Clegg will emerge with a spring in his step, Brown can take comfort that he held his own, but in the Cameron camp, the recriminations will already have started

It is too early to say for certain what the impact of last night’s Leaders’ Debate will be.  Commentators in the media, vox pop and the Twitterati are quite at one in saying that Nick Clegg was, on the night, the most impressive.  How that will play out on May 6th, assuming the same performances are repeated in the next 2 debates, is hard to predict.

The fundamental question is who, if anyone, will the Lib Dems take votes from?  The problem for Clegg is that he has a Party that has been in decline in certain areas for years. In Brighton and Hove they are barely a shadow of their former selves.  With just two local councillors (and hardly the most inspiring, – at least in the case of one of them a rather negative individual), and no campaign to speak of, the Lib Dems are hardly going to set the campaigns on fire.

But elsewhere, in Eastbourne for example, there can now be high hopes of a surge to the Lib Dems and the prospect of a Tory defeat.  In that town let’s hope the Lib Dem takes votes from both Labour and the Conservatives.  In Brighton and Hove, votes lost from Labour to the Lib Dems could well result in Tory gains.  Hopefully, the strength of the Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion will prevent this from happening.  Caroline Lucas retains a head of steam, but the Greens must not become complacent, and this blog should not coax a sense of an inevitable Green win.  Thgere is still everything to lose.

My prediction is that Clegg takes more away from David Cameron than he does from Gordon Brown.  Cameron has traded on his ‘fresh approach’ to politics, but Clegg comes across as a nicer version, Cameron says he represents change, but Clegg comes across more of a Westminster outsider, while Cameron continues to slug it out with Brown.  Faced with the surly public schoolboy Cameron, Clegg comes across the nice guy that most mothers would be happy to see their daughter (or son) bring home.

As for Gordon Brown, his most effective pitch is to say be careful what you wish for just as the economy is beginning to settle down.  Last night gave anti-Labour voters the opportunity to consider which alternative they want – a not so nice, second rate Cameron or that nice Nick Clegg.  Labour will have generally consolidated its vote.  This morning, Clegg will emerge with a spring in his step, Brown can take comfort that he held his own (just), but in the Cameron camp, the recriminations will already have started.

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!

Candidates should not get hung up about the polls

Parliamentary candidates, a strange breed if ever there was one, see major significance in the most inconsequential events.  Amongst them are the opinion polls.  Polls cannot be dismissed as inconsequential, but they can provide comfort or cause despair when in reality they may be neither.

Polls tend to favour Labour. Historically, swing voters are more prepared to admit being Labour supporters than acknowledging their support for the Tories. In this election, we may find disaffected Tories expressing support for a party like UKIP.  But this May there is a chance that disaffected Labour supporters, reluctant to admit their intention to vote BNP, will be more inclined to acknowledge their support for the more acceptable extremists UKIP.  UKIP can expect to gather votes from former Tories, but also from traditional Labour voters. 

Sadly, Labour can expect in this election to lose support to the BNP.

The national polls, or in fact the actual votes secured, can be misleading as to who will win the election.  The Tories require over 40% of the popular vote to have an overall majority with Labour below 30%.  On the other hand, if both Labour and the Tories secure around 35% then Labour will have an overall majority. 

How will this play locally? There will be little impact in Brighton Pavilion where disaffected Labour and Conservative supporters can vote Green rather than going to one of the extremist parties. Other Labour voters will abstain while som former Tory supporters will g UKIP.  All this is extremely good news for Caroline Lucas who is attracting both this ‘negative’ vote but also those who see a Green vote as a positive and practical vote.

In Brighton Kemptown and in Hove, in the absence of a dynamic campaign such as that in Brighton Pavilion, the result will largely depend on the performance on the leaders.  On today’s performance, where Cameron has landed a number of succesful blows on Brown over National Insurance increases.  Brown himself has focussed on constitutional reform, an issue that gets my pulse racing but is hardly going to set the electorate on fire. It is early days but Brown must do better.

The Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion depends even more on the leader of her Party, but that is easy for her.  She is that impressive leader.

David Cameron is right – we DO deserve better, but it is certainly not him

Gordon has kissed hands with the Queen and the campaign is up and running.  “Britain deserves better” says David Cameron.  That is true, but we aren’t going to get it from HIM.  Here is what I hope we will wake up to on May 7th.

I really don’t want to see a Conservative government elected.  The UKIP candidate in Hove recently accused me of not being open-minded.  Guilty as charged.  I have little if any confidence in the ability of George Osbourne to manage the economy.  The Conservative Party may pretend to have reformed itself, but it is instinctively a party that cuts public expenditure and public services.  It continues to claim to be a party of small government.

Be clear, a vote for the Conservatives will mean savage cuts and even greater support for big business than even Labour will deliver.

I hope Labour ends up with the most seats but not an overall majority, not because it deserves a further term, but because it is the lesser of two evils.  Labour will cut, but some of the excesses that can be expected from the Tories may be tempered, especially if Labour forms a minority government.. 

