An alternative view to the Brighton and Hove Independent 100

The Brighton and Hove Independent last week (30th May) published a list of the “100 people who make our city what it is”. The Editorial Director, Greg Hadfield has said he “expects – and even hopes – that almost everyone will disagree” with the list.

Let me be the first. There are the predictable names but it is who Greg has missed that demands comment. For example, why is your Humble Blogger not included? No politician can hope for recognition and success without endorsement from this awesome blog.

It is all very well to have Martin Harris from the bus company, but what about former Mayor, Brian Fitch, who singlehandedly, in a career stretching back to when Methuselah was a boy in short trousers, has saved bus route after bus route, most recently the Number 5, from being callously axed without a second thought to those isolated on our estates. What hope is there for them now that Brian has moved to Eastbourne?

More seriously, in the media section, there is no mention of anyone from the Brighton Argus. I just can’t imagine why not! Adam Trimingham, at least, should be there.

Three politicians from each of the main political parties are listed although the Green, Major Druitt, is listed because of his business influence, and Katy Bourne appears to have transcended her party political affiliations to be listed under Public Services.

But how does one make a judgement on who has made a contribution to make our city what it is. When reviewing the list, I was hard pressed to say for over half of them one thing they have done to make or change the City. Merely holding a position, elected or otherwise, doesn’t mean that you have helped to shape a place.

A better list would be who, over the last 25 years or more, has helped to make Brighton and Hove what it is today. Who is the modern day Herbert Carden, Margaret Hardy, Lewis Cohen, Dorothy Stringer, John Morley, Denis Hobden, Tony Hewison, Asa Briggs, or Richard Attenborough? Their influence on the City remains even though they are no longer with us.

I could mention people like Linda Pointing, Dani Ahrens and Melita Dennett, who (amongst others) were pioneers in the movement for lesbian and gay rights and recognition, and opposition to Section 28. Or Shirley West who was, for many years, the backbone of the Women’s Centre. Jess Wood from Allsorts continues this work, particularly with children and young people.

For fifty years Patricia Norman was central to the Friends Centre and to its adult education arm. Into her nineties she continued with a group for pensioners run from the Friends Centre, as well as being involved in the work of Brighton Housing Trust for over 45 years, most recently as its Life President.

Kate Page has been at the Resources Centre for almost 35 years, helping countless community organisations shape their communities. And Faith Matyszak provided the backbone of BME services throughout the 1980’s, 90’s and noughties.

Local domestic violence services were saved by a group including the above-mentioned Shirley West and Jean Calder, who subsequently became the first Director of the Women’s Refuge Project (now Rise). Jean later led the successful campaign to save St Peters Church as a place of worship, alongside Janet King, Isabel Turner and others. (Jean now has the honour to be a regular contributor to this esteemed blog.)

Interfaith activities were championed by Tehm Framroze, and now by Anthea Ballam. They should be on the list. Andrew Manson-Brailsford and Ian Chisnall continue to make the Church relevant in the community. Rabbi Elli Sarah does likewise for Progressive Jewish community.

While he will no doubt write a strongly worded letter against his inclusion, Tony Greenstein should be included for being a public irritant of gargantuan proportions but, more so, for being one of the most consistent anti-fascist in Brighton and Hove.

What about the campaigners who helped to close down the Dolphinarium? Or Duncan Blinkhorn and Mark Strong for getting the needs of cyclists acknowledged.

Mushtaq Ahmed was pivotal in establishing Sussex CCC as a force to be reckoned with. Dick Knight could represent all those who helped secure a stadium fit for the 21st century at Falmer.

Michael Chowen, a local businessman and employer, has been a philanthropist with a particular commitment to women’s services. Peter Field has had a long history in charitable work, not least in nurturing and developing housing services for homeless people.

I could go on and on, and I usually do, but those named above would be 25 of my 100.

Advertisements

Vote for the independent Ian Chisnall in Thursday’s Police and Crime Commissioner election

It is never right not to vote. The vote has been hard fought for and should be respected.

On Thursday we are being invited to vote in the ridiculous Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Sussex. Many people have said that they are not going to vote. I would urge everybody to cast a ballot. You may not like these elections and the party you support might not be fielding a candidate. Nevertheless, you have a democratic duty to vote.

At worst, spoil your ballot. Write a message of protest. Better still, write the name of someone not standing at the bottom of the ballot paper. If you are sad and really desperate, vote for the Brighton Politics Blogger!

Alternatively, and this is what I shall be doing, is to vote for the independent candidate, Ian Chisnall. Ian is standing on a platform that includes opposing the party political nature of these elections. I think he is absolutely right.

