No Green/Red coalition in Brighton and Hove, and the Tories eye up 2015

The only consolation, if that is the right word, for some Labour and Tory activists following their joint defeat on Thursday is an element of glee that the Greens will be forced to make cuts. What a bizarre and sad reaction. What does it say about a politician that they can take any pleasure from seeing cuts being made? Take Momma Grizzly, Rachael Bates, she has said on Twitter: “Can’t wait to see the Greens having to make the cuts they said they’d never make.”

Such a reaction can be put down to one of two things, a bad reaction to defeat, or a deeply rooted ideological commitment to cuts and small government. Grizzly is an interesting Tory Party activist, the kind on the ascendancy within the Tory Party. And the group of young Tories who stood for election last Thursday (Robert Nemeth, Rachael Bates, and to a lesser extent Rob Buckley, Michael Ireland, Kerry Underhill, Rob McFarlane and Georgina Dore) are from that wing of the party that is ideologically committed to ‘small government/big society’, activists who are social libertarian and economically hardline (in the George Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg mould).

It is likely that this ‘Magnificent Seven’ (irony is not my most attractive characteristic) will stand again in 2015, but in safer Tory seats. 2015 will see another lage turnover of Tory councillors – the Normans will stand down in Withdene (where Rob Nemeth somehow managed to lose the seat for the Tories), so too may the Theobalds along with Brian Pidgeon in Pacham, and several of the Hove Tories will call it a day. Expect the Seven to secure nominations in these seats and, if elected, see the Tory group move sharply to the right. Several of the Seven are closely associated with Hove MP, Mike Weatherley. Grizzly tells me that all seven are in fine fettle.

Meanwhile, Labour is repoted to have rejected a coalition with the Greens on the Council. Gill Mitchell, leader of the Labour group, offered qualified support. She said: “With the Greens having 23 seats they are clearly able to form a minority administration to run the council. Labour successfully ran the council with the same number of seats between 2003 and 2007 and the Conservatives governed with 26 seats for the past four years. So it is right that the Greens, as clear winners, are given the opportunity to implement their manifesto in the same way. We will support the Greens where they bring forward sensible proposals in the best interests of the city as well as being an effective and challenging opposition when we think they are getting things wrong.”

One of Labour’s unsuccessful candidates, James Asser (who stood in Regency Ward) said: “It’s the right decision and everyone I’ve spoken to agrees.” (James is one reason why Labour can have some optimism for the future – very personable and engaging).

Warren Morgan has commented that no coalition has been offered, that the Greens don’t need one. “They won more seats than Tories & the right to implement own manifesto.”

As for the Greens, many are nursing sore heads this morning after celebrating long and hard on Friday evening at the Sussex Cricketer and again last night at 112 Church Road. For my part, I could be seen strutting my stuff at Abandoned until the wee small hours ….

Ten days to go and the campaign has gone oh so quiet

I’ve been silent for much of the last week, listening and observing. I have spent a bit of time in the majority of wards, for one reason or another, and spoken to several candidates in each party. What has emerged is a depressing picture – and election campaign that has failed to catch the imagination of the City, including party activists and members.

With very few exceptions (East Brighton, Queens Park, and seats in west Hove) Labour is in the doldrums. Some candidates and councillors are out and about, but in some seats it has been hard to get any party members to do any door knocking. In one town centre ward, just the three candidates have done in any door knocking and even then one of the three has limited his activity to the minimum.

It is largely candidates and councillors doing 95% of the work for Labour. So disorganised are they in some seats that members have complained about not being given posters for their windows, while others have decided not to out them up at all.

Members in Queens Park are full of praise for the tireless efforts of Tom French (no surprise there) and to a limited extent his running mates. In East Brighton, Warren Morgan (no doubt fortified by regular supplies of Sugar Puffs), Craig Turton (masquerading as the Sugar Monster) and Gill Mitchell, are going about their business with quiet determination (I said QUIET DETERMINATION, Warren). Labour posters are in clear evidence in East Brighton, but other than Hollingdean and Stanmer, and Hangleton and Knoll, this election is resembling a poster-free zone.

Tim Ridgeway recently counted the posters he could see from the number 26 bus (Chuck, the 26 goes from Churchill Square to the Hollingbury Industrial Estate) and he counted less than 10 posters in all. This included the Green heartland of St Peters and North Laine where Labour posters are numbering the same as Green posters. (I’m not predicting a shock result here but my sources have been impressed by the one woman campaign being run by young Clare Calder who is said to be out on the doorstep most days).