While hung parliaments are not a great thing generally, I hope that the new parliament will have more independents and minority parties upon whom Labour will need to depend to get its programme through.  This would mean that the Whips will have less influence.

Amongst the minor parties I hope and expect that the Greens will win their first seat, Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion.  I also hope that there will be further successes for the Greens, but my lack of knowledge about campaigns elsewhere requires me to remain silent on those campaigns.

Locally, I hope Stormin’ Norman Baker holds Lewes (likely), Labour holds Hove and Brighton Kemptown (both unlikely), and Michael Foster holds Hastings and Rye (very possible).

I remain an admirer of Nancy Platts and would wish to see her in Parliament – perhaps she could beat the sitting Tory MP for Brighton Kemptown in the next general election …. in October.

Nancy, Charlotte and Caroline have already made this a great campaign even though Gordon is yet to go to the Palace

As Adam Boulton said on Sky News yesterday, Gordon Brown will today be polishing his shoes ready for a trip to the Palace tomorrow or Wednesday to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament in order that a General Election may be held.

May 6th is hardly a surprise.  Most pundits have been predicting this for the last year.  It has been a fascinating 12 months as campaigns have been developed, and candidates have come and gone.   Laura Moffatt, the sitting Labour MP in Crawley, announced her retirement at the eleventh hour, leaving the Party in a bit of a pickle, and again has yet to offer any credible explanation as to her actions.

The original Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Dr. David Bull (if I recall his name correctly) resigned with little explanation, having made next to no impression locally.  This allowed the candidature of Charlotte Vere who, by contrast, has taken the constituency by storm, completing a field of three very impressive women candidates, and helping make the campaign in Brighton Pavilion one of the most fascinating in the country.

The Goldsmid by-election last year has given the Greens a platform from which to launch its campaign in neighbouring Brighton Pavilion, and the momentum built up by Caroline Lucas and her team should see her elected as the Green’s first ever MP.  It was this blog called for tactical voting for Alex Phillips in Goldsmid, before anyone else did so.  So too with Brighton Pavilion, it was this blog that some months back called for tactical voting for Caroline Lucas.  It was a tough call (and remains so) since Labour’s Nancy Platts is a first rate candidate and she would almost certainly have won had it not been for the momentum built up by Ms Lucas. 

This blog was wrong in expressing doubts about Caroline Lucas.  She has strengthened her presence and support locally through dedication, charm and enormous competence.  Most constituencies would be fortunate to have either Nancy or Charlotte elected as its MP.  I have few reservations about Nancy other than she is the candidate for the wrong party, at the wrong time and in the wrong constituency.  I hope the Labour Party will recognise the asset they have in her and that she will find herself in parliament in the not too distant future.

While she remains a Tory I could never advocate support for Charlotte, even though I have grown to like her fighting spirit if not always the stands she has taken and her focus on her opponents – she should leave that to lesser individuals such as bloggers.

It is likely that Caroline Lucas will be elected and I predict that she will rapidly become the stand out newcomer to the Commons, and Brighton will have its reputation enhanced by having her as one of its MPs.

I could comment about the campaigns in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove, but they have been so dull and uninspiring that I just won’t bother!

Unpublished YouGov poll for the Sun puts Tories just 1 point ahead of Labour

A fascinating poll was conducted by YouGov for the Sun that had the Conservatives just 1 point ahead of Labour.  The poll was taken immediately aftr the Gordon Brown interview with Piers Morgan.  The Sun did not publish the poll, saying that it was never intended for publication!

It must be tough for those who made the call that the Sun was backing the Tories to see the polls narrow so alarmingly (or so pleasingly for others). It won’t be “the Sun wot won it” this time.

The fact that it was never published isn’t a problem.  The importance of the poll is that when the electorate is exposed to the real GB, rather than the smears and lies that is part of its aily diet, our Gordon excels.

This must be a matter of great concern for the Tories.  David ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron is identified as an old Etonian Tory toff.

Labour would be well advised to remember the saying “It’s the economy, Stupid”, but add to it “It’ all about Class”.

A hung parliament continues to look likely.

Let the phoney war end

The election casmpaigns in Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Kemptown and Hove feel a bit of a phoney war.  The vrious candidates are buzzing around like busy bees, but aren’t yet saying “vote for me, I am wonderful” or words to that effect.

We have seen big names coming to Brighton – David Milliband for Labour, Chris Grayling for the Conservatives, and for the Lib Dems , err, umm, nobody – a sign of the priority they are giving to the City.

The Greens, of course, don’t need to bring down their big guns since their biggest gun (surely n inappropriate reference to a party of peace – Ed) is Brighton Pavilion’s own Caroline Lucas.  Her appearances on Question Time and Straight Talk consolidate her reputation as one of the country’s most engaging, open and honest political leaders.

This blog was wrong when it warned that her position as Leader of the Greens would undermine her campaign.  Quite to opposite is true. The mannr by which she conducts herself and how she combines the roles of MEP, party leader and constituency candidate, has removed any doubt that I might have had about her.

