Who knew what about MI6 and Number 10’s dealings with Gadhaffi?

Last evening’s revelations from Human Rights Watch regarding MI6, the CIA and Gadhaffi is probably the most explosive plitical news story in a generation, and has the potential to bring down some leading Labour politicians from the last decade, perhaps even see some prosecutions.

At the very least it looks as though Number 10 under Blair and possibly Brown worked with the Gadhaffi in order to rehabilitate this monster, even to the point of helping him with speeches and the stage-managing of the 2004 meeting between Blair and Gadhaffi in the latter’s bedhouin tent (the venue was the idea of Number 10).

According to the Independent newspaper, “[The prime minister’s office is] keen that the prime minister meet the leader in his tent,” (quoting a memo from an MI6 agent). “I don’t know why the English are fascinated by tents. The plain fact is the journalists would love it.”

In another memo according to the Independent, UK intelligence appeared to give Tripoli details of a Libyan dissident who had been freed from jail in Britain.

Foreign Secretary William Hague tried last night (Saturday) to play down the revelations, saying that they “relate to a period under the previous government so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.

That isn’t good enough. Our strange ‘constitution’ doesn’t have Labour Governments and Conservative Governments, they have Her Majesty’s Government and Her Majesty’s Opposition, that ensures continuity regardless of the occasional general election. David Cameron understood this when he apologised for the Bloody Sunday massacre on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, even though he was a boy in short trousers at the time of this atrocity carried out by the British Army.

Questions need to be asked about who knew what and when. These questions will be asked, and it would be best if they were asked openly and answered publicly and honestly by the political establishment. For Labour, the party with most to lose from this Watergate moment, will it damage itself further by being party to a cover-up, even though the truth will out in due course – it always does. Will Ed Milliband assist in ensuring that light is shone in the darkest corners even if it provides discomfort, or worse, for his brother David who was the previous Foreign Secretary?

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.

Labour talking a good fight and paying respect to Pat Hawkes

The Honey Monster (Craig Turton) has reacted to my comment that “So disorganised are they (Labour) in some seats that members have complained about not being given posters for their windows”. Craig says that could be because “like in East Brighton ward – where doorstep enthusiasm for Labour far exceeeds 2003 and 2007 – demand for posters is outsripping supply. Same in Hangleton and elsewhere.” Nice try, Craig, but the empty windows suggests otherwise. There is still no enthusiasm for Labour. Brighton and Hove is not like the rest of the country – the Caroline Effects will still make a difference.

As for enthusiasm for Labour in the future, Blue Labour isn’t going to play at all well in Brighton and Hove. I wanted Red Ed Milliband to win. What on earth is he doing? He is proving to be a disaster, while Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper are, at least, putting some clear water between Labour and the Tories.

Steampunk suggests that Labour has given up on Central Hove: “A Labour party member told me ruefully last weekend, ‘no matter what you do, the Tories will always win in Central Hove’. So I suspect that having come fourth last time round, this year they have been focussing on the more winnable wards further out such as Wish, Hangleton and the two in Portslade. Or perhaps everyone has gone to Queens Park?”.

Blue Lady Linda says that “There is a hive of activity going on in most of the wards from our activists: telephone canvassing, envelope stuffing, literature deliveries, knocking up and general cross ward support. There is much that goes on ‘under the radar’”. Lady Linda is right that traditionally the work of the Tories is not that obvious but they have been able to get out its vote.

She says that she thinks that all parties other than the Tories have given up on Hove Park. “I come to this conclusion, because I have yet to see any literature or sighting of a candidate, other than Tory, in Hove Park Ward.”

MJ must be a Labour hack because who else would come out with the following tosh: “Word is that the Greens are under pressure in Regency and are stalling in Queens Park and Brunswick. They may also drop one seat in Hanover, Preston Park and Goldsmith. The Labour vote is too high to see Green or Tory gains.” There’s no such ‘word’, there is no such pressure, they are not stalling, and the Greens are not going to drop seats. Luke Walter’s reaction is right when he simply responded “LOL”.