The Greens are faring a bit better, with activists turning out and members from beyond Brighton coming in at weekends to help. Momentum has been maintained in their key target seats. Much effort is going into defending the seats in Queens Park and challenging for gains in Brunswick and Adelaide and in Goldsmid where Green posters are clearly in evidence and Labour posters largely absent.

In Hanover and Elm Grove, where Labour is focussing much of its efforts, moving resources from elsewhere in the city, the small advances being made by Labour in what was once its safest seat, will come nowhere near displacing the Buddha (Bill Randall) and his two Green running mates.

Hollingdean and Stanmer continues to be a hot-bed of activism. Momma Grizzly is out most weekends but most of her efforts are focused on Coldean. Jeane Lepper has been here, there and everywhere, like a Catherine Wheel of bonfire night, and always a complimentary word for her Green opponents (well, perhaps not). But it is the Greens that are most evident and winning the poster war. In particular, Luke Walter is campaigning full time. Ironically he could be the loser in this Alphabet Election as he is bottom of the ballot paper and might be pipped to the post by Jeane Lepper.

In Regency, when James Asser isn’t stuck on trains, he and Dan Wilson, along with the Determined Anne Freeman, are working their socks off, but so too are the Kitcat Two. Dan and James may well reduce the Green majority but they have too much to make up.

Finally, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean looks as though it may produce a split result, but the Tories remain narrow favourites to take all three seats but Anne Meadows might yet hold on to her seat.

I still don’t have a feel for the campaigns in Central Hove, Wish and Westbourne wards. Has everyone given up and gone home? And what of Christopher Hawtree? It is very quiet on the Hawtree Front and our readers are missing your daily overview. Just 10 days to go and it will all be almost over …..

Labour lacks what it takes to win again in Brighton and Hove and needs someone like Steve Bassam to lead its recovery

One key factor in this May’s local elections is how well Labour in Brighton and Hove has recovered from last year’s general election defeats. Sadly, the same central Party organisation remains in place, and there is a lack of purpose permeating throughout the Party with a few notable exceptions.

In East Brighton, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and in Hangleton and Knoll, there are reasonable campaigns being run. The team in East Brighton have, in my estimation, the best campaign. In Hanover and Elm Grove, led by Tracey Hill, consistent campaigning is being undertaken, but the challenge facing the Labour team here is too great and the Green campaign will, ultimately, produce a substantial Green victory.

Queens Park remains the seat where Labour migh justbtake a seat from the Greens is characterised by the exhaustive campaigning by Tom French. But round the clock campaigning in the six weeks leading up to polling day will not counter four years consistent service by Green councillors.

Hangleton and Knoll has a massive factor that is absent from all other campaigns being run by Labour. That is the Fitch Factor (Brian, that is. Harris, you don’t have it …yet).

In some seats in the heart of Hove, the candidates are out and about. Celia Barlow and Simon Battle are seasoned campaigners, and will do well on a personal level. There is a sense of impending defeat in Hollingdean and Stanmer, but the Lepper Machine (along with the machine is East Brighton) can be relied on to fight to the last moment. Whether it can save more than Jeane Lepper is something I doubt.

In other areas, such as Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, St Peters and North Laine, Regency, and Brunswick and Adelaide, the campaigns are struggling. Out of these, the campaign in Regency is the strongest, not least because of the candidates James Asser and Dan Wilson, both excellent candidates who should be offered more winnable seats in the future. Apart from the determined Anne Freeman, there is little evidence of a campaign team. In St Peters and North Laine, the lack of organisation is disguised by the energy and profile of the youngest candidate, Clare Calder. In Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, and in Brunswick and Adelaide, the Labour campaigns can be characterised by ….. well nothing, really.

The real problem for Labour is the absence of an inspirational leader and of some fire in the belly of the local organisation. The one thing that you can rely on to get Labour activists going is to mention Caroline Lucas. What is needed is someone who can articulate a vision (and it isn’t coming from Ed Milliband). Why should people join Labour locally, and why should they become active. The Greens articulate a vision, are active and offer what feels like an alternative.

Warren Morgan, Craig Turton, Tracey Hills, Simon Battle, Brian Fitch, Clare Calder, James Asser, Dan Wilson and Celia Barlow, to name a few, are assets for Labour, but Labour needs two or three hundred activists thing, and thirty or forty candidates who are well known and energetic. Instead, the same old faces dominate, and nothing new is heard from them. Gill Mitchell is more than able, but is yet to reach beyond party and Council structures and become recognised by ordinary people in the way that someone like Steve Bassam was. Steve knew how to organise and to mobilise, and someone like Steve is just what Labour needs if it is to recover in the face of the spreading Green tide.

