St Peter’s and North Laine by-election: strong showing by Labour’s Tom French

Next Thursday is the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election. What is encouraging for the Labour Party is the performance of its candidate, the impressive Tom French.  He has run a high profile and energetic campaign.  He is just what the Labour Party needs following the general election.

So could Labour’s revival begin in this by-election.  It could be argued that the Green’s win in Brighton Pavilion got the Big Mo, momentum, from the Goldsmid by-election (even though Goldsmid is in neighbouring Hove).  In Goldsmid the Greens fielded 24 year old Alex Phillips.  She was enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive.  In St Peter’s and North Laine, Labour has a 24 year old, enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive candidate. The Greens had never won in Goldsmid, nor for that matter in any ward in Hove. It is many years since Labour came even close in St Peter’s and North Laine and, before that, in the old St Peter’s Ward.

But can the “positive, passionate and dedicated” Tom French win? (That was a quote from his election address going out this weekend).  He is “local and active in our community”, and he is “listening and acting on your concerns”.  Tom French is a strong candidate, quite comfortably the most impressive of all the candidates. Trefor Hunter (Lib Dem) will do as well as he has done in countless elections over the past 25 years in Brighton – he will lose.  Rob Buckwell, the Conservative candidate, is a nice young man, but he doesn’t have it, at least not yet.  He can repeat Tory Party policies but he lacks the instincts required of a successful local politician – to make the issues of local residents the ones he champions.  And finally, Lizzie Deane.  What can I say?  She has run a very low-key campaign, hardly seen, even spending a weekend away in London.  Does she actually want to be a councillor?

What will probably happen is Lizzie Deane will hold the seat for the Greens with a much reduced majority over Tom French, with the Lib Dems and Tories contesting who will come a very poor fourth place.  The Greens would be wrong to dismiss any collapse in its majority as normal poor turn-out in a by-election.  After the success of Caroline Lucas in the general election, the Greens should romp home with a four figure majority.  It should be a wake-up call for the Green Party, its councillors and candidates.  If it is to break through the 20 councillor mark next May (and I really hope it does), it must ensure that it runs campaigns that epitomise its ambitions, not a half-hearted campaign as it has run in St Peter’s and North Laine.

As for Tom French, keep up the fight.  The City Council would benefit from someone of his calibre. I will watch his progress with much interest.

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Are the Greens losing it in St Peter’s and North Laine?

The old St Peter’s Ward was the area where the Green Party made its first breakthrough in the City with the election of Pete West.  The party has dominated the seat ever since while the Greens have spread their influence into traditional Labour areas, ousting Labour’s leaders in Queens Park last time out.  The challenge for the Greens is to make in-roads into traditional Tory areas if it wishes to be the largest party after next year’s local elections.

Other than the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster, the greatest achievement of the Greens since the last locals was Alex Phillips’s stunning win in the Goldsmid by-election.  She is an impressive young woman, hard-working and very likeable.  Her campaign in that by-election had all the ingredients for a successful bye-election, and that is the approach that the Greens need next May.

So why on earth are the Greens running such a lacklustre, uninspiring campaign in the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election.  The qualities shown by Alex Phillips’s campaign are being replicated by Labour.  In Tom French they have an impressive young man, hard working and very likeable.  He seems to be everywhere and he is winning support from those who vote Green in local elections and who voted for Caroline Lucas.

In a recent exchange with the Green candidate, Lizzie Deane, I described myself as a critical friend of the Green Party.  I am not a Green, more tribal Labour.  In the general election I called for tactical voting throughout Sussex.  In only contest did I advocate a Green vote, and that is because I thought the Greens had a better chance of beating the Tories.  I will be taking the same approach next May, although I anticipate calling more seats for the Greens than for Labour.

The risk for the Greens is that the wholly inadequate campaign in St Peter’s and North Laine will give a huge boost for Labour, even if Tom French comes a close second.  This will give Labour the ‘Big Mo’ – momentum.  I hear that the Labour Party in St Peter’s and North Laine has a lively bunch of young activists who believe that they can win the seat, if not on July 8th but certainly next May.