Everyone has assumed that Katy Bourne, the Conservative Party candidate, will comfortably win this election. I think that is a correct assumption and, given that there will be a PCC, she will make a perfectly competent Commissioner. I’m pleased that it is likely to be the only woman on the ballot paper who will be elected.

But as Alan Clark used to say, ACHAB (“anything can happen at backgammon”. I don’t understand why he said it, it just makes me sound well read!). But I think that there is a very slim chance, very slim indeed, that people around the country might vote in sufficient numbers for independent candidates in these elections.

Therefore, if you don’t like the whole idea of these Commissioners, or if you don’t want to cast a vote for a party political candidate for such a position, or if you are just mischievous, please vote for Ian Chisnall.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner – the protest vote should go to the Independent candidate, Ian Chisnall

With the Procession to Victory, also known as the East Brighton By-Election, fresh in our minds, we turn to the next Procession to Victory, the election to become Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.

There are five candidates in this election:
• Tony Armstrong (UKIP)
• Katy Bourne (Conservative)
• Ian Chisnall (Independent)
• Godfrey Daniel (Labour)
• David Rogers (Liberal Democrat)

Katy Bourne (aka The Winner) has two advantages in this election: she is the only woman in the field of five and she is a Conservative. I’m not saying that the overwhelming popularity of the Conservatives at this time will be a particular advantage, but the Sussex-wide constituency should guarantee a Conservative victory.

In any election Katy would be a formidable candidate, cut as she is from the same blue cloth as my own personal favourite Conservative, Chuck Vere. But it is a shame that this election offers so little by way of a true contest.

I have previously posted my view that this election should not be contested on a party political basis. I am pleased that the Greens have decided not to field a candidate (although I imagine that that is due to pure pragmatic reasons such as the cost of running such a campaign).

I think that the only way that a Conservative candidate could have been properly challenged would have been if the other major party, Labour, and the two obscure fringe parties, the Lib Dems and UKIP, had not stood and put their support behind an independent candidate.

I am very pleased that Ian Chisnall has put himself forward as an Independent. I hope that people will vote for him if for no other reason than to make a statement that this role should not be a party political one.

So good luck to Ian Chisnall in this election and best wishes to Katy Bourne who will be elected on November 15 to represent the 1.6 million population of Sussex as the Police and Crime Commissioner. I am sure she will do a fine job.

The case for an Independent Police Commissioner

There is an investing article in this week’s Latest 7, an odd little magazine but with a great writer in Frank le Duc. This week he features the only (currently) independent candidate for the Sussex Police Commissioner, Ian Chisnall. Click here for Ian’s website.

Around the country, elections for Commissioners will take place in November. According to Frank le Duc “Two Conservatives have declared their hand – East Sussex County Council leader Peter Jones and Arun District Council member Paul Dendle, who also has a county-wide role with the party. The current police authority chairman Steve Waight may also throw his hat into the ring for the Tories.”

The Greens and Lib Dems are not expected to field candidates in the Sussex Police Commissioner election.

Labour’s Paul Richards has declared his hand although a formal selection has yet to take place. Labour originally opposed the creation of Police Commissioners, but have now decided to contest these elections.

Let’s face it, the official Conservative candidate is going to be elected. All electoral mathematics points to a substantial majority. That means that it will be Conservative Party members who will, in reality, choose the Police Commissioner. This can’t be a healthy state of affairs. It means that the successful candidate has to appeal to the narrow perspective of Tory members in deepest Sussex.

The ethical challenge for Conservative Party is whether it will organise an open selection, allowing anyone in Sussex to cast a vote in order to ensure that the elected Commissioner has wider credibility.

If not, I would suggest that the Labour Party should join with the Greens and Lib Dems by not fielding a candidate, and all supporting and campaigning for an independent candidate. Labour has nothing to lose and everything to gain – the outside possibility of not having a Party political, specifically a Conservative, Commissioner.

Who are the best politicians in Brighton and Hove?

At present, given their electoral success, the Greens could claim to be the best politicians in Brighton and Hove. Individual Greens could be seen as having achieving remarkable things. Caroline Lucas continues to be the dominant individual, but a success for the party is the emergence of other Greens. Bill Randall has made a solid start as the Greens’ first ever leader of a local authority, and is impressing all who deal with him. In the elections themselves, Christopher Hawtree stunned all with his victory in Central Hove.

Amongst the Tories, rumour has it that Mike Weatherley is looking for a junior position in the Home Office. He has focussed much of his efforts in recent weeks on home affairs issues – Travellers, squatters, anti-social behaviour, drugs, etc. With the support and influence of Mamma Grizzly, can we expect to see armed police as a norm, even the return of capital punishment? (I have no reason to believe the Grizzly One advocates either, but I know she will always respond to any provocation!)

