Westbourne by-election: the wooden spoon candidate enters the race

And then there were 6: Graham Cox (Conservative), Louisa Greenbaum (Green), Nigel Jenner (Labour), Paul Perrin (UKIP), Gareth Jones (Lib Dems), and now Pip Tindall (TUSC).

Ms Tindall, a former Green candidate in East Brighton, has been selected to contest the Westbourne by-election on behalf of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. When I say “contest” I really mean “crawl in last” since TUSC has the unenviable record of coming last in most elections locally.

But TUSC’s entry into this by-election race will have some small impact, for TUSC is to Labour and the Greens what UKIP is to the Tories, an annoying side show that will take a handful of votes from the more credible parties.

So why has Ms Tindall abandoned the party she stood for just 7 months ago? She said: “The Green Party says it’s opposed to cuts, but that’s just so much hot air if it won’t fight them when it gets the chance. I was horrified when I heard the Greens in Brighton intended to hand down the cost of the banking crisis to those least able to afford it – the public service users of Brighton and Hove.”

I am sure that the Greens are trembling in their boots as this Don Quixote charges an imaginary windmill. I can make a prediction about the by-election result: TUSC will come last, then the Lib Dems, then UKIP. Who will win? Not sure yet, it is a genuine 3 way marginal.

Tomorrow’s public sector workers strike will provide a morale boost for both Labour and the Greens. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will also ensure that anyone in doubt about going out on strike will have had and doubts removed. Good luck to one and all who are joining tomorrow’s action.

In taking on the St Paul’s protesters, Weatherley goes where angels fear to tread

A week is along time in politics, and the People’s Mike won’t have enjoyed it too much. Last week I praised him for his Man of the People impressions – taking up issues that, by pure coincidence, would appeal to the people of Hove at a general election. But then he backed a wrong horse, and his mate George Osborne let him down.

Mike Weatherley had said he personally wanted to clear away the campers in the Occupy London protest from outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Perhaps the good Christian folk of Hove will note this. Even that well-known radical churchman, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has come out in support of the protest. I guess he had to given his Boss said: “It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” I also recall something from my childhood Bible study about “the rich being sent empty away” and “Blessed are the poor”. Perhaps someone could assist me with some more accurate Bible quotes.

In taking on the St Paul’s protesters, Weatherley goes where angels fear to tread

But the big disappointment of the week for Mike was the downgrading of his meeting with the Chancellor, George Osborne. A press release from his office on Tuesday said: “Mike Weatherley, the Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, is to meet with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss the EU budget proposals.” Good stuff, Mike. Influential, eating at the top table.

But no. A correction was send out 32 minutes later from one of his aides, Momma Grizzly herself, stating: “Contrary to the earlier press release, Mike will be meeting the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban, not the Chancellor.” More picnic in Victoria Park, Portslade, than a Palace Garden Party, more go-carts on the seafront than Formula One.

And on the issue of Formula One, petrol head and Green councillor Alex Phillips hooked up with former world champion Damon Hill on Saturday in a Brighton to London race. Actually, it was a race to see who can get from Brighton to London using the least amount of energy. The car Lady Everton drove used the least energy. How many of us can say we have beaten a racing world champion? Certainly not the People’s Mike.

It is time to stop, once and for all, the nonsense of local council’s ‘Standards Committees’

I have written before about the Standards system in local government, how undemocratic it is that a panel made up of opposition councillors and non-elected individuals can sit in judgement on elected councillors, even depriving the electorate of one of their representatives.

This is not a party political issue, and I have rallied to the defence of both Green councillor Jason Kitcat and the Matriarch of Hangleton and Knoll, Dawn Barnett.  Not just that, but future Tory Leader, Grant Shapps, tweeted in support of Jason!  Jason was accused of posting selected extracts of video from council meetings featuring Tory councillor Geoffrey Theobald.  It must be stated that the People’s Geoffrey did not support the actions taken by one of his fellow Conservatives.

The Matriarch, it has been reported, was referred to the Standards Committee for handing out leaflets directing travellers camped in her ward to open spaces in wards held by Green councillors.  While I do not like the tone of much of the anti-traveller debate, I thought that what the Matriarch did was imaginative touched with humour.  She made her point very well.  It was rumoured that it was a Green councillor who made that referral but I am yet to see any firm evidence to confirm this. I have previously written about Dawn’s “sheer cheek”.

