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 ….

And now for something completely Different – How Politicians Think!

The other day I had an email from a local Tory candidate saying that I am “becoming the darling of the Tory right since almost all of my Conservative friends seem to be reading your blog daily.” It feels nice to be appreciated, even loved. Alternatively, this Tory candidate may have very few friends. I am safe in assuming that I have more friends in the Tory Party than I have in the Lib Dems.

My Tory candidate correspondent says he/she was told that I had ‘outed’ him/her as The Tory Tipster. He can be assured that I don’t ‘out’ anyone (although I did once mistakenly quote someone who had sent me a Direct Message on Twitter).

My correspondent accepted that my “intention was to be scurrilous rather than malicious”, saying that I had been “very kind in (my) references ever since so all is forgiven.” I think that is a fair summary of my approach. I have respect and admiration for politicians of all parties (Lib Dems apart). I enjoy the company of people of different political persuasions, and I enjoy the cut and thrust of political debate and activity. I respect the time and effort most politicians put into serving their communities.

Politics can be cruel, such as when a diligent councillor is tossed aside by the electorate because of trends at a national level. I try not to be cruel (except to Lib Dems) but given the emotional energy most politicians and activists expend in pursuit of political ends, the merest hint of criticism or poor prospects is magnified in their minds.

So why do ordinary people put themselves this thankless, gruelling, unpredictable experience? Most do it because they want to make a difference to their communities. They might think they can do a better job than the incumbent, or have a burningnsingle issue that they wish to promote.

Once elected, there is a seduction, either through co-option into an establishment or a self-seduction that, once elected as a councillor, one has become ‘special’. I have referred before to one of the leaders of the anti-poll tax movement who, the da after being elected, laid his poll tax because “as a leading citizen I have to set the correct example.”

A danger for all elected politicians is complacency. A sense of entitlement can develop (look at the parliamentary expenses scandal). Locally, some councillors stay on well beyond their ‘sell by’ date when a graceful exit would do them credit and their party a big favour.

Some politicians and activists can lose their sense of humour. They love to read about themselves but hate it when they are treated with irreverance. Others, to their credit, seem to enjoy some noteriety. Momma Grizzly, for one, seems to like her moniker. Even Le Toothbrush, I am reliably informed, “can live” with that name, but I have been discretly advised to go easy with La Toothbrush as Mike’s blood is known to “boil”.

But once I have exhausted my views and limited knowledge of local politicians (some may say I have long pastvthat point), I may just turn my attention to Council officers ….

Greens electoral tactic may just take them over the winning line

The description that the Greens are using to describe themselves gives a fascinating insight into that party’s ambitions for Brighton and Hove City Council. It is employing a tried and tested method of ‘borrowing’ a vote for one of its candidates from the other parties. In certain wards it has described its candidates as “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, “Green Party Second Choice Candidate” and, where there are three seats up for election, “Green Party Third Choice Candidate”.

This tactic is being used in seats where the Greens have concluded that they can’t win outright. Where they believe they can win all the seats, they describe their candidates simply as being from “The Green Party”.

From this we can assume that the Greens are confident of winning St Peters and North Laine, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and Regency. If the Greens were to hold all the seats in these wards they would return 11 councillors. In Preston Park and Goldsmid wards, the Greens are not prioritising any candidates. In Preston Park the Geens are grouped in the middle of the ballot paper with very popular sitting councillor, Amy Noelle Kennedy (Noelle? You’ve kept that quiet, Green Amy!) listed alphabetically just beneath one her fellow Green candidates.

More surprising is the Green’s decision not to prioritise their candidates in Goldsmid. Up against the Greens is another popular sitting councillor, Labour’s Melanie Davies. I have predicting a split result here with Melanie topping the poll with two Greens elected in second and third place. What concerns me is that sitting Green councillor, Alex Phillips, is one from the bottom of the ballot paper, and listed well below her fellow Green candidates who are near the top of the ballot paper. I think that the decision not to prioritise Green candidates in Goldsmid is a mistake and whoever was behind this decision shows a fundamental lack of political and campaigning judgement.

Having said that, I believe that Alex Phillips will be one of the two successful Geens. Her breakthrough in the Goldsmid by-election, when she became the first-ever Green to be elected in Hove, was key to giving the Big Mo to the Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion. Alex Phillips is currently the Baby of the Council Chamber, but she is cut from the same cloth as Caroline Lucas and will, in years to come, be as significant a politicians as her mentor.

Assuming three and two Greens are elected from Preston Park and Goldsmid respectively, that would take the Green total to 16.

