned Craig Turton. The chances of Labour losing this seat is about as great as someone finding Nick Clegg’s backbone.”

I was wrong. She didn’t just win. It was a landslide:

Carlie Goldsmith (Green Party) 456
Joe Miller (Conservative) 531
Chaun Wilson (Labour) 1,596

Turnout was 26%.

The result will be more than pleasing for Labour as it rebuilds towards 2015. A defeat would have been a disaster. The challenge for Labour is to seek to regain some of the ground lost in 2011 to the Greens and, as important, to make inroads in Tory seats, particularly areas like Hangleton and Knoll. The size of their landslide will give them heart and is a sign that Labour is returning to its former strength in Brighton.

The Greens had hoped for a second place finish so the result will have been disappointing but not particularly relevant as East Brighton does not feature large in their plans. Not much should be read into the Greens third place. Had it been a by-election in a seat in Brighton Pavilion it would have been more worrying, a set back for their hopes of strengthening their position on the Council in 2015. (I will be writing more soon about the prospects for Caroline Lucas in 2015 – my belief that her prospects for re-election will not be dependant on the success or otherwise of the Green Council. Even with the boundary changes, Ms Lucas will win).

The Conservatives put up a brave fight in spite of the hopelessness of their cause in East Brighton. Joe Miller was an ‘interesting’ choice but not one that was likely to cause an upset. He is a nice enough young man but it takes an extraordinary young person to be elected. And Joe Miller is no Alex Phillips.

So in East Brighton, normal service is resumed. Welcome to councillor Chaun Wilson, and I look forward to seeing her in action in the Council Chamber.

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East Brighton by-election candidates

The big beasts are lining up to contest the East Brighton by-election. First the Conservatives selected 18 year old Joe Miller, and now the Lib Dems have selected a relative veteran in Dominik Sokalski, a 20-year-old university student at Sussex University.

The Greens last nigh selected its candidate, Carlie Goldsmith, a fifth generation Brightonian who proudly grew up in Whitehawk, in the area, where she also brought up her own young family. She works as a criminologist specialising in youth crime and victimisation, community safety and the relationship between social inequalities and crime.

As yet, there is no news from UKIP, but in an attempt to cause a major upset, it might field the ever youthful, Paul Perrin who, rumour has it, is over 16 years old.

With the Lib Dems holding their conference in a telephone box on the sea front, and the Greens taking a daily pasting in the letters page of the Argus following their massive own-goal over Christina Summers, neither of these parties is likely to inconvenience the Returning Officer too much.

As for the Tories, they seem determined to insult even the police in this week of all weeks. One wonders how the two Posh Boys are being viewed by the Plebs of Whitehawk? (The one thing that amazes me about the Andrew Mitchell, with almost 80% of Telegraph readers thinking he should resign, is that he has survived this long).

And then there is the Labour candidate, Chaun Wilson, who we should refer to simply as ‘The Winner’. East Brighton is Labour’s strongest stronghold, thanks to the work of sitting councillors Gill Mitchell and Warren Morgan, and that of the recently resigned Craig Turton. The chances of Labour losing this seat is about as great as someone finding Nick Clegg’s backbone.

I look forward to seeing councillor Wilson in action. She will be a huge asset to Labour as it seeks to rebuild in time for the 2015 elections.

Tories select Phileas Fogg as its candidate in the East Brighton by-election

The Conservatives have been quick off the mark in the East Brighton by-election, having selected Joe Miller as its candidate. Known as @joeymick94 on Twitter, the Tories have gone young, very young, very very young. The 94 in his twitter handle does suggest that he was born in 1994. The Tories appear to have skipped not just one generation, but several generations of potential candidates.

An hour ago he announced on Twitter that he has been selected as the Tory candidate. He even posted this quite bizarre photograph which will no doubt come back to haunt him. It is probably a slightly worse photograph than that used by Caroline Penn when first selected for Labour. In that photograph it looked as though Caroline was posing in a poll dancing club, or what your humble blogger imagines a poll dancing club looks like. She hastily changed that photo but copies were made and if you ask very nicely I might just find an excuse to repost it.

So what chance does the Boy Joe have? About as much chance of him being able to buy a pint without proof of age. Perhaps the false moustache is intended to convey gravitas or perhaps he is simply a huge fan of Phileas Fogg.

Labour have short listed just two candidates, both of whom would make exceptionally good candidates and whoever is selected will be elected. Either Chaun Wilson or Tracey Hill will be an asset for Labour. Labour will announce tomorrow evening which one of these two women will be its candidate.

