Election result that will change the European political landscape for a decade

The last two weeks have seen election result that will change the European political landscape for a decade.

In Britain, France and Greece, the voters have said a resounding “no” to austerity. Even in the voters of Schleswig-Holstein gave Angela Merkel a bloody nose, her CDU party’s worst defeat in Schleswig-Holstein since 1950. Gone is Nicolas Sarkozy, in comes the anti-austerity Francois Hollande as President, and the two pro-austerity centre parties in Greece have been rejected by the voters.

The two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk have been given notice. Writing in today’s Daily Mail, former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, has revealed that he has waged a £1,000 on Cameron being gone by November. He got odds of 10-1.

There is so much to comment on, but the rejection of austerity must be the headline. Other matters, in brief, include:

Labours excellent performance up and down the country and its growing lead in the opinion polls. However, the party should not be complacent and, in light of European election results, needs to show that it is setting its face firmly against austerity. Just saying that they would not have cut so far and so fast is the wrong message. It now needs to give people hope and begin to make firm promises about public increasing expenditure, investing in housing and infrastructure products, and reversing changes in the NHS.

Locally, Labour had an excellent result in Hastings, having secured its most seats ever on the Borough Council and reinforcing its hold in that town. But Hastings is a strange place, having elected a Conservative MP, Amber Rudd, in 2010 on the same day as it elected a Labour council. Sarah Owen, Labour’s energetic and electable young candidate, should not underestimate the Blue Lady, Amber Rudd, who has become a highly respected member of the local political establishment, across party divides.

The Greens have much to be pleased about. They increased their number of councillors by more than any other party other than Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Party. The highlight was the third place secured by Jenny Jones in London’s mayoral election, beating the Lib Dems who came fourth. This was achieved in spite of Brian Paddick being given equal coverage to Boris and Ken with Jenny being treated by the media as an also ran.

As for the Lib Dems themselves, they now have fewer councillors than at any point in their history. Perhaps this is a trend that will see these Tory appeasers returning their lowest number of MPs at the next election. Their claim, that they are preventing the worst excesses of the Conservatives, ring increasingly hollow. They are nothing more than Tory-enablers who, but for their enthusiastic participation in the Coalition, the Conservatives would have been able to force through many of their most extreme measures.

Finally, the relative success of the far right in Europe is extremely worrying. While the BNP lost all the seats it was defending in Britain’s local elections, Marine Le Pen in France and Golden Dawn in Greece sends a chilling warning to all democrats across Europe. I will write more about this soon.

(Note: An earlier draft of this post referred to Rising Dawn. This has been corrected to Golden Dawn)

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Labour and Green campaigners must stop their squabbling and focus on beating the Tories

The finger pointing in Brighton Pavilion is getting out of hand.  Some Labour and Green supporters seem to be spening more time attacking each other than they do promoting their own policies.  For some it seems that beating the other party is more important than beating the Tories. Allegation and counter-allegation about dirty tricks featured highly on many tweets over the last days.

As one observer commented (sorry, mislaid the reference), both Greens and, in particular, Labour have emphasised in their leaflets who they think will come third. 

Beating the Conservatives on Thursday should be the highest priority.  There will be not benefit at all for either Labour or Green supporters, and more importantl ordinary people, if the Tories win Brighton Pavilion and in the country as a whole.

I appreciate that both Labour and the Greens have much to lose if they are not succesful in Brighton Pavilion.  A Green breakthrough will establish them as a progressive alternative to Labour and provide a springboard for further successes locally and nationally, probably at the expense of Labour. Failure to win on Thursday will put the Green Party’s prospects back a decade.

Labour campaigners need to consider whether a ‘scorched earth’ policy aimed at defeating the Greens is more important than trying to avoid a Tory government.  They must put aside their tribal differences and accept that there must be a Green tactical vote in Brighton Pavilion and Labour votes in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove. Defeating the Tories is most important.

Labour Minister Lord Adonis has effectively called for a tactical Green vote in Brighton Pavilion to keep the Tories out

The Labour Party is calling for tactical voting, something that this blog has been doing for six months. Writing in today’s Independent, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has called for Liberal Democrat supporters to back Labour in order to keep the Tories out of office.

