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.

Craig Turton: sadness at his resignation as a councillor due to health problems

It was with great sadness that I heard this evening that councillor Craig Turton has been forced to sign his council seat due to ill health. Councillor Turton has been one third of the most formidable team of Labour ward councillors, serving the East Brighton ward with colleagues Gill Mitchell and Warren Morgan.

In a statement, Craig said: “It has been a privilege to have represented the East Brighton ward since 2003 and to have served the people of the Bristol Estate, Craven Vale, Kemp Town, Manor Farm and Whitehawk alongside my dedicated Labour colleagues, Councillors Gill Mitchell and Warren Morgan.

“I have been particularly proud to have served as the chair of the Royal Sussex County Hospital Liaison Group and to have played a part in working with the trust and local residents to see the 3Ts planning application approved.

“I would like to thank all my colleagues, officers at the council, but most importantly the residents of my ward for their continued support during this difficult time.”

Of course it is tragic that any councillor has to stand down in such circumstances, and I am sure all readers will join with me in wishing Craig all the best for the future and hopefully a return to full health.

For Labour, the by-election that will follow Craig’s resignation is the one silver lining on an otherwise cloudy horizon. Labour will comfortably hold the seat. This is down to three factors:

1. Craig’s personal popularity and the circumstances leading to the by-election.

2. The excellent reputation of the other ward councillors in East Brighton.

3. Where we are in the political cycle. Labour is best placed to capitalise on the mid-term unpopularity of the Coalition government and the Green city council.

Few will have much appetite for this by-election so turn out is likely to be low.
Hopefully Labour will select a candidate who will add quality to the Labour Group, as Graham Cox has done for the Tories. The Labour Group is not blessed by an abundance of talent. It needs to select a candidate who can do justice to Craig’s legacy and who can make an impact on the Council.

But this evening, our thoughts and best wishes should be with Craig, a well respected and popular councillor across the Council Chamber.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

What are you doing, Brighton? Since I last commented on the affairs of this fair city the wheels on the bus no longer seem to be going round and round, but seem to have fallen off.

In the space of 3 months the Dear Leader, Bill Randall, has been replaced by the Son of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Kitcat, or Jason as he prefers to be known. Well, that had been anticipated for many months, so no shock there. But from a tier of 5 senior officers (a chief executive and 4 Super Directors) three are moving on to pastures new.

In September chief executive, John Barradell, is moving to take up a similar position in the Corporation of the City of London, Charlie Stewart is to become the chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, and David Murray is heading off to, actually I have no idea where.  In the case of Biker Dave, it was a bit of a pantomime, a matter of “is he going? Yes he is. Oh no he isn’t, he’s going to become interim chief executive! Oh no he’s not! Oh yes he is!” etc.

In fact Finance Director, Catherine Vaughan, who has never before enjoyed such high prestige (by which I mean featuring in this esteemed blog), has been recommended to act up …. as interim chief executive. Catherine is highly respected, and is said to have a good working relationship with Jason Kitcat from his time as Finance Chief. They will need to work well together because the next year could be brutal as the Council has to make up the amount to be lost following Labour and the Conservatives acceptance of the government’s council tax freeze bribe, and further cuts to budgets. How they managed the budget process for 2012/13 was very impressive, and bodes well for Jason Kitcat’s leadership should he remain engaged and responds on a political level.

Back to wheels on the bus. The axing of the bus routes, and the confusion over bus tenders, hasn’t looked good for the Greens. A u-turn in the last couple of days, when a wedge of cash was found down the back of the sofa, has saved the services. Is this yet another great result for the fearless campaign to save the number …? What number is it this week, councillor Fitch

Labour has run a successful campaign to save the bus routes. And credit hear should go to councillor Gill Mitchell and the party dynamo, Caroline Penn, who always seems to be snapping at the heals of the Greens and Tories, taking well aimed bites along the way.
Labour seems to be in good spirits following its restructuring, and once again full of fight.

