UKIP asking for coverage: I would rather stick needles in my eyes than vote UKIP

I have been asked to give some coverage to UKIP.  Their candidate for Hove has approached my and says that UKIP are on the ballot paper in over 500 constituencies, including the three Brighton & Hove constituencies.

He asked “How about some UKIP coverage?” and says that Betfair has UKIP ahead of the LibDems in Pavilion.

Well, that truly impacts on the electoral landscape.  I imagine that Green candidate Caroline Lucas is, as we are speaking, preparing her speech conceding the election to the might of UKIP.

Sarcasm apart, UKIP is made up of a bunch of self-centred, divisive and plain nasty individuals.  Anyone who heard the recent speech by Nigel Farrage will know what small-minded, petty individuals make up their representation in the European Parliament.

I am sure that there are some decent, principled individuals in UKIP, but I am yet to come across them.

So, UKIP ask that this blog gives them some coverage.  With pleasure: Don’t vote for this unpleasant bunch of Xenophobes.  I would rather stick pins in my eyes, extract my finger nails with pliers and no anesthetic, and vote Conservative than vote for this horrible bunch.

General Elections campaigns at constituency level are not about policy but getting more voters through the polling station door

The general election campaign is almost with us. I was once told that for candidates, election campaign proper are nothing to do with policy.  Leave that to the national leadership.  Nor is it about trying to convince people that they should vote for you.  If you haven’t done that already, you are too late.

Election campaigns in individual constituencies are purely about getting more people to the polling station and putting their mark against your name than your opponent manages.

It will be a depressing thought for candidates, but the reality is that the campaign in most constituencies is done and dusted.  The candidates will busy themselves, firming up the vote.  There will be tiffs between individuals, even the odd dirty trick. But the fate of candidates are largely in the hands of their leaders.

This is good news for Nancy Platts.  As the election campaign approaches, people will be faced with a choice between Gordon Brown and David Cameron.  Cameron continues to come across as a Tory toff, and Eton educated rich boy.  Boy George Osborn hardly reassures the voters.  His personal performance under close questioning consistently underwhelms, if not terrifies, voters.  At least people know what they will get from Brown, and in spite of Tory attacks, they know that he is a decent and competent Prime Minister.

But both Nancy Platts and Charlotte Vere continue to be disadvantaged by the performance and profile of their opponent in Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, the Leader of the Green Party.  Every time Caroline speaks as party leader, she attracts coverage that Nancy and Charlotte can only dream of.

As I said the other day, I have reconsidered the view that I previously expressed that Ms Lucas’ candidature would be adversely impacted by being party leader. I was wrong.  Her candidature has been propelled in a fashion that is not possible for the other two.

It is no longer a question as to whether Caroline Lucas will win, the question is by how much?

83 days to go, and Caroline Lucas continues to be let down by local Green Councillors

There are just 83 days until the expected general election and the campaign in Brighton Pavilion is getting into full swing, whereas there is an eery silence in the campaigns in neighbouring constituencies.  It is as if candidates are too scared to do anything.

But in Brighton Pavilion all three candidates are ensuring that residents cannot forget the election, or them.

Today Nancy Platts has blitzed Regency Ward, and from those I saw out and about, all were local party members.  She has put out another of her questionnaire-type leaflets throughout the constituency (although it is a shame that the return address in the event of non-delivery is Northumberland!). Where Nancy excels is in her ability to react to local issues within a few days, even hours.  Her campaign to save the Preston Circus Fire Station is playing very well, and securing for her a very positive reaction. She has leapt on the plans to fell trees in Clyde Road, meeting with residents immediately that the plans were unveiled. And this in the heart of the ‘Green belt’.

Caroline Lucas, as a member of the European Parliament, and therefore often away from Brighton, needs others to help her maintain a local face, but she continues to be failed by Green members locally.  Apart from the likes of Bill Randall, Jason Kitcat, Ben Duncan and Alex Philips, local Green councillors, particularly those in St Peters and North Laine, are noticeable by their invisibility.  The plan to fell trees in a street such as Clyde Road should have been a campaigning gift for councillors for St Peters and North Laine, but as this blog has said on many occasions, many Green councillors lack the ability to campaign. A well-organised party would have had a leaflet out within 24 hours, in the name of Caroline Lucas and the local Green councillors.  (I offer this criticism as one who is calling for a tactical vote for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion.  Caroline Lucas is favourite to be elected, and if she is it will be in spite of the majority of Green councillors, not because of them!).