Then there is Hollingdean and Stanmer. The Greens have not prioritised candidates in this ward, suggesting it is confident of winning all three seats. I have always said that I expect Jeane Lepper will hold her seat. If the Greens do win two seats here, it would take the Green total to 18.

The Green’s number 1 target is Brunswick and Adelaide. Once again, the Greens are not prioritising its candidates for the two seats up for election in this ward. Success here would take the Greens to 20. Just where the next 7 seats might come from is a matter of guess work. Central Hove could just provide a shock and Chris Hawtree, as the “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, could be elected.

The Greens could pick up the odd seat here and there. Allie Cannell and Chris Hawtree are confident about Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. Rottingdean Coastal and Patcham have been mentioned in dispatches. I don’t see it, but the Caroline Effects may yet prove to be the decisive factor on May 5th.

Finally, the romantic in me wishes George and le Toothbrush a long and happy life together. But their chances of success in May? No chance.

George Dore and le Toothbrush, and the continuing decline of the Lib Dems

Intrigue surrounds George Dore’s move from Moulsecoomb and Bevendean to Preston Park, and that of her beloved, le Toothbrush (Mike Mafarlane) from Queens Park to Regency Ward. Dan Wilson asks: “Why change wards now? Totally bizarre.” Dan’s twin brother, Warren Morgan, observes: “Tories seem to be abandoning Kemptown wards as fast as they are selected. Does not bode well for Mr Kirby.”

The Tory Tipster thinks that the problem lies in the heart of the Kemptown Conservative Association: “And another one bites the dust!!! First Mike Mac then George Dore – something is very wrong in Brighton Kemptown when their most talented candidates are jumping ship! I take on board your comments about Maria Caulfield but at the risk of sounding ungentlemanly, she is now very much past her best and now looks rather tired and sagging. Thank goodness the Hove Association has the good sense to have so many bright young candidates on the ballot paper!”

Linda F asks “Why would Ms Dore finish lower in Preston Park than M&B, if she appeals more to the PP middle class voter? I think she is just the right candidate for the aspirational younger families living in PP. She just needs to make sure her voters come out on the day. This switch is an interesting development anyway.” Well, Linda, Preston Park is a Green / Labour marginal and disillusioned Lib Dems are hardly going to move rightwards but will split their votes between the Greens and Labour. The share of the votes of the left parties will definitely increase in Preston Park. The question that I cannot answer is who will benefit most from the collapse of the Lib Dem vote.

But the Ghost of Nobby Clarke thinks that the Tories should not be written off in Preston Park: “Don’t underestimate the very impressive George Dore in Preston Park. She might just surprise a few people. After all some of us still remember excellent former Tory councillors there such as Doreen Radford and Vic Marchant.”

But what is emerging tonight is how low the Lib Dems have sunk. I wrote yesterday that “It appears that (the Lib Dem) decline continues with some pace. For the first time in living memory, the Yellow Ones are unable to field a full list of candidates. In an area like Brighton and Hove it shows that this party is now a bit part player, not to be taken too seriously (have I ever?) and should be regarded along side other marginal groups such as the Socialist Party and UKIP.” Not for a moment did I suspect that the LibDems could only field 8 (yes that was EIGHT) candidates across Brighton and Hove. According to the Lib Dem website, otherwise known as The Life and Times of Paul Elgood, the Lib Dems are fielding candidates in Regency, Brunswick and Adelaide, Central Hove and South Portslade wards.

I have been criticised in the past for being too harsh on the Lib Dems and that my prediction of their imminent demise was premature. I had never anticipated that they would field just 8 (yes, I repeat, just EIGHT) candidates! With the deadline for nominations closing at 12 noon tomorrow (Monday 4th April), there is still time for the Lib Dems to find a further 46 candidates. But they could, at this late stage, be no more than paper candidates, unwilling and unable to mount a city-wide campaign.

Finally, I was thumbing through some back editions of the Midhurst and Petworth Observer, as one does on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In the edition for Friday, 5 June 2009, I came across the election result for the Billingshurst division of West Sussex County Council. Trailing in third place, behind David Duke of UKIP and the Conservative Amanda Jupp who won the seat, was Larissa Rowe standing for Liberal Democrats. Could this be the same Larissa Rowe who is standing for the Lib Dems in Regency (where le Toothbrush is standing for the Tories)? And could this be an omen that will see the Lib Dems beaten into 5th place by UKIP in a seat that, until recently, returned a Lib Dem councillor? Watch this space for a positive response from UKIP’s own Mr Cumugeon (Paul Perrin).