The love within Labour is overwhelming. Baron Pepperpot writes: “As a paid up member of the Labour Party who fully supports our Queens Park campaign, I would like to say how happy I would be to see us get completely stuffed in Hollingdean and Stanmer…”. Wow! I’m intrigued as to why you feel this strongly. Do say more. And if this is the mood with Labour ten days out from an election, what levels of fratricide can we expect if my predictions are correct and Labour is left with a smaller rump than they currently have?

Christina Summers, one of the Green candidates has responded to my praise of Luke Walter and his campaigning zeal: “Don’t worry BPB, Luke is most definitely not a lone Green campaigner in Hollingdean & Stanmer…and our opponents are most definitely not complimentary nor do they resemble any sort of firework…apart from the occasional banger…usually when we’ve leafleted their homes.”

As regular readers will know, I have been predicting two Greens and one Labour (Jeane Lepper) being returned in Hollingdean and Stanmer. This would see the end of the long and illustrious council career of Pat Hawkes who has represented the area for many decades. She has also been an active trade unionist, rising to be President of the NUT. Consistency in service (although not always in views) means that she deserves respect, and she certainly has mine.

Labour lacks what it takes to win again in Brighton and Hove and needs someone like Steve Bassam to lead its recovery

One key factor in this May’s local elections is how well Labour in Brighton and Hove has recovered from last year’s general election defeats. Sadly, the same central Party organisation remains in place, and there is a lack of purpose permeating throughout the Party with a few notable exceptions.

In East Brighton, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and in Hangleton and Knoll, there are reasonable campaigns being run. The team in East Brighton have, in my estimation, the best campaign. In Hanover and Elm Grove, led by Tracey Hill, consistent campaigning is being undertaken, but the challenge facing the Labour team here is too great and the Green campaign will, ultimately, produce a substantial Green victory.

Queens Park remains the seat where Labour migh justbtake a seat from the Greens is characterised by the exhaustive campaigning by Tom French. But round the clock campaigning in the six weeks leading up to polling day will not counter four years consistent service by Green councillors.

Hangleton and Knoll has a massive factor that is absent from all other campaigns being run by Labour. That is the Fitch Factor (Brian, that is. Harris, you don’t have it …yet).

In some seats in the heart of Hove, the candidates are out and about. Celia Barlow and Simon Battle are seasoned campaigners, and will do well on a personal level. There is a sense of impending defeat in Hollingdean and Stanmer, but the Lepper Machine (along with the machine is East Brighton) can be relied on to fight to the last moment. Whether it can save more than Jeane Lepper is something I doubt.

In other areas, such as Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, St Peters and North Laine, Regency, and Brunswick and Adelaide, the campaigns are struggling. Out of these, the campaign in Regency is the strongest, not least because of the candidates James Asser and Dan Wilson, both excellent candidates who should be offered more winnable seats in the future. Apart from the determined Anne Freeman, there is little evidence of a campaign team. In St Peters and North Laine, the lack of organisation is disguised by the energy and profile of the youngest candidate, Clare Calder. In Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, and in Brunswick and Adelaide, the Labour campaigns can be characterised by ….. well nothing, really.

The real problem for Labour is the absence of an inspirational leader and of some fire in the belly of the local organisation. The one thing that you can rely on to get Labour activists going is to mention Caroline Lucas. What is needed is someone who can articulate a vision (and it isn’t coming from Ed Milliband). Why should people join Labour locally, and why should they become active. The Greens articulate a vision, are active and offer what feels like an alternative.

Warren Morgan, Craig Turton, Tracey Hills, Simon Battle, Brian Fitch, Clare Calder, James Asser, Dan Wilson and Celia Barlow, to name a few, are assets for Labour, but Labour needs two or three hundred activists thing, and thirty or forty candidates who are well known and energetic. Instead, the same old faces dominate, and nothing new is heard from them. Gill Mitchell is more than able, but is yet to reach beyond party and Council structures and become recognised by ordinary people in the way that someone like Steve Bassam was. Steve knew how to organise and to mobilise, and someone like Steve is just what Labour needs if it is to recover in the face of the spreading Green tide.