Caroline Lucas has the Big Mo

In the West Wing they call it the Big Mo.  Bartlett had it. Santos had it.  Now Lucas has it.  Momentum!  The real difference is that in the case of Caroline Lucas it is real.  It may be the start of a snow blizzard out there, with freezing pavements and fresh snow everywhere.  But all you can see while slipping and sliding around Brighton Pavilion is Green.  I lost count at the number of Green Party activists delivering Green Leaf. 

In the past month or so, the Greens have posted a letter/leaflet to every household in Brighton Pavilion, had the ‘bump’ of the opinion poll that put Caroline Lucas well ahead of Charlotte Vere and Nancy Platts, and now they are blitzing the constituency with Green Leaf.  What was a stunning campaign in Goldsmid that saw Alex Phillips elected, is being reproduced in Brighton Pavilion, but eight times bigger.

Caroline Lucas has the Big Mo.  With four months or so to go, and with the ever increasing probability of a significant win, momentum is definitely on the side of the Greens.

I cannot feel anything but sadness for Nancy Platts, a strong candidate but for a party that is committing political suicide.  The Hoon / Hewitt betrayal  has wounded every Labour candidate.  Brutus and Judas, Hoon and Hewitt, two has-beens whose enduring legacy may yet be the destruction of Labour at the polls.

Greens win Goldsmid by-election

12.02am STOP PRESS: Green 1456 Conservatives 1104 Labour 816 LIb Democrat 280
Congratulations Alex Phillips. Tories lose control of Brighton and Hove City Council. More in the morning.

Has Labour given up and gone home?

The thing that amazes me about reaction to this blog is the absolute lack of response from Labour supporters. Not one person, even those who know me, has defended Liz Telcs, the campaign that was run (or not) in Goldsmid Ward, or the reputation of the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove.

I remain, at heart, a Labour (that’s Old Labour) supporter. I am a socialist, not a Green. But frankly, the Greens offer an alternative, and show some ambition. Come on Labour Party members. Has the Party died in Brighton? Have you all given up and gone home? Have you just rolled over and surrendered?

Is there anyone out there?

PS Good luck tomorrow, Alex. A Green victory is in the best interest of Brighton and Hove.

Labour wants anything but a Green win in Goldsmid By-election

Leading lights in the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove are desperately worried about the outcome of this weeks by-election in Goldsmid ward. So concerned are they that they are privately saying they prefer a Conservative win rather than victory for Alex Phillips of the Green Party.

Most would imagine that the prize of the Conservatives losing control of the City Council would be incentive enough for Labour to wish for a Green victory in the event of their candidate being unsuccessful. But no, a Green victory will be regarded as an absolute disaster. Even though Goldsmid ward is not in Brighton Pavilion, victory for the Greens would give huge momentum to the Greens in the run-up to the General Election next year, and to their candidate Caroline Lucas.

What little canvassing has been done by Labour points not only to a close result between Conservatives and Greens, it shows that Labour is heading for a very poor result, coming a very distant third. Feedback from the doorstep suggests that Alex Phillips has been well received by voters whereas Liz Telcs is not making an impact and there is widespread disenchantment with the Labour government.

Labour has lost the ability to campaign

There was a time, in the 1980’s, when Labour was a vibrant, campaigning, grass routes organisation. Through campaigning, led by David Lepper and Steve (Lord) Bassam, the Party won control of the local Council.

The Golsmid by-election demonstrates how the Party has lost it’s ability to campaign, even in elections. Liz Telcs has worked hard (although not as hard or effectively as Green Alex Phillips). She has struggled to get anything of a campaign going, and appeals for help have fell, largely, on deaf ears.

Alex Phillips, on the other hand, has been energetic, enthusiastic and exciting. She reminds me of Labour activists of the early/mid 1980’s. Was she active then? No, she wasn’t even born then!