Labour’s prospects in Brighton Kemptown 2015

My dear readers (Grizzly, Warren, councillor Christopher and Doris), I apologise for my radio silence. Internet connectivity at my French country retreat leaves much to be desired. I have been catching up with the news and have discovered Brighton and Hove has a Green Council. What a turn up. I am grateful to those readers who expressed concern about my well being. GrapevineBandH asks: “Where are those enjoyable blogs lately? Are you unwell friend?” Momma Grizzly wrote: “Why so quiet on the blog, Baps? I’m missing out on B&H’s political goss!” while Alex Craven responded “No, please spare us of all that crypto-Green nonsense.” Bless.

My thoughts have turned to the next general election. The three Brighton and Hove membersof parliament will all be defending their seats. The two Conservative MP’s have interesting challenges.

But first of all a word about Norman Baker (Lib Dem, Lewes). Norman, you may recall, signed a pledge before the general election that he wold NOT vote for an increase in university tuition fees. So at the first opportunity to stand by this pledge, Stormin’ Norman does the exact opposite and votes FOR an increase in tuition fees. Norman can expect to be beaten at the next general election as the Lib Dems are wiped out across the country (as they were in the locals in Brighton and Hove). It will be a shame if the Lib Dem for Eastbourne, Stephen Lloyd was to lose. He is a man of integrity, who voted against an increase in tuition fees, and deserves to be re-elected.

As a result of Norman’s inability to keep his word, the Lib Dems lost out in the Lewes District council elections, and one of the beneficiaries was the Tory Party in those seats in Simon Kirby’s Brighton Kemptown constituency. If Labour and the Greens wish to challenge Simon Kirby in 2015, both will need to build support in Lewes District.

Those parts of Brighton Kemptown that fall within the boundary of the City Council, there are now 6 Labour councillors (up one), 5 Tories (down one) with the Greens static on three. Labour’s failure to win in Queens Park is a set back for Labour. The campaign run by Labour in Queens Park shows that a short term campaign focused largely around one very energetic candidate is not enough. The Greens had been building support over several years and that party was able to sustain support even with two councillors standing down. For Labour to recover in this area they need a good strategist (not the candidate!) and local residents buildig, building, building support. The East Brighton Three (Morgan, Mitchell and Turton) understand this – just follow @warrenmorgan on Twitter to gain a good understanding of what it takes.

In 2015 it is Labour that has the better chance of challenging the Conservatives in Brighton Kemptown. Labour would be wrong to follow the line it began promoting last year about an “invisible member of parliament”. Simon Kirby may not have the highest profile in Queens Park, but he is here, there and everywhere in Rottingdean Coastal and that part of his constituency that falls in Lewes district.

If the Greens want to challenge then it has a long way to go. Three Green councillors does not provide the platform needed but, should the Greens begin building in Lewes District (which it should do given the availability of former Lib Dem votes that are more likely to go Green than Labour), then the Greens could begin looking towards 2020 …

In future posts I will review prospects in the Brighton Pavilion and Hove constituencies.

Fall out from local elections continues

As you would expect, a very robust and coherent defence of Labour has been received from Warren Morgan in response to my post yesterday. Reglar readers will know that I am an admirer of Warren. He is a very able politician, and one who is able to organise well. However, before the election I repeatedly told him (when he was predicting greater success for Labour that materialised) that his views were influenced by the excellent organisation in East Brighton, something replicated in just a few wards elsewhere in Brighton and Hove. As the Greens have advanced, Labour has become more marginalised. ‘But we polled almost the same number of votes as the Green’s, I hear the Labour Deniers plea. But you didn’t win the seats. In the first year of a Tory-led government that is slashing public services across the board you should have been able to pick up more than a handful of seats from the Tories.

In fact Warren himself talks about how close it was: “Labour scored the same number of votes citywide as the Greens – a fact. It didn’t get those votes where they were needed to win the seats, admitted. Labour was 150 to 200 votes short of winning additional seats in seven wards. It didn’t, but had it done it it would have been the largest group, just. Labour finished a relatively close second in all three parliamentary seats in the city last year, and level with the winners in terms of votes this year. Labour’s vote went up in every ward, most by 350, some by 500, one by 700. That does not paint a picture of a Party in terminal decline.”

Warren does reveal something I have called for, that there will be a wide and open review of what went wrong: “Of course lessons need to be learned both in terms of policy, organisation and message, but any debate is painted as dissent and division. Over the coming weeks and months Labour will be consulting, meeting, listening and debating, not just within our membership but with voters, organisations and others to determine what we can do better.” I welcome that open debate although having seen some comments by various activists (for which I am criticised when quoting them on this blog) I am aware that there is a wish for greater control to be put in the hands of a smaller number of individuals at the expense of ward branch organisation. Very dangerous. But good luck in that debate, Warren, and if I can be of any assistance ……!