Jason’s case was thrown out while Dawn’s has gone quiet (although I may have missed developments during my two month sabbatical in Italy over the summer.

The latest fiasco relates to Ben Duncan, the Green councillor for Queens Park, cabinet member for public protection and representative of Brighton and Hove City Council on the Sussex Police Authority.  An anonymous complaint was made against him about posts on his blog and for attending various demonstrations.  The investigation took over a year and found that he had done nothing wrong.  I have previously posted on Ben Duncan’s case.

Quoted in the Argus he said it was wrong for standards procedures to be used to complain about people’s opinions.  “It is an abuse of the system and a waste of public money. This must have cost thousands of pounds. The standards board should be used to tackle allegations of real wrongdoing. It is not just that there is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion on policing, you could say if you’re not doing that you’re not doing the job properly.”

The implication of this case, more so that the cases of Jason and The Matriarch, would have been more sinister had it been found that Ben had been in the wrong. It would mean that a councillor could not be involved in certain activities, in this case, anti-way activities.  It would have meant that only those with more conventional views would be allowed to serve on the Police Authority.  What would be the point of that? 

I recall a Conservative councillor once saying to me that he wished that Labour wouldn’t be so political on the Council, that the Conservatives were apolitical in local government!  I got it, you are only political if you disagreed with the status quo.  Thank goodness for The Boy David, his mate Boy George and Little Nick, standing up for the status quo, and doing it, if I may say so, very well indeed.

No Green/Red coalition in Brighton and Hove, and the Tories eye up 2015

The only consolation, if that is the right word, for some Labour and Tory activists following their joint defeat on Thursday is an element of glee that the Greens will be forced to make cuts. What a bizarre and sad reaction. What does it say about a politician that they can take any pleasure from seeing cuts being made? Take Momma Grizzly, Rachael Bates, she has said on Twitter: “Can’t wait to see the Greens having to make the cuts they said they’d never make.”

Such a reaction can be put down to one of two things, a bad reaction to defeat, or a deeply rooted ideological commitment to cuts and small government. Grizzly is an interesting Tory Party activist, the kind on the ascendancy within the Tory Party. And the group of young Tories who stood for election last Thursday (Robert Nemeth, Rachael Bates, and to a lesser extent Rob Buckley, Michael Ireland, Kerry Underhill, Rob McFarlane and Georgina Dore) are from that wing of the party that is ideologically committed to ‘small government/big society’, activists who are social libertarian and economically hardline (in the George Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg mould).

It is likely that this ‘Magnificent Seven’ (irony is not my most attractive characteristic) will stand again in 2015, but in safer Tory seats. 2015 will see another lage turnover of Tory councillors – the Normans will stand down in Withdene (where Rob Nemeth somehow managed to lose the seat for the Tories), so too may the Theobalds along with Brian Pidgeon in Pacham, and several of the Hove Tories will call it a day. Expect the Seven to secure nominations in these seats and, if elected, see the Tory group move sharply to the right. Several of the Seven are closely associated with Hove MP, Mike Weatherley. Grizzly tells me that all seven are in fine fettle.

Meanwhile, Labour is repoted to have rejected a coalition with the Greens on the Council. Gill Mitchell, leader of the Labour group, offered qualified support. She said: “With the Greens having 23 seats they are clearly able to form a minority administration to run the council. Labour successfully ran the council with the same number of seats between 2003 and 2007 and the Conservatives governed with 26 seats for the past four years. So it is right that the Greens, as clear winners, are given the opportunity to implement their manifesto in the same way. We will support the Greens where they bring forward sensible proposals in the best interests of the city as well as being an effective and challenging opposition when we think they are getting things wrong.”

One of Labour’s unsuccessful candidates, James Asser (who stood in Regency Ward) said: “It’s the right decision and everyone I’ve spoken to agrees.” (James is one reason why Labour can have some optimism for the future – very personable and engaging).

Warren Morgan has commented that no coalition has been offered, that the Greens don’t need one. “They won more seats than Tories & the right to implement own manifesto.”

As for the Greens, many are nursing sore heads this morning after celebrating long and hard on Friday evening at the Sussex Cricketer and again last night at 112 Church Road. For my part, I could be seen strutting my stuff at Abandoned until the wee small hours ….

