Stupid statements from Douglas Alexander must have had Brighton & Hove Labour activists in Liverpool squirming

A well attended fringe meeting this week at Labour’s Conference in Liverpool was one that looked at how Labour could see off the threat of the Green Party which was described as a “creeping threat”.

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander demonstrated his shallowness when he described the Greens as a “one policy party”. How Labour activists from Brighton and Hove must have cringed at this. Any reasonably minded person will acknowledge that the Greens have a range of policies, something that marks the Greens from their predecessor, the Ecology Party. With ‘leaders’ such as Alexander, no wonder Labour is struggling to gain credibility.

He said that campaigners should ask the Greens “what have you actually achieved for your party”. Well Shallow Doug, they have won their first seat at Westminster, and they have gained control of their first Council. This compares to you … having been … the election organiser …. in …. 2010 ….? Remind me of the result.

But of course the Greens in Brighton and Hove have begun to implement their manifesto, and nobody who has worked closely with the likes of Bill Randall, Amy Kennedy, Geoffrey Bowden, Ben Duncan, and others will have been very impressed. Council officers have been pleasantly surprised at the leadership being shown by their focus and work rate.

Ben Page, of the polling agency, Ipsos MORI, described Green voters as typically middle aged and middle class, and more likely to have voted Labour in the past. Steady on, Ben. Middle aged? He then contradicted himself by saying that the Greens “are picking up protest votes because the Liberal Democrats are now fatally compromised by their role in the coalition.” In Brighton and Hove it is clear that there has been a move from Labour to the Greens, but it has been more than a protest vote. For some it will be a protest, for others it was tactical – the Greens being best placed to beat the Tories in Brighton Pavilion. But for many, it allowed them to vote with their conscience, for a party that stands for what the Labour used to stand for, and a party without the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter how much Labour activists deny this, it remains a significant factor in the Greens’ rise.

But the Boy Douglas is right when he describes the Greens as a “creeping threat”. I prefer the description coined by Luke Walter (who I have previously described as the best councillor Brighton and Hove doesn’t have … yet). Luke described it as a “Green tide” that started in town centre wards where the Greens had their early success but as they settled down and had families, moved to outlying wards such as Hollingdean and Stanmer and Withdene, where they Greens picked up 3 of the 6 seats available.

The most sensible comment came from Brighton Labour activist, Tim Lunnon, who is a decent, thoughtful man. He said “What I don’t know about losing to the Greens has not been discovered yet.”

What Labour needs to learn is how to beat the Greens, and they won’t get closer to beating the Greens while they have ‘leaders’ like the Boy Wonder Alexander coming out with inane stupidity such as the Greens being a “one policy party”.

Cameron wobbles while Brown has his best day as the polls suggest no progress for the Tories

The polls tonight are moving in a way that makes even more uncertain the result of the 2010 General Election (or should that be the May 2010 General Election?).  An Ipsos MORI poll, usually the most reliable / least contaminated of all polls, has a poll taken in 57 marginal seats currently held by Labour, has Labour on 36%, the Tories on 36%, and the Lib Dems on 20%.  

A YouGov poll for the Sun, often the one that gives the Tories the most favourable result, has the Tories on 35%, Labour on 28% and the Lib Dems 28%.  This poll, even if it is correct, would not give the Tories a majority by some distance.  Another poll published tonight, by Opinium for the Daily Express, has Labour on 28%, the Tories on 33% and the Lib Dems on 27%.

Cameron has begun talking up his prospects, saying what he will do on Friday and in the first weeks in government.  Others are being more cautious.  Even Sky News, which has all but announced the Coronation of Cameron, has just said that the election is “too close to call”.   What must be worrying for the Tories is that, in spite of the overwhelming promotion of his cause by the media, the polls are not moving in the direction that would see a Tory government elected.

One other development worth noting was Brown’s inspiring speach which most observers, even tradional Tory supporters, praised very highly.  With two days to go, anything could yet happen. There was a very interesting discussion on the Election Show on BBC News this evening.  It wasn’t about the March of the Cameron into Downing Street.  No, it was the problem Cameron will face on Friday.  If after his massive poll lead for well over a year cannot deliver a majority, then there will be immediate moves within the Tory Party over his leadership.  Even if he forms a minority government (he has ruled out electoral reform thereby making a coalition with the Lib Dems impossible, unless Nick Clegg sells out on day one!), he won’t have a mandate to make the cuts he is planning.

One final development, Peter Hain in tomorrow’s Independent, is calling for Labour supporters in ‘no hope areas for Labour’ to “vote intelligently”.  This is the nearest a Labour Cabinet member has gone in calling for tactical votes.  Had he gone further, he would have been in breach of Labour Party rules, and he would have faced immediate expulsion.  But the message is clear from Hain: vote tactically to keep the Tories out.

I want a hung parliament

The poll in today’s Observer (by Ipsos MORI) has the Tory lead down to just 6 points.  If this was replicated at a general election, the Tories would have just 9 seats more than Labour and we would have the first hung parliament since 1974.  If the gap narrowed to 5 points Labour could be the largest party in the Commons!

In today’s Observer, Tony Helm, the paper’s Political Editor, writes: “Among Tory MPs and candidates a new nervousness has been evident since early in the month. One Tory candidate noted a recent wave of hostility on the doorstep towards George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, who announced in October that the Tories would freeze public-sector pay as part of necessary economic austerity measures”.

This is great news, and poses a challenge to David Cameron.  The approach to date of saying little, committing to nothing, with him and George Osborne sailing effortlessly into Numbers 10 and 11, is no longer credible. On the occasion when Osborne did speak out, the real face of Cameron’s Conservative Party was revealed.  And people don’t like what they see. It is the same old Tory Party, determined to cut jobs and services.  With Osborne proving to be so unpopular, will Cameron stand by his friend or will his ruthless personal ambition result in Boy George getting the elbow?

I want a hung parliament because Labour does not deserve a further term. They didn’t deserve this term. But the Conservatives would be the worst of all worlds – its natural instinct to cut given cover by the need for ‘pragmatism’. With a hung parliament each and every MP will have greater influence, and will be held accountable as the Commons will regain some power lost under Blair.

A hung parliament: things are really looking up!