We get an interesting Green insight from Luke Walter, one of the most able campaigners in Brighton and Hove who was unlucky to have missed election in Hollingdean and Stanmer purely on the grounds of the alphabet (something he identified several weeks ago was likely): “We understood our demographic better than Labour, we understood the kind of people who vote in local elections, we even understood their motivation for voting. In nearly all of these, Labour and the Tories got it wrong. Labour were saying ‘if you vote Green you get the Tories.’ The Tories were saying ‘if you vote Green you get Labour.’ I think we were the only ones saying ‘if you vote Green you get Green.’ The truth is, Warren and his councillor colleagues in the Kemptown constituency need to try and understand why 1000 or so voters in EB and M&B voted Green in the locals with no obvious campaigning and with the continuous message ‘Greens can’t win’ or ‘voting Green only helps the Tories here.’ ”

What is impressive about Luke (something not that obvious in other parties) is his ability to be self-critical about the Greens own performance: “We Greens are also at fault. We greatly underestimated our vote in those wards, as well as Westbourne in Hove. This mistake won’t be repeated again. Reading the comments from Labour councillors and Labour supporters, it is clear the party is in a pickle, as I’m sure the Tories are as well. Weatherly should be sweating in Hove and Portslade losing six seats last Friday. The same for Kirby in Kemptown, who was beaten into third by the Greens in two sizeable wards in his constituency. If the Greens political opponents are waiting in the dark until we slip-up, they’ve got another thing coming. From now on, they can expect a more confident, more slicker and bolder Green machine in Brighton AND Hove.”

Dr Faust reprimands me, that I “need to develop a more even handed approach with your critisisms of parties.  You ask for an apology from Labour about ‘misleading’ material (which I would contest), but don’t ask for the same from the Green Party.  You say the same about claims made over recent elections, but again don’t expect any contrition from the Green Party who did exactly the same.  In both cases I consider the material put out to be par for the course tactics in trying to win votes and seats. Consistancy would be welcome.”

My dear Doctor, I have never pretended to be consistent or even-handed. A hint of bias has occasionally come through in my writings on those two-faced, yellow-belly, snake-in-the-grass, rats sometimes known as the Lib Dems. I was SO sad to see them wiped off the face of the political map in Brighton and Hove on May 5th. As for being even handed in my criticism, I don’t dish it out for the sake of it. I am critical of Labour’s use of misleading graphs in two elections in a row and the poor organisation in the City and of party HQ. Last week I did criticise the Greens for their use of a graph but their use was less misleading because of a simple factor – they WON. Labour’s claims were misleading as they claimed that, in 2010, they were the only party who could beat the Tories in Brighton Pavilion (horribly misleading and unforgivable, as would the Greens claim had they not won) and, in 2011, that they were the only party that could form an administration. With just 13 seats out of 54 that is a big ask!

(In case there is any doubt amongst those other than my four regular readers – Warren, Christopher Hawtree, Momma Grizzly, and Doris Day – I am not anti-Labour. I voted Labour on May 5th. I just want to see Labour get its act together. I am also aware that there is a suggestion that there is a ‘snitch’ in Labour’s ranks, someone who is passing me information. In fact, there are almost a dozen Labour activists with whom I am either in regular contact with or who DM or email me regularly, along with several Tories and several Greens. No Lib Dems, alas).

The Labour Group “is in good heart” after it’s third thrashing in as many elections!

The Labour Party has been tearing itself apart over the weekend following its beating at the polls on Thursday. I don’t find it easy to intrude on private grief, but here is advice offered, once again in the spirit of comradeship (dismissed in the run-up to the election). I share the following insights, observations and suggestions:

Group leader Gill Mitchell has said: “The new Labour Group met this morning and is in good heart.” You cannot be serious. In good heart? After the third thrashing at the polls in as many elections? The Labour Group should be distraught, should be apologising to the Party and should be asking serious questions about why the Party leadership locally has failed time and time again.

Gill thanks activists for “running such good campaigns”. Gill, other than East Brighton and the Brian Fitch One Man Show in Hangleton and Knoll, the Labour campaigns were generally rubbish, and you know it. That is why you say: “There is now an urgent need to look at how we are organised across the city as a party and how this can be improved to enable us to become a genuine, citywide campaigning party that is regularly in touch with local people.” Gill, you are right but I understand that Labour was once a “citywide campaigning party” that was in touch with local people. So what happened?

Along came Kinnock, Blair and Mandelson who set up a highly centralised party machine and this was replicated at local level. In this election, Labour’s GMB HQ had to be consulted about all aspects of different campaigns. Labour’s Regional Office brought with it the dead hand of bureaucrats.

Nigel Jenner is right when he says: “The Blair factor and also the war etc is still on peoples minds and that is why many jumped to the Greens.” Absolutely right, Nigel. Labour’s recovery will not begin until Labour, locally and nationally, APOLOGISE for Iraq and distance themselves from Blair. But what happened locally just days before the election? David Milliband, a Blairite from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, comes to Brighton, is welcomed by Labour councillors and candidates – and another few hundred votes are lost. What genious thought David Milliband would do anything other than alienate voters? Another avoidable Labour own goal.