A round up from Doorstep Brighton – Sunday 3rd April 2011

In reverse order from the anticipated election results, I’ll start with the Lib Dems. It appears that their decline continues with some pace. For the first time in living memory, the Yellow Ones are unable to field a full list of candidates. In an area like Brighton and Hove it shows that this party is now a bit part player, not to be taken too seriously (have I ever?) and should be regarded along side other marginal groups such as the Socialist Party and UKIP.

Rebecca Taylor, one of the Lib Dem candidates in Central Hove where the Lib Dems have managed to find 2 candidates, has written regarding my round up of young candidates: “Reading your post on twitter I felt I’d like to comment – you’ve forgtten a couple of us young uns! Though 30 might not be so young, me and Mark Collins are working hard to win in Central Hove. I’m proud of Mark as at 22 it’s fantastic to see him so committed to working for his city. Like you I’m equally encouraged by all the young candidates emerging. I’ve met Clare (Calder) and Tom (French) and wish them and all of us the very best in the elections.”

As I have suggested before, Rebecca is too gifted an activist and person to remain in the Wastelands (the Lib Dems). But as for including herself as a ‘young’ candidate, she’s got to be joking. She is now closer to qualifying for a Freedom Pass (a bus pass at 60) than her birth. (That all assumes that her party in Coalition doesn’t abolish them in the next few years).

The Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell) corrects me regarding his age. He is not 22 as I suggested but a “positively ancient 27”. I personally can’t imagine what it will be like to be 27. He writes: “It’s all to play for here in Goldsmid, and we are campaigning hard to win in this 3-way marginal. Watch this space…”. Well, Rob, I watched the space for about an hour last night and nothing happened. I suspect the same will be true in May.

Warren Morgan thinks Maria Caulfield is at risk in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean: “A YouGov poll this week of areas holding local elections predicted the Tories will lose 1000 seats on May 5th. If Maria Caulfield’s isn’t one of them I will be very surprised.”

Brighton Boy says that “If warren morgan is looking for councillors who might lose their seats in may the canvass returns for east brighton suggest he may like to look closer to home!”

Peter Booth is a Tory candidate in East Brighton who is standing against Warren Morgan. He insists on referring to Councillor Morgan as “Mr Morgan”. Fear not, Peter, in the early hours of 6th May you may legitimately call Councillor Morgan by the title “The Winner” as you pay tribute, in your speech accepting defea, to his fine victory in East Brighton.

But in his analysis, MISTER Booth says that Warren Morgan “has not a clue what he is talking about! The East Brighton Conservative candidates are working hard to unseat him and his cohorts, and are very pleased to have been supported by Simon Kirby our MP for Brighton Kemptown. I am also delighted to inform him that the 2 Conservative Associations in our city have never worked closer with each other! The Conservative team across the city is now firmly in place, and we are all working hard and up for the final 32 days of campaigning to keep Brighton & Hove Blue.”

I like the dreaded vote of confidence Mr Booth gives to the two Conservative Associations. As for the Conservative Team being firmly in place, it was firmly in place in mid March when the candidates were announced, before George Dore joined the Toothbrush (Mike Macfarlane) in crossing from Kemptown to Brighton Pavilion.

Allie Cannell, one of the most astute activists around, suggests that something interesting is happening in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean “I had a great time doing a bit of door knocking in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean the other night. Those people who have put an outside bet on the Greens getting a seat there might be in for a nice suprise.” I certainly wasn’t one of them, but Christopher Hawtree agrees with Allie: “Moulescoomb could prove very interesting for the Green.” Chris is “more sure than ever that Westbourne could be a swing state. Greens gain Westbourne? Watch that space.”

Finally, Paul Perrin, my favourite Cumugeon, returns to the young candidates and asks: “Do you still think it is a good idea to have all these children (many of whom have only ever drawn on public funds, provided by wealth-generating taxpayers for their sustenance) aiming to run the council?” I have just one question for Paul, do you do stand up routines at open mike events?

More later on the intriguing story of Janet and John (George and the Toothbrush).

George Dore to appeal to a better class of voter in Preston Park

Excellent news on the George Dore front. The people of Brighton have not lost her services after all. Less than three weeks after being confirmed as the Tory candidate in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, and after talking so eloquently on a You Tube video with Maria Caulfield about how she wanted to serve the people of M&B, she mysteriously disappeared from the list of candidates.

But fear not. She has not returned to rural Oxfordshire and her chippie dad. No, her toothbrush is still next to that of Mike Macfarlane, until recently the Tory candidate in Queens Park. Mike abandoned the Kemptown Conservative Association and is now the Tory candidate in Regency.