Charlotte Vere continues to be a one-woman tornado, sweeping her way around the constituency, tirelessly meeting meeting people and making a very favourable impression. When I met her recently, the impression I was left with is that she would make an excellent member of parliament, but what a shame about her Party.  (I say the same thing about Nancy Platts, great candidate, wrong party).  Charlotte is probably the most impressive of all three when relating to ordinary people, followed closely by Nancy.  She lets herself down by her constant digs at her opponents on her website.  She could learn from Caroline and Nancy who totally ignore, at least in public, the other candidates!

Even though she is the ‘superstar’ of the Green Party, Caroline’s ‘bed-side manner’ isn’t great, which is why she so needs her local councillors.  Yet she continues to be let down by them.  It is as if, apart from the tireless Alex Phillips, most Green councillors don’t want Caroline to win …..

Tactical Voting: It MUST be Green in Brighton Pavilion

It is suddenly becoming much clearer.  An ICM poll puts the Greens 8 points ahead of the Conservatives and a full 10 points ahead of Labour in Brighton Pavilion.  However, the most significant aspect of this poll is that two thirds of Labour and Lib Dem voters would be willing to vote Green if it would result in the Tories being kept out.

The telephone poll of 533 voters adjusted to match the local electorate’s profile was undertaken by ICM Research’s Government and Social Unit between 16 – 21 December 2009.

This blog has for some months wavered between support for the impressive Nancy Platts (Labour) and the rather too distant Caroline Lucas (Green).  However, I have been consistent in saying that Nancy’s greatest challenge is the Party she is representing, the “right candidate standing for the wrong party”.  The other problem she is facing is that it is Brighton Pavilion is the Greens number one target.

The Greens now have a head of steam which should allow them to have a clear run-in against Charlotte Vere, playing on the goodwill of Labour and Lib Dem supporters, to harness a substantial vote against the Tories.  Labour supporters are very unlikely to vote Tory to keep the Greens out, some will, for honourable reasons, remain loyal to their party and to Nancy Platts.  The Greens need to nurture the green/left/anti-Tory vote.  It is likely that Caroline Lucas can now look forward to a substantial victory at the General Election. 

If the situation was reversed, with Labour having a ten point lead over the Greens in Brighton Pavilion, it is not likely that two thirds of Green voters would consider voting Labour.  That is both a strength and a weakness of the Greens – able to attract wider support, but ultimately not a party of the left (although New Labour has tried to ensure that it is not seen as being of the left).

This blog, having sat on the fence for so long, calls for unreserved tactical voting in Brighton Pavilion for the Green Party.

A final word for Nancy.  You don’t deserve this.  You are an impressive candidate and individual. You have been let down by your Party and by events. I hope that you will find another seat in due course since you will make an excellent Member of Parliament, but it won’t be ion Brighton Pavilion.

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.

That Fabulous Platts Woman

I often feel guilty when blogging about Brighton Pavilion. I still sway towards the probability that Caroline Lucas is more likely to beat the Tories than a Labour candidate. I feel guilty, not because this blog may ‘call’ Brighton Pavilion for the Greens in the Tactical Voting Campaign, but because Nancy Platts is a decent, hard working, honourable candidate.  Her misfortune is to be a Labour candidate in the 2010 General Election.

But what is so refreshing about Nancy is the obvious enjoyment she has in campaigning for election. She takes issues seriously and works hard, but does not take herself too seriously, or at least she is willing to poke fun at herself.

Last night I received a message from her in which she makes reference to the debate on this blog about campaigning on the estates. The question has been asked (not by Nancy – she does not comment on her opponents weaknesses) whether Caroline Lucas knows where Crabtree Avenue is, or whether she has ever caught the number 50 omnibus to The Dip in Hollingdean.

What Nancy has done is to post prictures of herself out and about in Brighton Pavilion. These pictures were taken in, err, oh yes, Crabtree Avenue and visiting the post office in The Dip. She signed the message to me “That Platts Woman”, a self-effacing reference to the own goal by Green Councillor, Sven Rufus (see http://wp.me/pxVNs-4b).