He said it was vital to grasp the “fundamental Labour-Lib Dem identity of interest” to avoid a Tory government and that this was best served by Lib Dem voters voting Labour in marginal seats. He said that Lib Dems had a national policy that was similar to Labour’s.

He writes: “In Labour-Tory marginals, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote which helps the Tories against progressive policies”.

If only that was completely true. The Lib Dems, in some respects, are well to the left of Labour.

What Andrew Adonis does not do is to call for Labour supporters to vote tactically in seats where the Lib Dems are best placed to beat the Tories, but this is implied. He cannot directly call for Labour supporters to vote tactically for another party as this is against the rules of the Labour Party and would result in his immediate expulsion from the Party.

By implication, Lord Adonis is saying that Labour and Lib Dem supporters should vote to keep the Tories out. In Brighton Pavilion this means a vote for the Green’s Caroline Lucas who is both the front-runner and the person most likely to beat the Tories. His call for tactical voting must be seen as a boost for Caroline Lucas’ campaign.

Finally, a comment left on this blog yesterday by Derek Wall that there is still a lot of work to be done by the Greens in worth repeating: “I would still urge people to help, elections are won by canvassing and leafleting”. Well said Derek, and well said Andrew Adonis!

Amy Kennedy, Charlotte Vere, Caroline Lucas and Nancy Platts – what have you been doing?

I was thrilled to discover three things on my return to Brighton this evening, while reflecting on why on continental Europe (or The Netherlands to be precise) is able to deliver cleaner streets, do road repairs in the evening, and (no surprise here) get so many people onto bicycles.

But the three delights.  First there was Green councillor Amy Kennedy appearing on Just a Minute with Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth and Jenny Eclair.  Actually it wasn’t Amy but the equally admirable Pam Ayres.  I do confuse the two of them.

Then I read a press release from the Conservative candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Charlotte Vere, attacking Green candidate Caroline Lucas.  But the attack was by proxy, it was an attack on Green councillor Keith Taylor who was “representing Green Party leader Caroline Lucas”.

What amused me and anyone else who knows about the internal politics of the Green Party will know that Keith Taylor representing Caroline Lucas is a contradiction in terms.  Keith can’t stand Caroline: she defeated him to become the first Leader of the Green Party, then trounced him to become the candidate in Brighton Pavilion.  Keith has been absent from the campaign trail, not a bad thing in itself as he is hardly an electoral asset.

But what of Labour? The artist who drew the rather flattering image I use on my Twitter account (whose identity is yet to be revealed) sent me a link to a Sunday Times article which I had missed as I was away, and anyway I don’t read the gutter pres.  The article is about reds under the bed.  My contact said “It lacks any real political analysis – disappointing journalism, but names Nancy Platts as one of the ‘new awkward squad’ who will create a ‘lurch to the left’.”   Much more praise like that and Nancy will be back in poll position in Brighton Pavilion.

Nancy was unavailable for comment, she had a revolution to organise.  A great bit of publicity for her, but a pathetic piece of gutter journalism.  Have a read: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7061145.ece

It’s great to be home.  I’ll be looking at who is contributing what to the various election campaigns next.

83 days to go, and Caroline Lucas continues to be let down by local Green Councillors

There are just 83 days until the expected general election and the campaign in Brighton Pavilion is getting into full swing, whereas there is an eery silence in the campaigns in neighbouring constituencies.  It is as if candidates are too scared to do anything.

But in Brighton Pavilion all three candidates are ensuring that residents cannot forget the election, or them.

Today Nancy Platts has blitzed Regency Ward, and from those I saw out and about, all were local party members.  She has put out another of her questionnaire-type leaflets throughout the constituency (although it is a shame that the return address in the event of non-delivery is Northumberland!). Where Nancy excels is in her ability to react to local issues within a few days, even hours.  Her campaign to save the Preston Circus Fire Station is playing very well, and securing for her a very positive reaction. She has leapt on the plans to fell trees in Clyde Road, meeting with residents immediately that the plans were unveiled. And this in the heart of the ‘Green belt’.