As for George, she has now been unveiled as the Tory candidate in Preston Park. I’m sure it is nothing to do with Preston Park having a much nicer class of constituents. True, the good citizens of Preston Park are statistically more likely than their Moulsecoomb and Bevendean counterparts to send their children to Brighton College, where the good lady is a teacher.

Ironically, Miss Georgina Dore had a better chance of being elected in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean than she does in Preston Park where she is likely to finish seventh behind both Labour and the Greens.

George Dore stands down in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean

I am grateful to Luke Walter for alerting me to the decision of Georgina ‘George’ Dore to stand down as Conserative candidate in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. The teacher from Brighton College via Oxford was the subject of some discussion on this blog a week or so ago.

Her candidature was confirmed by the Conservatives on 15th March and videos of her and fellow Conservative, Maria Caulfield, appeared on You Tube. The reason for her standing down is not clear. Speculation includes that the exposure proved too much for her, that she received hostility on the doorstep, and (most likely) the negative publicity she attracted to Brighton College resulted in pressure on her to go.

Mike Macfarlane, “the guy lucky enough to keep his toothbrush next to George’s” remains the Conservative candidate in Regency.

Replacing George is Cath Slater who has lived in Brighton for 13 years. Cath is 36 and has two teenage daughters. She works in school catering. The Tory website reports that “she has worked in a community association for 10 years, has been involved in a youth forum, and helping with domestic violence issues. Cath enjoys helping people with their problems, and hopes to do so working as a councillor.”

This is probably a very opportune turn of events for the Tories. Cath is more likely to go down better in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean that Geore, no matter how humble her origins were. The video of her and Maria were stilted, and probably didn’t show Maria in the best possible light. Maria is a huge asset for the Tories and had she been the Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion, rather than Chuck Vere, the Tories would have come closer, even winning the election. A Conservative team in M&B with Maria, Cath and Ayas Fallon-Khan, is very likely to do very well in May.

As for George, I don’t think we have heard the last of her. She will probably emerge at a general election in a more traditional Conservative seat and before long she will be seen on the green benches at Westminster. Standing somewhere other than Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will be less embarrassing for the brass at Brighton College.

Matt Lucas standing for the Tories in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean – Exclusive

Do you remember the TV quiz programme Shooting Stars with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer? And the Matt Lucas character dressed in a huge baby romper suit playing the drums and keeping the scores: “What’s the scores on the doors, George Dawes?” was the cry at the end of each round.

Well, standing in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean is George Dore. Sorry not THE George Dawes but Georgina Dore who likes to be known as George. You must watch the election campaign clips on YouTube of her and Maria Caulfield. Never in the field of human politics have two candidates felt so uncomfortable for so long in front of so few cameras. But fair play to them. They have produced four videos explaining why they want to be councillors and what improvements they hope to bring to the area.

Matt Lucas is a school teacher, having been brought up in rural Oxfordshire, she stresses her humble origins before rather ruining it by saying she went to Oxford University. it was a “hard process” she says. Matt says she is committed to education since it “opens doors”. After all she is a teacher working in the City. Hang on a moment? If she is a teacher working in the city she can’t stand for the Council unless she ….. doesn’t work in a state school. A Google search reveals she works at that school favoured and much chosen for their children by parents in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean ….. Brighton College.

Her write up on the Brighton College website reads: “Miss Georgina Dore MA (Oxon) joined Brighton College in September 2009. She previously taught for three years at Uppingham School. She is a boarding house tutor and also teaches Politics. Her special interests include British Decolonisation. She shares in the teaching of the Oxbridge programme as well.”

(While on the Brighton College website, have a look at the biography of the wild-eyed Mr Christopher Canning MA (Oxon) “Joined Brighton College in September 2010. His specialist interests include Anti-Semitism. He also teaches Politics.” I swear, it says his interests includes anti-semitism. I’m sure he doesn’t mean how it reads. It reminds me of the US politician who reassured his constituents that he was “anti-racist, anti-fascist, and anti-Semitic”. And that reminds me of the woman, again in the USA who said “I’m not a Republican or Democrat. I’m …. what do you call it? ….. I’m bi-sexual.”)

Back to Maria Caulfield and Matt Lucas, they are the Tory candidates in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. I’ve mentioned that already, haven’t I? But hang on, there are three seats in M&B. Are the Tories fielding just two candidates? Of course not. Ayas Fallon-Khan is the candidate that Maria and Matt dare not speak his name. Why does he not appear in any of the videos?

I actually I have a lot of time and respect for both Maria and Ayas. Both are hard-working councillors. Neither are traditional Tories. As for George Lucas … didn’t he produce Star Wars? I’m really confused now ….