The Enigmatic Flo has lamented my absence in recent months, asking why I was not giving credit where credit is due. She has chastised me saying it is about time I said something nice about Labour. Yes, the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove seems to be in much better shape, taking the Greens on in a concerted fight back. Target seats have been identified, with Hollingdean and Stanmer being high on their hit list.

Being the political establishment is never easy, and the Greens have taken a knocking in recent months. Labour made a mistake some years back when they had highly competent people at the helm of the City Council, but they lost the political argument. Something similar is happening with the Greens. The bus fiasco hasn’t helped.

The Tories are not benefiting much from the Green’s ill-ease. Apart from Bulldog Bobby from Westbourne, my identical twin brother, Graham Cox, they are lacking punch. The Bulldog appears to be doing all the running, and my prediction is that it will be Bobby who leads the Tories into the 2015 local elections.

But neither Labour or the Conservatives should be complacent over the difficulties being experienced by the Greens. All administrations have difficulties, but there are some good political tacticians within the Green ranks. As long as the Green Group doesn’t assume it is the Green Party locally to the exclusion of others (as the Labour Group did in Brighton from which it is only just recovering) the Greens will remain a political force locally. After all, the Greens have a trump card, and one that infuriates Labour activists. Remaining the outstanding politician in the City, head and shoulders above the rest, is Caroline Lucas.

Chuck Vere is not an invisible woman in politics

The Tory Party began their conference in Manchester today.  And one of the themes for the week will be the role of women in the Tory Party.  In fact, in today’s Sunday Times, David Cameron apologised to women for his behaviour in the past which had been misunderstood.  New Man Cam admitted making a ‘terrible mistake’ in parliament by using words that could have been interpreted as being sexist – the “Calm down, dear” slight to Maria Eagle and the “frustrated” innuendo towards Nadine Dorries.  (If you want to line Murdoch’s pocket, you can read the article behind this paywall).

Invisible Women

Invisible Women in Politics

I saw this cartoon recently and it made me think that this is how it has been for several generations in all major parties.  Hopefully, though, this is now changing.  Labour in Brighton and Hove has had Gill Mitchell as its leader for almost 5 years, the former Conservative Leader of the Council was Mary Mears, and all four candidates from the major parties at the last general election in Brighton Pavilion were women.

Which brings me on to one of my favourite Tory women of all time, the universally popular Charlotte Vere.  Chuck managed to find a way to upset so many of her opponents in Brighton Pavilion, but she was nevertheless an awesome candidate.  I am sorry she moved onwards and upwards following her defeat.  Brighton is a poorer place without her.  After her defeat she was a leading light in the very successful “No” campaign against the pathetic Lib Dem proposals for voting reform. No doubt she will get a safe(r) seat at the next general election and will prove to be a very effective Member of Parliament (regardless of what you think of her politics).

Chuck is part of a new breed of  Tory Ladies, feisty and independent.  And we should recognise that the Conservative Party has changed.  Gone are the days when (as quoted yesterday in the Guardian profile of another feisty, independent Tory woman, Louise Mensch) an aspiring Tory candidate was asked what her husband would do for sex if she was away in London for 3 nights each week.

Chuck’s latest recognition comes in a profile in the Huffington Postwhich begins “Charlotte Vere is not a feminist, thank you very much. The former Conservative candidate and mother-of-two last shaved her armpits “this morning” and she’s definitely wearing a bra.”  Too much information already, but this profile, which has the serious intent of exploring the Conservative Party’s (and specifically David Cameron’s) approach to women. Chuck is quoted as saying: “The Prime Minister needs to change policy urgently and apologise for what he has been doing not just what he’s been saying.”

Chuck has always been something of an Action Woman and has now set up Women On, a new think tank, an “independent, non-partisan think tank that aims to transform the debate around women. Women On … researches the issues facing women today, and promotes ideas and policies which enable all women to reach their full potential – economically, socially, culturally and politically.”

I wish her well (although I think it is a shame she treats the word ‘feminism’ as a dirty word).  I hope that she can link with other women who are interested in seeing an end to the “Miss Triggs syndrome” which, after all, is as relevant today even if it is done far more subtly!