Labour to win May’s local elections or a 3-way split or even a Tory victory. 2 exciting months to go!

I did ask, and you responded, but I honestly did not expect anyone to suggest that Labour would win May’s local elections.  But then I did not allow for Warren Morgan who predicts Labour winning 26 seats, just one short of a majority (with the Mayor’s casting vote).  He says he did a “3 minute, a literally back of the envelope job (and I’m not saying who I think will win what and where). Unsurprisingly I think Labour will do much better than BPB does:

Conservatives 19
Labour 26
Greens 9”

He says that there is a “margin of error of 2/3 or maybe 4 seats either way for all 3 main parties. And maybe 1 for the Lib Dems.  I think incumbency will help – all 13 Labour cllrs are seeking re-election in the same wards, at least 5 Greens are standing down or moving wards, and at least 3 Tories are standing down or moving wards. Half the Green group stood down at the last two elections and they did well, but that was against a Labour council and govt.” 

I can’t see this happening.  It requires a highly motivated party, a strong mood in favour of Labour and against all others.  It ain’t going to happen.

Jason Bull predicts something quite different: “My prediction is Conservative 24, Green 16, Labour 14. This includes the Greens taking both Brunswick & Adelaide seats, Labour, Conservative and Greens getting 1 each in Goldsmid. I predict that the Greens will pick up just 1 seat in Hollingbury & Stanmer with Labour holding 2 of the seats. I think Labour will take all 3 seats from the Greens in Queens Park. I believe Mr & Mrs Kitcat will win by massive majorities in Regency, which will cease to be a marginal ward and become a rock solid Green ward. These are not the results I would wish for but I think they may be close the actual result.”

I think you are well off the mark, Jason.  Jason and Ania will romp to victory in Regency (sorry Dan and James, this won’t be your year although you would both make good councillors). Regency was once safe Tory, then it became a marginal Labour seat, then safe Labour, a Labour/Lib Dem marginal, and now safe Green.  I just hope the Estate Agents don’t target it.

I don’t see a three way split in Goldsmid.  Possibly 2 Labour and 1 Green, or two Green and one Labour.  With the stagnation in the housing market, the Estate Agents won’t make it this time.

Allie Cannell would be “very surprised if the Greens lost all of the seats in Queens Park (definately one of the most interesting wards). Although councillors standing down can be a disadvantage it can also be an advantage. It means there are more people committed to working very hard for the campaign.  The current Green councillors there are great at elections. Paul Steadman was target constituency coordinator (or something like that) for the general election. And they are all still working hard to make sure that Greens get re-elected, the new candidates have access to loads of experience. Personally I’m pretty hopeful that we’ll keep all three seats. Worst case scenario would be losing 1 or 2.”  He predicts that the Greens will get between 16 and 18 seats.

MJ has the most intriguing prediction: “The council will be split evenly three ways almost exactly. Tories, Labour, Green on 16-18 each, 2 Lib Dems, and 3 Saltdean Lido in Rottingdean.”  No way, MJ! No Lib Dems, no Saltdean Lido types, and no way 16 – 18 Labour.

A prediction that might be quite close to the final result comes from the Ghost of Nobby Clarke, but then he has an advantage being in a different realm (a bit being at a full council meeting but with the Angelic Host rather than a rowdy public gallery). He predicts the Conservatives 21, Labour 14, Greens 19.  I might be persuaded that this could be the result, but I think the Greens will be slightly up form this, Labour down and the Tories there or there abouts. 

But the Ghost explains: “people will turn out to vote Labour and some tories will stay at home or vote UKIP if they have that choice, but can you get the people on the ground to get out your vote like The Green Machine?  Barlow will possibly pinch a seat and you may grab a couple elsewhere maybe Portslade or Queens Park but expect to drop some along the way with Turton edged out and the Goldsmid seat taken by the machine and Simpson possibly losing Hollingdean and Stanmer.  Those were the day’s ‘Backwell, Simpson,Sweeting’.”  Wow, Ghost, you go back to a by-gone age.  Celia Barlow winning Central Hove could be a headline grabbing result. I really doubt that Craig Turton will be unseated.  The East Brighton Labour team is particularly strong and working hard.  (Even today Warren Morgan reported over 50% Labour support in a Tory area of the ward).  Christine Simpson, and to a lesser degree, Pat Hawkes, are vulnerable in Hollingdean and Stanmer.