As always, Nancy, the more people see of you, the more people like what they see. Your intervention is much appreciate.

Post Office Closures

Having just spent the best part of half an hour queueing at my local post office (I know I got off lightly), my mind turned, as it does, to the general election.

In addition to Iraq, Afghanistan, the recession, etc., the closure of post offices will be a heavy weight around the necks of Labour candidates.

This is an issue the Greens should clean up on, but tthe Party’s lack of campaigning instinct has let them down to date. A million signature petition would have been in order.

Perhaps Labour should admit it got this (amongst other things) badly wrong. Re-opening closed post offices should be in the top ten commitments for a Jon Cruddas administration!

A Tactical Vote in Lewes is a Lib Dem Vote

The first call for the Tactical Voting Campaign is for Labour and Greens to support Stormin’ Norman at the General Election.  Norman Baker MP was elected to Parliament in 1997. A former local councillor he has gained a huge reputation at Westminster for his campaigning from the back benches for a public enquiry into the death of David Kelly.

There should be no difficulty in Labour and Greens voting for Norman, unless of course you are a huge fan of Peter Mandelson.  Baker is probably the MP hated most by Mandelson.  All the more reason for voting for him!

Up against him are Jason Sugarman (Conservative) and Hratche Koundarjian (Labour).  Sugarman was educated at Brighton College and Durham University. He is a barrister specialising in criminal law. Having contested Dudley South in 2001, he appears to be a Tory in search of a seat. Koundarjian was educated at Sussex University and works in public affairs. Unfortunately for him, Labour doesn’t stand a hope in hell of winning in Lewes, so Labour voters should have no hesitation in voting Lib Dem.

The result in 2005 was:

Conservative: 15902 (34.2%)
Labour: 4169 (9%)
Liberal Democrat: 24376 (52.4%)
Green: 1071 (2.3%)
UKIP: 1034 (2.2%)
Majority: 8474 (18.2%)

Since then there have been boundary changes.  The UK Polling Report has adjusted the 2005 result to reflect the boundary changes and reports a notional 2005 result as follows:

Liberal Democrat: 26140 (51.6%)
Conservative: 17212 (34%)
Labour: 4943 (9.8%)
Other: 2359 (4.7%)
Majority: 8928 (17.6%)

Tactical Voting Campaign

On June 14th I called for tactical voting across Sussex in order to return eight non-Conservatives Members of Parliament at the next General Election. Today this blog is launching the Tactical Voting Campaign that aims to link voters in different consituencies who will ‘trade’ votes with others in order to elect the strongest non-Conservative candidate.

For example, if you are a Lib Dem supporter living in Brighton Kemptown (where your candidate has no chance of even coming third) you can agree to cast your vote for the Labour candidate in exchange for a Labour supporter in Lewes voting for the Lib Dem candidate (Norman Baker who will be defending his seat).

If enough agreement is reached, we can defeat the Conservatives across Sussex rather than see them achieve a clean sweep.  There are 4 recommendations for Labour votes (Brighton Kemptown, Crawley, Hove and Hastings), 3 for the Lib Dems (Lewes, Eastbourne and Shoreham & Worthing East), and 1 for the Greens (Brighton Pavilion).

Further details will be posted later in the week. In the meantime, comments are welcomed on the Tactical Voting Campaign.

Labour has lost the plot in Brighton: vote Green

The Green Party has claimed it could win Brighton Pavilion at the next general election after it secured more votes in Brighton and Hove in the European elections than any other party.

It used to be said that voting Green would let the Tories in. Now, with the Greens on 33.7%, the Conservatives on 23.7% and Labour on 15.6%, it can be argued that voting Labour could let the Conservatives in.

In Caroline Lucas, the Greens have a very impressive party leader. Her weakness is that she doesn’t seem to have much presence on the ground in Brighton. This is a sign of arrogance and could deny the Greens its first ever MP in Britain.

With David Lepper standing down at the general election, Labour loses its greatest asset in Brighton. David has been a diligent MP who has built up a huge personal vote, and he is respected by people of all political persuasions.

Labour’s unimpressive performance on the City Council, and the lacklustre campaigns of its two Parliamentary candidates, suggests that those on the centre-left should support Caroline Lucas in becoming the next MP for Brighton Pavilion, in spite of her shortcomings.