Caroline Lucas, as a member of the European Parliament, and therefore often away from Brighton, needs others to help her maintain a local face, but she continues to be failed by Green members locally.  Apart from the likes of Bill Randall, Jason Kitcat, Ben Duncan and Alex Philips, local Green councillors, particularly those in St Peters and North Laine, are noticeable by their invisibility.  The plan to fell trees in a street such as Clyde Road should have been a campaigning gift for councillors for St Peters and North Laine, but as this blog has said on many occasions, many Green councillors lack the ability to campaign. A well-organised party would have had a leaflet out within 24 hours, in the name of Caroline Lucas and the local Green councillors.  (I offer this criticism as one who is calling for a tactical vote for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion.  Caroline Lucas is favourite to be elected, and if she is it will be in spite of the majority of Green councillors, not because of them!).

Charlotte Vere continues to be a one-woman tornado, sweeping her way around the constituency, tirelessly meeting meeting people and making a very favourable impression. When I met her recently, the impression I was left with is that she would make an excellent member of parliament, but what a shame about her Party.  (I say the same thing about Nancy Platts, great candidate, wrong party).  Charlotte is probably the most impressive of all three when relating to ordinary people, followed closely by Nancy.  She lets herself down by her constant digs at her opponents on her website.  She could learn from Caroline and Nancy who totally ignore, at least in public, the other candidates!

Even though she is the ‘superstar’ of the Green Party, Caroline’s ‘bed-side manner’ isn’t great, which is why she so needs her local councillors.  Yet she continues to be let down by them.  It is as if, apart from the tireless Alex Phillips, most Green councillors don’t want Caroline to win …..

Lib Dems give up on Brighton Pavilion as candidate stands down

I am grateful to Green Ben Duncan for breaking the news that the Lib Dem candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Andrew Falconer, has quit the race to succeed David Lepper. The only thing that has surprised me about this move is that the Lib Dems had a candidate at all. 

I watch politics in Brighton and Hove quite closely but have to admit that I had no idea whatsoever that the Lib Dems had selected anyone.  In fact, only last week I searched the internet, including the Lib Dems Brighton and Hove site, to see who the candidate was, and even the website had not been told about Andrew Falconer’s selection.

The Lib Dems in Brighton and Hove are a joke, holding just 2 seats on the City Council.  What will they do now?  Hold a joke ‘open primary’ like the Tories? S lect a woman in order to elevate the camapign to a level playing field?   Select a charasmatic, public figure to represent them, someone like …?  Actually, apart from Uncle Vince Cable the Lib Dems don’t have anyone known outside their own front room.

I hope the Lib Dems won’t waste their time fielding a candidate, even a token paper candidate, in Brighton Pavilion. They should concentrate their efforts in constituencies such as Lewes where they have a sitting candidate in Stormin’ Norman Baker, and Eastbourne where they have the best chance of beating the Tory Nigel Waterson. The Lib Dems could encourage their supporters to vote Labour or Green in Brighton Pavilion and Labour and the Greens should reciprocate being encouraging their supporters to vote tactically for the Lib Dems in Lewes and Eastbourne.

Goldsmid By-election is a Two Horse Race

Don’t count chickens before they hatch, is an old saying. It must be very tempting for Green councillors to speculate on what will happen in the event of a victory by Alex Phillips in the Goldsmid by-election on Thursday.

Victory is by no means certain for Ms Phillips but it is clearly a two horse race between her and the Conservatives. I would encourage you to visit Alex’s campaign website. Very impressive and very effective.

I tried to find Liz Telcs’ website so I did a Google search. The top result provided links to this blog! Then there were links to Ben Duncan’s blog, and then, last but not least, to the Argus archive!

Nothing from the good lady herself. If Labour was not so divided and demoralised, I’m sure that it could post even a basic website if they had any self belief.

Ben Duncan, in his entertaining blog, writes that in the event of an Alex Phillips victory: “I think we should invite Labour to adopt our local manifesto, and make sure as much of the council’s business as possible (and certainly the question of which minority party (ies) form the administration) is decided by council (and not the Tories single party cabinet) as possible”.

I’m glad that he is not calling for a formal coalition. Why on earth would the Greens get into bed with their arch rivals when they are hoping to beat Labour in Brighton Pavilion thus achieving their biggest success ever by having Caroline Lucas elected?

What should happen is the abolition of the Cabinet system at Brighton and Hove City Council which must be the least democratic of all the options available. The City should be run by all councillors, not a select few who do not enjoy the majority support in the City. The electorate have not given a mandate to any party and therefore the important decisions should be taken by full Council. It may well mean that councillors having to meet more often, but whoever said that democracy was easy?