Baron Pepperpot has a word of caution: “It is, after all, prediction. And how many of us can honestly say we are totally objective. I think we are all looking forward to the drama, (although for those of us who are not standing, perhaps without the added nervous edge).  I think there is much water to go under the bridge nationally, even in the next two months. For me there are two main questions that need to be asked to determine how the vote will go at the time. One is national, one is local: How much more unpopular can the coalition become? (Mr Elgood may be taking note of this nervously). Do people see the Greens as a serious coalition leader in Brighton? (Now they are getting close to real power).”

The Baron concludes: “Two exciting months to go chaps!”  Indeed, Baron. I look forward  to the publication of the manifestos.

Doorstep Brighton 7: On Selections, De-Selections, Undecided Voters, and Trouncing the Lib Dems

In a recent post I confessed a lack of knowledge regarding the candidates in Preston Park Ward and the future of the three sitting councillors.  Dr Faust advises me that both Kevin Allen and Juliet McCaffrey are certainly standing again for Labour but he is not sure about the third candidate.  Mark Sheppard and James Asser both fill in the gap by advising that the third Labour candidate is Tim Lunnon.

Similarly, I am grateful to Luke Walter who reassures me that Amy Kennedy will be standing for re-election.  He says that the other candidates will be announced formally very shortly.

It does surprise me that in such a key seat as Preston Park the Greens did not select ages ago and announce their candidates last year.  It s not as if this election was announced at the eleventh hour.

On David Watkins deselection, Mark Collins, a leading Hove Lib Dem, writes that “Paul Elgood (and Brian Stone, for that matter) had nothing to do with David’s deselection. Candidates for the Lib Dems (as in other parties) are selected by an approval panel made up of ordinary members, Exec members and at least one person from Regional level. David’s approval was rejected by that panel. It was subsequently appealed to Region, who again rejected the appeal. Neither of these processes had anything to do with Cllr Elgood or Brian Stone. It was an unfortunate episode, because I liked David immensely, but the Ward requires someone who will go out and work with and for the community, not solely speak on its behalf. David’s deselection was purely of his own making, and that is the saddest part of the affair.”

Still in Brunswick and Adelaide, Michael Taggart reports that he bumped into Phelim MacCafferty, one of the Green candidates in the ward.  He describes Phelim as “a very nice young man”  Michael says that Phelim is confident of trouncing Paul Elgood and says the ‘doorstep’ has been pro Green.”

In the interest of balance (I must be having a weak moment) Mark Collins says that in the Lib Dem campaign in Central Hove “things are going steadily, but well. Last week and this week have been tough, the weather hasn’t really helped with encouraging people to open their doors. But those I met yesterday and the week before were positive and engaged. Most voters consider themselves undecided as the election is ‘miles away’.”

I don’t know Mark, or how experienced he is at electoral campaigning (I do sound patronising on occasions), but the hall marks are all there for a disastrous result. People may not be opening the door “because of the weather”, but to think that those voters who describe themselves as ‘undecided’ are very, very unlikely to vote for you.  They are either being polite, embarrassed, or don’t want you to know that they are (most likely) Tories.  Very, very few will genuinely be undecided.  When canvassing, I was always told by my olders and betters that you only describe someone as ‘undecided’ if they say they will be voting for you but you remain undecided that they will actually do so.

From Mark’s own account, we can assume that the Lib Dems are dead and buried in Central Hove.

A Doorstep Brighton report has come in from Woodingdean.  ‘David Weeble’ writes: “Unfortunately the election here in Woodingdean will result in neither excitement nor anyone (elected from the) Left”.  David may well be right, but Woodingdean (and its predecessor Warren Ward) has had a history of returning Labour councillors.  The most recent Labour councillor elected in Woodingdean was the hard-working and well-respected Joan Moorhouse.

James Asser reports on “another productive Saturday for the Regency Labour team” and that he is “very pleased with the amount of Labour support”.  At least Labour in Regency measures it support in terms of Labour supporters, unlike the Lib Dems in Central Hove who do so by measuring those who are undecided!

Doorstep Brighton – 23rd January 2011

This is the first campaign trail update from Brighton and Hove.  I am grateful to those candidates, activists and members of the public who have provided the following updates:

Regency Ward: Dan Wilson (Labour candidate) reports – “It seems quite complex to me out there from Liberals. I detect some embarrassment from people who voted LD at the GE but no massive uniform switch. One comment struck me from one such voter yesterday who said that if they were going to vote Green, they would have done it in May when the Greens were campaigning hard. Since they had not heard from the Greens since, she said she was open to persuasion. Labour will have to work hard to win these affluent LDs. Probably harder than the Greens.”  Dan’s fellow Labour candidate  is James Asser.  Regency Greens have announced the selection of its two candidates, sitting councillor Jason Kitcat and Ania Kitcat.  I hope to hear from James, Jason and Ania.  The Labour candidates have been out door knocking twice this week – very impressive so far out from polling day.  It points to a very keenly fought campaign in Regency.  Kitcats take note.

