The legend that is Brian Fitch, and the case of the Phantom Post Office closure

“Brian Fitch is a legend and much loved by Labour people” says Dan Wilson.  Legend? True. Much loved? Not that sure. Deselected in Hanover, deselected in Hollingbury, defeated in Hangleton. But a survivor and a true character. The Council is the poorer without him. The tale of ‘saving’ the number 81 bus is true legend.

I promised a tale about ‘saving’ a post office. Back in the 1980’s (and I’m not sure if this story is 100% true, that ex-Labour councillor Andy Winter ran a campaign to ‘save’ the Hampton Place post office in Western Road. The campaign worked a treat and he was re-elected! Shame that a few years later, after he was ‘bumped’ off the Council by the Labour Party, the post office was closed and now is food outlet Cook.

But to end on a positive not, it appears that the Green’s Pete West may have had a victory regarding the Co-op Post Office in London Road. The Post Office is having talks with Pete West and others about relocating the service to somewhere on London Road and not towards Preston Park. Will this make a difference in St Peters and North Laine. It might just add a few dozen votes to his predicted huge majority.

Regency: vote Green to keep the Tories out and to protest against Labour-supported witch hunt against Jason Kitcat

The result in Regency Ward in May 2007 epitomised the unexpected success across Brighton of the Greens.  The Greens expected to do well but not win the number of seats that they actually did.  One of the newly elected councillors, Hermione Roy, resigned her seat after a few months, allowing the election of the irrepressible  Jason Kitcat.

Regency is one of the few wards in the city that has returned Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green councillors in recent years.  It remains a true four way marginal.  Until the mid 1980s it was a safe Tory area, then it went Labour as Labour won control of the old Brighton Council.  Later, the seats were shared between Labour and the Lib Dems (the Lib Dem clearly hadn’t expected to win), before the clean sweep by the Greens in 2007.

In May it will lose one of its current Green councillors as Sven Rufus moves to stand in Hollingbury and Stanmer ward.  This move is an indication of the ambition of the Green Party, that a sitting councillor is willing to stand in a ward that is winnable, but not a certain gain.

Jason Kitcat will be re-elected, and I predict with a massive majority.  There are two reason for this prediction.  Firstly, he is an outstanding ward councillor, tireless, hard-working, and easily recognisable. (His surname, in this respect, is an asset).  In my dealings with him he has ben diligent and reasonable, unlike some other councillors. 

Secondly, he is seen as the victim of a witch hunt by a combination of Labour and Conservatives.  The complaint against him to, and the decision by, the Standards Committee seems petty.  He faces a further hearing on 3rd November that could see him suspended from office for up to 6 months. It is my view that nobody should remove an elected representative other than the electorate.  Nobody likes bullies and I hope that the vote in May will see him elected with a significantly increased majority.

I advocate a vote for the Greens in Regency, both tactically to keep the Tories out and a protest against Labour’s collusion in the witch hunt against Jason Kitcat.

Lost and confused in Hollingbury and Hollingdean

Green councillor Alex Phillips has taken me to task for getting the name of a Brighton ward wrong.  I have been calling it Hollingbury and Stanmer but she points out that it is Hollingdean and Stanmer. As always, Ms Phillips is correct.  It is Hollingdean … now, but at the last election it was Hollingbury, so I am also correct.  But point taken.  I will try harder.

Something interesting might happen next May in Hollingbury and Stanmer

Something interesting might just happen next May in Hollingbury and Stanmer.  It has long been regarded as a safe Labour seat, and with three long-standing councillors set to defend their seats, one would normally expect them to win comfortably.  Last time out, in 2007, Labour saw off the challenge from the Conservatives.  Jeane Lepper topped the poll with 1,326 votes, with Christine Simpson second (1,056) and Pat Hawkes (1,046) surprisingly down at third.  The nearest Conservative polled 838 votes.

A year or so ago, Pat Hawkes announced her intention to retire next May, but has since then decided to contest the seat again.  However, her re-election is far from certain, nor is that of Christine Simpson who is not one of the most active ward councillors in the City, invisible at ward level and on the council.  The exception is Jeane Lepper who is active, maintains a high profile and will certainly be re-elected.

But something interesting might just happen.  There is a very small chance that the Conservatives will rally their support, but this is unlikely.  It is the Greens who should be watched.  Hollingbury and Stanmer is a key target.  Unlike in 2007, the Greens are organising at the University of Sussex, and showed how much support at election time.  What is more, a seasoned campaigner in the form of Regency Ward councillor Sven Rufus, who lives in Hollingdean, will be standing next May and he has been active building support.

With both Christine Simpson and Pat Hawkes vulnerable, the Greens have every chance of picking up two seats in May.  If they achieve this, they will be a long way down the road of becoming the largest party on the City Council.  My advice for non-Tories is to vote for Jeane Lepper, Sven Rufus and another Green.  This will be such an interesting contest.

Being criticised for my constructive criticism of Green councillors in Brighton Pavilion

Local thespian, Ralph Brown, has taken issue with my blogging style.  In a Tweet earlier this evening Ralph twittered: “@BrightonPolitic I’m afraid your blog is losing it’s grip. Innaccurate, attention-seeking and shit-stirring speculation. Must do better”.  There’s nothing more satisfying than being recognised by one’s peers!

What Ralph has taken issue with is my criticism of local Green councillors. Ralph’s reaction was just what I was hoping to avoid.  It is fine to take issue with what I say, but he offers no evidence to support his view that what I have written is inaccurate.  In fact, I was quoting an assertion he had made about Brighton’s Open Market and Green councillor Keith Taylor’s failure to campaign to save it. 

“Attention-seeking and shit-stirring speculation”?  On the contrary, I have written from the perspective of supporting Caroline Lucas, the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion.  I have called for tactical voting by Labour and Lib Dems.  I did the same in the Goldsmid by-election that saw the election of energetic and impressive Green, Alex Phillips.  But a blog must be allowed to make constructive criticism, and I do so because, as I said earlier, Caroline’s campaign is being let down by Green councillors in certain Brighton Pavilion wards, and specifically in St Peter’s and North Laine ward.

A far more constructive criticism comes from Luke Walter.  I am happy to reproduce the full text of his comment, and would urge you to read his excellent blog:

“I think there’s strong evidence to suggest that the Greens message, particularly in this campaign, is reaching other parts of Brighton, beyond traditional Green areas.  You can read my analysis of the ward breakdown from December’s ICM poll here: Whilst the poll has it’s flaws, it suggests that the Greens are performing well in Patcham and Withdean (actually out-performing the Tories in Withdean). Whilst there is work to be done in Hollingbury and Stamner, and the Greens need to shore up the vote in Regency, the message is getting through. In Hollingbury and Stamner, the Greens need to continue to make the case to Labour-supporting residents that their best bet to beating the Tories is to vote Green, as this blog has advised and rightly so. There is no doubt that the Greens can get their literature through the letterbox faster than any other party, and can certainly rely on a kind of national support the Vere and Platts campaign could only dream of. They just need those extra voters to trust the Greens, which we hope they will.”

Thanks, Luke, very constructive.  And Ralph, I will try better!  But perhaps you could encourage those hardworking but bureaucratic Green councillors to get out campaigning for Caroline!