State of the City – Labour

Good and bad things come in threes, so they say. Before my summer sojourn, there was a report entitled ‘State of the City’ prepared by the City Council, loaded with facts and figures. It is well worth a read. Then there was a debate, ‘State of the City’, organised by the other BHCC, the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, with speakers including Bill Randall, Simon Fanshawe and Roger French.

And now I present the Brighton Politics ‘State of the City’ a review of the political fortunes.

Before I went away I rather tongue in cheek suggested that the top politicians in the City were John Barradell and the Fab Four Super Directors for surviving the change in administration. And still they remain in post and likely to remain so. Here is what I really think.

Starting today with Labour, I have been impressed, as always, with the leadership and determination displayed by the East End ‘Family’. Gill Mitchell has held the group together as they have morphed from being the Labour Group to becoming the Labour and Co-operative Group. Warren Morgan and Craig Turton continue with their best Mitchell Brothers impression, and I for one am determined not to get on the wrong side of them.

Some of the newly elected councillors, not least those in Hove, (Penny Gilbey and Anne Pissadirou), have shown early promise, Penny following in the footsteps of her father, the late George Humphrey, and Anne active in Wish Ward. (She will have to work consistently hard as Wish is now seen as a natural Green target in 2015). A Labour activist that continues to impress is Caroline Penn, on Twitter as @ThePennyDrops – worth following.

But what Labour needs to do locally (because Ed Milliband isn’t doing it for them nationally) is capture the imagination of the people of Brighton and Hove. Labour needs a ‘Big Idea’ that will be seen to be transformational for the City.

Before the local elections, Warren Morgan kept emphasising that Labour was gaining in wards across the City. They may have polled well overall, but they were still a million miles away from forming an administration. If their Big Idea is to wait for the Greens to screw up, they will remain out of power of another decade or more. The Tories are as likely to benefit from a loss of support for the Greens than Labour is.

But the problem for Labour is that it has, since the time of Kinnock, looked almost exclusively to its leader for salvation. But politics has moved on and the electorate are looking for something new, and it isn’t whether Ed or brother David is the one to lead Labour into the next election. Can Labour move beyond the internecine squabbles of recent years? I doubt it in the short term.

What can Labour do that will turn the party’s fortunes around? Perhaps it needs to build a mass base, at it had in the 1980’s before the Kinnockites took over the asylum. Slowly and surely, the life blood was drained from the party. The Party could do worse than engaging once again with those who brought it success, left and right alike – Joyce Edmond Smith, Richard Stanton, Steve Bassam, Gill Sweeting, Andy Winter, etc. Their campaigning ability, their ability to engage with the electorate, is what the Party needs right now.

But there remain elements within the Labour Party that sees activists as a threat. It is fine to have ‘dependable’ people turning out to deliver leaflets, help with telephone banks, and occasionally knock on doors. But they shouldn’t get above and beyond themselves, and certainly should never question the leadership, locally or nationally.

Perhaps I look back on days that cannot be relived and successes that cannot be repeated. This is where I will incurr the wrath of Morgan and Turton. The Greens are the ones with the campaigning ability, the ones who have captured the imagination, and who still enjoy the Big Mo – momentum.

Labour has to decide on its parliamentary candidates in the not too distant future, and which should be all-women shortlists. Conventional wisdom has it that boundary changes will see Labour’s chances erode further in Brighton Kemptown. Brighton Pavilion will be a two-way fight between the Greens and the Tories, leaving Hove as its best chance. The Party leadership looks after its own and has ensured that Hove does not have an all-women shortlist, opening the way for Simon Burgess to become the candidate.

And here again, Labour will get it wrong. As I have always said, Simon is a decent, hard-working type who is an asset to Labour, working in a support role. There are few better. But as a candidate, in what could be a three-way marginal between Mike Weatherley, a Green (particularly a dynamic woman candidate) and Labour, he would be destined to be an also ran.

Perhaps Labour locally will need a further drubbing at the polls before it moves on and finds candidates who can match the appeal of Caroline Lucas and whoever the Greens field in Hove. I have an insight who that might be, and Labour will have little chance of matching her appeal.

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.