Hollingdean and Stanmer: HP, a resident of the ward writes: “My round-up to date: I was doorstepped by Labour about 8 weeks ago. That’s it. Unfortunately, it was Jeanne Lepper, who I like far less than Pat Hawkes. Sven Rufus appears to have been putting more effort into his roof extension than doing any campaining. I didn’t even know who the other green candidates were until reading this blog. And I’m interested in local politics. All in all, all parties could do much much better!”

Luke Walter (Green candidate in H&S) was out for much of the “very nippy, but pleasant day”.  The highlight of his day  was being asked for a ‘Vote Green’ poster four months before the election.  (Is this a record? asks BPB).  Luke accepts the point I made in an earlier post that he has the hardest challenge to be elected given he is at the bottom of the ballot paper.  He says: “Being Aaron Aaronson certainly increases one’s chances”.  However, he says that history doesn’t always bode disaster for candidates at the bottom of the ballot paper. 

East Brighton: Tory leader councillor Mary Mears has asked the three Labour councillors in East Brighton (Warren Morgan, Gill Mitchell and  Craig Turton) to apologise for “scare mongering” for saying that the Number 37 bus  was to be cut.  She says it is safe.  We will see. 

Rottingdean Coastal:  Is councillor Mears moving her attention away from Rottingdean Coastal?  Has she become too complacent?  Could Christopher Hawtree yet prove me wrong?  How about an update from the Rottingdean campaign, Christopher?

There have been brief sightings of other candidates and councillors around and about.  I enjoyed talking to a couple over the last few days, and learning about the state of Labour politics in east and central Hove.  Oh, dear.  Enough said.

In the sidelines: Paul Perrin of UKIP spent the day queing and walking around the Ark Royal.  Few votes for UKIP there.  Actually, few votes for UKIP anywhere, thank heavens.

And finally, in case you missed it, the Green Party has brought down the government and triggered a general election.  In Ireland, alas.  If only Caroline Lucas was that influential!

Doorstep Brighton: a round up of campaigning for the local elections

Between now and May 5th, I will be running a ‘Weekend Round Up” reporting on campaign activity in Brighton and Hove.  Please send in brief reports on what is happening in your ward or activities elsewhere.  Send details of turnout, trends on the doorstep, anecdotes, etc.  Either add them as comments to this post or email to brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com. I will reproduce them faithfully except unfounded attacks on opponents.  This will allow readers to assess where momentum is.  This invitation is open to candidates of all parties other than the BNP and other neo-fascist parties.

Already this weekend there have been interesting reports on Labour activities, with Nancy Platts back in town reporting good response on the doorstep, and keen activity by Labour in Regency Ward.  Green candidates in Brunswick and Adelaide, Ollie Sykes and Phelim MacCafferty, report that they had met 2 former Lib Dem supporters who are outraged by this week’s cutting of Education Maintenance Allowance that they are voting Green for the first time in May. 

The Greens have announced their candidates in two of their key seats, Regency (which they hold) and Hollingdean and Stanmer (one of its key targets).  And inspired selections they are, too.  In Regency the Greens are going with Jason Kitcat, one of the best known and impressive ward councillors in the City.  Fellow councillor, Sven Rufus is moving to stand in Hollingdean and Stanmer, where he lives. The challenge for the Greens was to select a candidate who might one day match Jason in the name-recognition stakes.  And the Party has chosen someone by the name of ….. Kitcat.  Yes, Ania Kitcat, wife of Jason. They are up against Labour’s Dan Wilson and James Asser, nice guys but dull in comparison to the twin-pack Kitcat (sorry, that was pathetic).

In Hollingdean and Stanmer, in addition to Sven Rufus, the Greens have selected community activists Luke Walter and Christina Summers.  Both are well known and respected, and in Christina’s case, will reach residents that traditional activists might not reach.  I still believe there will be a split result in H&S, but with this selection I would predict that Jeane Lepper, Sven Rufus and Christina Summers will be elected.  Nothing against Luke, he will lose out because he will appear at the bottom of the ballot paper.

I suggest that those Tweeting should start using #doorstepbrighton.