The last few days has seen the usual pre-election activity, and all three candidates are aquitting themselves well, although Charlotte Vere seems more obsessed by Caroline Lucas than she is by her own campign!

Just wait for a week or so, once Gordon Brown goes to the Palace (6th April?), you can expect to be knee deep in candidates, canvassers, leaflets, posters, and national politicians.  What joy!  Who knows, you might even see a Lib Dem.

The sleeze allegations against Blairites will stick to Labour unless Gordon Brown does to the the Right what the Right did to the Left

This blog has repeatedly called for tactical voting to ensure that the Tories do not form a majority government after the election.  The recent narrowing of the opinion polls has pointed to a hung parliament, while optimists hope that Labour can pull victory from the jaws of defeat.  The joker in pack has been the Blairites, including Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, or as they are also known the Bitterites, who hate Gordon Brown more than they hate the Tories.  They are, afterall, Tories in Labour clothes.

I had always expected the Blairites to put the boot in during the election campaign.  They may yet do this.  They have form, not least in 1983 when they openly attacked the Labour Manifesto even though many were standing for election on that very platform.

What has come as a surprise, though why it has shows my innocence, are the disclosures about cash for influence.  The video footage of former Blairite Minister, Byers, has brought condemnation from his former colleagues, and there may be more to come in tomorrow’s Dispatches programme.

What Gordon Brown should do is withdraw the whip from them for the duration of this Parliament while the Party undertakes an investigation into their actions that clearly bring the Party into disrepute.  The Labour Party has never hesitated doing so against the left, but will it, and Brown himself, have the courage to do it against the Blairite right?  It would send a signal that Labour finds the alleged behaviour unacceptable.

But of course, Labour won’t do this, and Gordon Brown will at best remain silent, or at worst try to give the Bitterites some political cover.  He thinks he needs them and that his personal prospects depend on their loyalty.  They don’t and they won’t remain loyal.  This will be another opportunity lost for Brown.

A rant against Ashcroft and Cameron, need for tactical votes in Hove and Brighton Kemptown, and Charlotte Vere’s hopes receding

Patriotism, was David Cameron’s call on Sunday.  Ashcroft has blown that out of the water.  Still a non-dom.  To give Charlotte Vere credit, she has made it clear she hasn’t touched his cash.  Good for her.  Cameron’s refrain that the matter was a private affair between Ashcroft and HM Revenue and Customs is hollow.

But isn’t it great to see Tory politicians becoming a bit more humble.  Gone is the swagger “When I am in the Cabinet …”.  The polls continue to narrow.  The attacks on Gordon Brown have been OTT.  But what could still go wrong is the Tories mobilisation of support in key marginals, backed by Ashcroft’s cash.  The polls show that the Tories are stronger in those areas that have benefited from Ashcroft’s cash and expertise.  This is a worry in Hove and in Brighton Kemptown, which makes tactical voting so important.  The polls suggest that Charlotte Vere’s chances of winning Brighton Pavilion have seriously receded.

Ashcroft is reported to have said that he will end his non-dom status if the Tories win the election.  Cameron must come clean about how long he has known about Ashcroft’s non-dom status, and make sure that he immediately ends his non-dom status.

(Apologies for the rant.  It has been a long day with much travelling).

67 days to go, or is it 25? With tactical voting it will be Kemptown Labour, Pavilion Green and Hove …?

Conventional wisdom has it that Gordon Brown will go to the country on May 6th. But Labour friends have hinted that, given the narrowing of the polls (Sunday Times has it down to 2 points although that is probably a rogue poll), Brown might pop in to see the Queen tomorrow in order to have the election on March 25th!

David Cameron’s speech today amounted to little more than raising the bogey of “5 more years of Gordon Brown”, which might prove counter-productive given that Labour now leads the Tories on who people trust to care for the economy. George Osbourne just doesn’t instil confidence.

The “Vote for Change” slogan is rather empty.  Change to what?  Faced with  little of substance (other than not being Brown) when coming to cast their vote, electors will go with the devil it knows (that is other than Brighton Pavilion which increasingly looks like Caroline Lucas of the Greens).

The Greens organisation is really coming together, and the blitz of the constituency this week, well beyond the Muesli Belt, is demonstrating that the Greens, by concentrating on Brighton Pavilion, will almost certainly see the election of the first ever Green MP.

With the closing of the polls, and the concentration of the Greens on Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Kemptown will return Simon Burgess as a Labour MP if other non-Tory supporters vote tactically. As for Hove ….?  My heart goes with Celia Barlow.  What I would welcome is the Greens advocating tactical votes for Labour in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove.  Should they do that, then Labour supporters would be more inclined to vote tactically in Brighton Pavilion.  I just wish that Nancy Platts (I am a big fan) was the Labour candidate in Brighton Kemptown.  With her energy, integrity and enthusiasm, she would win comfortably.