George Osborne will not be blown off course by bad weather. God help us all.

Britain’s ‘recovery’ went into reverse today, a “stunning blow to the Government” according to the Evening Standard. Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said: “This is a stunningly bad outcome”. Hetal Mehta of Daiwa Capital Markets Europe said: “This is an absolute disaster for the economy”.

George Osborne said: “There is no question of changing a fiscal plan that has established international credibility on the back of one very cold month. That would plunge Britain back into a financial crisis. We will not be blown off course by bad weather”.

Baldrick Osborne might well have said: “I have a cunning plan” or perhaps “Crisis? What crisis”.

Equality of sacrifice? No chance. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg as true class warriors will look after the rich.

David Cameron says that there will be “difficult decisions” on pay, pensions and benefits.  He says that there will be “painful” cuts ahead, but that in dealing with the deficit “our whole way of life” will be affected but not in a way that hits the vulnerable or “divides the country”.  Pull the other one, Dave.  Already cuts are being announced in services for vulnerable people in Brighton and in East Sussex.  Council funding from central government has been cut.  These cuts are being passed on to the poor and vulnerable.

I haven’t used illustrations in this blog before (other than the almost photographic likeness of me).  But this cartoon from the Great Depression, reflects to a certain extent what I think will happen over the next few years.  The mantra will be that there will be ‘pain for everyone’,  ‘We will all be in this together’. and that ‘There must be equality of sacrifice’.

My only disagreement with this cartoon (apart from the gender limitations – in my last post I said low paid women will suffer the most) is that I think the rich and the very rich will benefit from the shock and awe approach planned by Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.  They are true class warriors, disciples of Milton Friedman, and they will look after their own, the rich and the very rich.

Did Lib Dems really vote for cuts that will hurt the poor and benefit the rich?

David Cameron has said, predictably, that the UK’s economic problems are “even worse than we thought” and that painful cuts to tackle the deficit would affect “our whole way of life”.

This is straight from the Milton Friedman approach to crisis response. First the shock – a financial crisis that requires painful action; and then the awe – cuts that affect our whole way of life.

So what should we expect now? First, massive cuts in public expenditure, far more extreme than the cuts in the Thatcher era. Then wholesale privatisation, a token amount to the voluntary sector, but mainly to the private sector where huge profits, made fo by the tax payer, will be made.  And there will be tax cuts to “incentivise” private sector investment.

This will produce a redistribution of wealth from the public sector to the rich and the very rich.

Anyone who objects will be ridiculed by the media, particularly the media controlled by Murdoch and Desmond. They will ignore or dismiss alternatives to cuts.  For example, why does the government not first begin with the £40 billion of uncollected taxes?  Because it is their friends who would be required to pay what they owe.

Instead there will be cuts to the “welfare bills”, public sector pay, and funding to the voluntary sector.

Just wait and see: there will be new tax exemptions allowing further billions of tax revenues to go uncollected, and it will be the rich and the very rich who will benefit, the friends of Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.

If Cameron is purely motivated by society’s well-being, he should ensure that those with the greatest ability to pay, do so.  And those who struggle even at the best of times, be spared. But no, everyone will pay, and the pain will be felt most by low paid men and women.  And given that low pay affects women more, it will be women who will be most adversely affected.

Is this what those who voted Lib Dem thought that they were voting for?

First round to Clegg. Brown did ok. Cameron came across as the spoiled school boy he is

No doubt about it, Nick Clegg had nothing to lose and everything to gain, and he surely made the most of the Great Leaders’ Debate.  He looked relaxed, assured.  He was even enjoying himself.  And he won the debate hands down.

In spite of the online polls, Gordon Brown came across as predictably competent particularly on the big issue of economics.   The contrast between himself and David Cameron showed Cameron to be shallow, indeed scared of figures.  He kept trying to change the subject.  This is the Tory’s Achilles Heel.

A straight debate on finance between Brown and Cameron would produce one decisive winner, and it wouldn’t be Cameron.  (How I wish there was to be a television economics debate between George Osborne, Alastair Darling and Vince Cable – actually that would be cruel and inhuman punishment for the Boy George …. but it would be fun!).

Cameron looked like the school sulk, clearly the less liked of the three by the others.  You could imagine Brown and Clegg finding an accommodation, and a Chancellor Cable would appeal to many.