Labour, as the minority party in Brighton and Hove, with no MPs and few councillors, is finding it hard to be noticed. I retain some admiration for Warren Morgan and his fighting spirit. (Warren was recently photographed with sheep in Sheepcote Valley http://fb.me/BShMUeAA – Warren is the one wearing sunglasses).

Amongst the fringe activists, one has to mention My Pal Paul Perrin of UKIP. He never misses a chance to make anti-European comments, or to attack the political establishment. His latest target is payments to or expenses claimed by politicians. Perhaps he should be known as PayPal Perrin or perhaps No PayPal Paul.

But none of the above rank as the best politician. The are some individuals in the business community, Roger French from Brighton and Hove Buses, Sue Addis from Donatellos, and Mike Holland from Fingers in Many Pies, who have worked politicians of many shades to achieve their own ends. So too in the community and voluntary sector, there are several more than able politicians, who are able to bend with the prevailing wind. I think of Ian Chisnall from a church group, David Standing of Hove YMCA, Andy Winter of the Brighton Housing Trust, and Emma Daniel of the Community and Voluntary Sector Forum.

The best politicians in town, however, the five most accomplished by far, are John Barradell, the Chief Executive, and his Strategic Directors in the City Council (David Murray, Charlie Stewart, Geoff Raw and Terry Parkin). The Greens were committed to abolishing the Fab Four, but it looks as though they will survive and are going about their daily business showing not an iota of care. Such is their combined political nouce, they have made the transition from a Conservative to a Green regime as easy as moving from a starter of blue cheese and biscuits to a serving of steak, egg and chips (except, of course, on meat-free Mondays).

The Greens blame Labour, Labour blames the Greens, and the Tories laugh all the way to the polling station

Yesterday I was upbeat and positive about the collaboration between Labour and the Greens.  Tonight they are back at each other’s throats.  This is how I see it. It was great that there was a shared approach to the Tory budget.  Labour and Green councillors were joined by Lib Dem Paul Elgood and independent (former Lib Dem) David Watkins, in voting through some amendments.  So far, so good.

It was right to amend the Tory budget, but that did not mean it was no longer a Tory budget, in spite of what the Grizzly One might say: “I am very disappointed that the Conservative budget proposal was voted down. It was, on the whole, excellent.”  The tens of millions of cuts remained.  Labour and Green councillors were then faced with a choice of what to do.  Together with Elgood and Watkins, they had more than enough votes to throw the whole budget out.  And there would have been enough time to review the Tory proposals and to come up with some alternatives.

But when push came to shove, all 13 Labour councillors abstained. All 13 Green councillors votes against the budget along with Watkins and Elgood.  A truly courageous group of Labour councillors would have seen this as an opportunity to make a real stand against the ConDem Coalition.  But it was not to be. The Tory budget, mildly amended, was comfortably carried. Andy Richards writes: “The opportunity which is being missed here by all of the non-Coalition councillors is to say to an increasingly weak and divided government, ‘we are not going to pass on your cuts’.”

There is a debate about whether it is ok to vote against a motion you have amended. It is no difference than abstaining if the vote goes in favour of a cuts budget.  Dani, as always, speaks sense: “The amendments were just tinkering at the edges of a £23 million cuts package. They restored less than £3 million – welcome, but not enough to make the overall budget acceptable.  Amending a motion you are intending to vote against is perfectly reasonable. It means you are saying that you don’t want to do what is proposed, but if you are defeated and it ends up being done, you would prefer it done in a different way.”

I entirely disagree with Ian Chisnall who writes: “If the Greens and Labour were not happy that the final budget was adequate they should have either tabled more robust amendements or tabled no amendments and voted against the unamended budget.”  Wrong.  It is right that Labour and Green try to make the best of a bad deal, but that doesn’t mean they then have to vote for that bad deal.

What will the consequences be? Immediately the prospect of any form of reconciliation between the two parties of the left has been lost, the likelihood of co-operation after May’s local elections gone.  The blame game has begun. Labour activists accuse the Greens of being unrealistic, the Greens blame Labour for selling out.  While I tend to take the latter view, the one party that will be laughing all the way to the polling stations is the Conservative Party.  They have their headline – a Council Tax being voted down – along with the defeated cut in the cost of parking permits.  Geoffrey Theobald ended with some egg on his face over the cycle path, but that is small change compared to the vitriol that is being expressed between the two opposition parties.

I am sorry not to have responded to the record number of comments left today, but the debate rages on in the Comments section of my last post which gave my knee-jerk reaction immediately after the end of the Council meeting.