Labour activists’ pathological obsession with the Evil Princess and All Her Works

I have referred in previous posts to the ‘Caroline Effect’ – how the election of Caroline Lucas has changed, and is changing, the face of politics in Brighton and Hove. I was wrong. There isn’t a ‘Caroline Effect’, there are several ‘Caroline Effects’.

Effect 1: galvanising anti-Tory opposition. Many tribal Labour supporters, like me, alienated by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, student fees, privatisation (to mention just a few) have yet to regain confidence in Labour. Labour is burdened by its record in office and support for cuts. “We wouldn’t have gone so far so soon” is hardly a rallying cry to galvanise people who are angy. Ed Milliband is yet to inspire, so too Labour’s leaders in Brighton and Hove. By contrast, Caroline Lucas is able to articulate an alternative (regardless of whether she will ever be called on to implement a programme). Because of Caroline’s leadership, the Greens continue to have momentum.

Effect 2: inspiring a generation of activists. Talking to young activists, many of whom either have not been active before or have been involved in single issue campaigns, are hitching their wagon to the Green Party because of Caroline Lucas. Who is Labour’s alternative. Locally there is nobody. Nationally there is no Labour leader who can hope to rival Caroline Lucas.

Effect 3: demolishing the two party monopoly in Brighton and Hove. There is a viable alternative to Labour in Brighton and Hove (and it isn’t the Lib Dems). Labour threw everything into its attempt to stop Caroline Lucas last May, including compromising its reputation for honesty. It failed and its scare tactic has undermined the loyalty that many showed Labour last time. Its dishonesty continues in this election each time Labour distorts election results in a crude attempt to mislead the electorate.

Effect 4: infuriating Labour activists. Speaking to many Labour activists there remains a pathological obsession with the Evil Princess and All Her Works. Labour will continue to flounder until it can get over Caroline Lucas’ success and until it can offer an alternative as attractive (politically and in style) as Caroline Lucas. A further problem for Labour is the number of young Green women activists who are emerging out of Caroline’s long shadow. They include Alex Phillips and Amy Kennedy.

Labour has missed a chance this year by leaving all its existing councillors in place, particularly in winnable seats. They have the stale pal our of defeat hanging around them. There are some young Labour activists who could have won seats (including some which I have predicted that Labour will lose). Instead, some Labour councillors have decided to cling on to the cost of the Party.

NG demonstrates the desperate lengths that anti-Lucas activists are now going to. He recently left the following comment: “There are two issues which are going to damage her and possibly Green candidates in the local elections: 1) her support for votes for rapists and murderers, and 2) her continuing to maintain her main family residence overseas in order that her children can attend a private school.” Utter tosh. This reference to the votes for prisoners is one that has challenged politicians of all parties. To characterise this as “votes for rapists and murderers is gutter politics of the lowest order. My suggestion to NG is to get out of the sewers and offer something positive.

Because of the Caroline Effects, the Greens will continue to go from strength to strength in Brighton. Until Labour activists get over Caroline’s success and begin to offer an attractive alternative, Labour will continue to flounder. Reaction to this blog will reveal whether Labour has learned anything and is moving forward.

Politician of the Year – show some imagination

Saturday saw the launch of the Brighton Politics Awards 2009.  Nominations for Politician of the Year have ben a bit disappointing, with Ed Milliband, John Prescott and Nancy Platts being the only nominations to date.  It was Nancy who nominated Ed Milliband, immediately creating a new ategory, that of Brown Noser of the Year.

I had hoped for some interesting local nominations (not that Nancy isn’t interesting!). How about Mary Mears, or Bill Randall, or Alex Phillips, or Caroline Lucas, or Chuck Vere?  Are they too uninspiring?  Is there nobody else locally who deserves a nomination.

To make it easier for you, there will be four sub-categories, one for each of the four main parties (although it will be hard to find someone/anyone intresting/inspiring in the Lib Dems (beyond Stormin’ Norman Baker).  Ideally there will be nominations for a non-Party person.

From each Party sub-category one nominee will emerge for the prestigious and much covetted Politician of the Year award.

So send your nominations in, with a word or two about why they should receive this unique honour!

Nominations can be made on Twitter (@BrightonPolitic) or by emailing brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com