D Milliband said after his defeat by E Milliband that he was resigning from front line politics. This demonstrates a mindset that cabinet and shadow cabinet is the front line. And Labour in Brighton goes along with it. If you want to start afresh, perhaps Gill Mitchell could say “we have learned, and we are sorry. David Milliband, so closely identified with Blair and jointly responsible for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, is no longer welcome in Brighton and Hove”. Then, and only then, can you hope that the lost voters, the tens of thousands who have deserted Labour locally for the Greens, might just begin to think about voting for the Labour Party again.

Juliet McCaffery touches on something that I have warned Labour about in the run up to the elections – lying to the electorate. Labour did it in Brighton Pavilion in 2010: “only Labour can beat the Tories” and Caroline Lucas exposed the lie and Labour lost several hundred voters in future elections who had swallowed the lie. And then again in this election “Only Labour can form an administration” and the Greens exposed that lie. Why should the electorate believe Labour’s claims about electoral prospects when they have become serial liars.

Juliet is absolutely right when she says: “Several people in Withdean who voted Labour were thinking of voting Green but thought (prompted by me) that Greens had no chance – the danger is that now they will.” The fact is, Labour is finished (in local and general elections) for the next two elections at least in Withdean, Hollingdean and Stanmer, Patcham and, of course, the town centre wards in Brighton Pavilion. In several Hove wards the Greens will, this very evening, be casting their eyes for further gains in 2015. And there will be some idiot in Labour’s ranks drafting a leaflet saying “Only Labour can beat the Tories in Hove”. Stop them now. It’s not true. The Greens are already the main challengers for the Tories in Hove.

Labour should not have lied. Apologise, come clean, and sack whoever was responsible for the lies in 2010 and 2011.

And turning to the Party hierarchy, Kevin Allen, a decent, hard-working, now ex-councillor, is unforgiving: “Regarding Withdean, people have forgotten that local elections are not just about bums on council seats; they are also about keeping people in the habit of voting Labour.  We had three fine candidates who were given absolutely no encouragement by party headquarters.  That’s a disgrace.  Rather than being told to abandon their own ward they should have been advised to canvass hard in order to help rebuild the Labour vote in preparation for the next general election.  What we have now is a Green councillor in Withdean, an entirely avoidable result had our candidates been allowed to campaign properly.”

Get used to it, Kevin. It is going to get worse for Labour before it begins to get better. Labour is offering nothing new. It parades David Milliband, an apologist for war, as the hope for the future. Its party machinery is broken.

I hope to hear something substantial from Labour in the next few days, but I doubt it. And that is a shame for this Blogger who voted Labour last Thursday.

The polls have closed: the Greens to get better result than expected

The polls have closed and it looks as though the next 24 hours will be more fascinating than all the speculation that has gone before. The count will start tomorrow morning (although the verification of the number of votes cast is happening this evening).

The warm weather and the very high turnout for a local election leads me to conclude that there will be some extraordinary results tomorrow.

For all their bluster, the Tory campaign in East Brighton faded before it got going, with party members being redirected to Moulsecoomb and Bevendean where, contrary to Craig Turton’s suggestion earlier in the day, the Tories scent victory – one of their few hopes of gains. M&B is definitely one to watch tomorrow at the count.

The Greens are very confident in Preston Park, and are quietly confident of a very good result in Goldsmid. Brunswick and Adelaide could be a split result. Paul Elgood may just hold on but his running mate won’t be making a victory speech tomorrow. Central Hove is fascinating, and I just don’t know what will happen there. But Withdene and even Patcham will produce good results for the Greens, but probably no actual seats although Withdene may just …..

North Portslade and South Portslade are looking good for Labour, and Brian Fitch could be looking at a dramatic return to the Council chamber, representing Hangleton and Knoll, along with Dawn Barnett and Tony Janio for the Tories.

Overall, though, the winners are going to be the Greens. Several Labour activists have told me that the Green vote has been firm, and whe they might have hoped to have picked up votes in a split household, the votes a going Green. The prospect of the first Green council in the UK has inspired people to vote Green. It seems as though the people of Brighton Pavilion like being the first constituency to have elected a Green MP. So now it seems as though more widely in Brighhton and Hove the electorate is wanting to see the election of the first Green Council. Neither the Tories or Labour have been able to offer anything as aspirational.

Whether the Greens make it across the winning line and achieve 27 councillors is another matter. While today will produce better than expected results for the Greens, whether they can secure five more than the 22 I have predicted is another matter.

If they do achieve 27 seats, then the opposition parties must not block the election of a Green mayor who would give the Greens the casting vote in the Council Chamber. The people of Brighton and Hove will have spoken.