Cameron may have polled well amongst Conservative supporters but did little to convince undecided supporters to vote for the change he is advocating. 

But there was something lacking in this debate, something that could have made a real difference.  It wasn’t a debate stifled by too many rules.  It was definitely enhanced by Nick Clegg’s presence, and the Lib Dems will receive a massive boost from this.  No, what was missing was a woman’s input. Can you imagine what a difference Caroline Lucas would have made.  Clegg would have responded positively, she would have brought out the best in Brown (as does Sarah), but it would have exposed Cameron further.  Have you noticed how he manhandles Sam Cam, holding her by the wrist and guiding her with an arm up her back?

First round to Clegg.  Brown did ok.  Cameron must learn not to come across as the spoiled school boy he is.  Actually I hope he doesn’t learn!

What do I really think of Nancy Platt’s defence of Labour’s record?

My dig at New Labour for its legacy in increasing the number of  lap dancing clubs, reduction in public toilets, libraries and, of course, post offices, has provoked a spirited response from the rather wonderful Nancy Platts who left a comment under that post providing a fuller picture of Labour’s record.  Do I agree with Nancy.  Of course I do and I feel that I was rather unfair in my characterisation of Labour’s record.  So, to rebalance the debate, I am repeating Nancy’s comment in full:

“I think I ought to balance BPB’s post with some of Labour’s achievements. What about over 3,000 Sure Start children’s centres and the fact we’re on target to deliver one in every community by 2010? Free childcare, the rise in child benefit, extended maternity leave, paternity leave, flexible working, emergency time off for carers. What about the million pensioners lifted out of poverty, Winter Fuel Payments, free bus travel, free TV licenses, free eye tests for older people?

“What about 149 new hospitals, £96bn investment in NHS, over 80,000 more nurses, 38,000 more doctors, 4,500 more dentists (and remember all the dental schools the Tories closed?), shorter waits for treatment, GPs open longer hours, walk-in healthcare centres, free prescriptions for cancer patients, our cancer pledge to see a specialist within a week of diagnosis, free health checks for everyone in England aged 40-74.

“What about the fact education spending has doubled since 1997, 36,000 more teachers, 172,000 classroom assistants, better exam results, more young people going to university than ever before, the job, apprenticeship or training guarantee so young people aren’t left on the dole as they were in the recession under the Tories?  What about crime dropping by a third thanks to over 16,000 more police, neighbourhood policing and our Community Support Officers?

“What about over £20bn investment in rail, the Crossrail project, high speed rail – more passengers are using our trains than at any other time since the Second World War – over a billion last year. 

“I think it is right to challenge and ask for more, to campaign for a fairer and more equal society but ask yourself this – would all this have happened under the Tories?  It’s a Labour MP that will campaign for more and a Labour government that will deliver more.”

Well said Nancy. Your response characterises your many strengths, not least your passion!  Of course none of the above would have been achieved under a Tory government.  An ideal result in the general election would be a small Labour majority that would force the Executive to listen to its back benchers. 

One of the areas that Nancy did not defend Labour’s record during the financial crisis which was, largely excellent.  The voters will weigh this up and when compared to the excitable youth that is George Osborne, they will realise that the economy is safer in Labour’s hands.

The Tories are losing the election and the plot; Labour could yet win the election!

With the publication of every opinion poll, the chances of a Conservative victory in May become more remote.  Tonight’s ICM poll for the Guardian puts the Tories on 37% (down 3%), Labour on 30% (up 1%) and the Lib Dems on 20% (down 1%).

It appears that any immediate harm caused by Bullygate has been off-set by the Piers Morgan effect. And there is a sense that people are feeling that the alleged bully is, in fact, the bullied.

It now looks that we are heading for a hung parliament.  That’s not great for the economy, but better than having Chancellor George Osborne.

What is most fascinating about this poll are the underlying trends. The Tories have also lost ground on key policy issues, not least the economy, and also appear to be losing their campaign against Labour’s so-called death tax. Labour leads the Tories by eight points as the party with the best policy on care for the elderly.

The negative campaigning of the Tories is proving to be counter-productive. 

The possibility of Labour win in May should not be ruled out. It was always likely that, when faced with entrusting Cameron and Osborne with their financial future and that of the country, the voters would lose confidence, prefering to go with Brown and Darling.  Cameron and Osborne look lightweight by comparison.  They really don’t have it.