Congratulations to the Greens for making history in Brighton and Hove

I must first of all start by congratulating the Greens on a result that exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. It exceeded mine. I thought the Greens would end up with 21 or 22 seats. I didn’t expect the two amazing results in Withdene where Sue Shanks topped the poll, nor Christopher Hawtree’s sensational efforts in Central Hove. I suspect that Green High Command had some doubts, but one man did not share them – Chris Hawtree himself.

The Greens have emerged from this election with 23 councillors (including 6 in Hove, up from 1), the Tories are down to 18 and Labour have remained static with 13. The Lib Dems have been wiped out as predicted, hoped for and encouraged by this Blogger. Labour now has just one councillor in Brighton Pavilion where the Greens are now winning in Tory strongholds.

Before touching on other results, can I mention those sitting councillors who have lost their seats. Politics can be cruel, and election losses for sitting politicians offers no hiding place. Focus is on those who have been victorious, but this evening we should pause to thank the following for their service to the City, often at a cost that ordinary citizens, even party activists, don’t see and can’t always appreciate: Paul Elgood, David Watkins, Jan Young, Melanie Davis, Ayas Fallon-Khan, Pat Hawkes, Christine Simpson, Maria Caulfield, Trevor Alford, Kevin Allen, Juliet McCaffery, Steve Harmer-Strange, Ted Kemble.

I got one result hopelessly wrong – Moulsecoomb and Bevendean – where I felt that Maria Caulfield would win and, on her coat tails, Ayas Fallon-Khan (moving from Goldsmid) and Cath Slater (well known locally) would cause an upset in Labour’s back yard. I was wrong. And so I eat Humble Pie (though I do prefer Sugar Puffs). And congratulations to Labour’s team in M&B, Leigh Farrow, Mo Marsh and mayor-elect, Anne Meadows. This result, along with the return of the Legend that is Brian Fitch in Hangleton and Knoll, the anticipated gains by Penny Gilbey in North Portslade and Alan Robins in South Portslade, and the unexpected election of Anne Pissaridou in Wish, were the few positives on a day when it seemed the Greens were conquering everything before it.

A bitter-sweet result, and one predicted in this blog, was Jeane Lepper successfully defending her seat in Hollingdean and Stanmer. A combination of the Lepper name and Jeane’s own reputation as a hard-working and effective caseworker saw her survive. One of the few errors the Greens made this year was to underestimate Jeane Lepper.

A quick word on the one Green who was not successful in H&S, Luke Walter. Luke must be incredibly disappointed tonight, but he should be proud of his achievements. He probably worked harder than any candidate in H&S, but electoral politics can be unfair, especially when your surname begins with a W or a Y (ask Jan Young). Luke has the advantage of age on his side, and his time will come before long. (I will be blogging on the fortunes of all the young candidates in the near future. None of them, other than sitting councillor, Alex Phillips, who I heard described as the “Baby of the Chamber” today, was elected.

But the day belonged to the Greens who, I understand, were in celebratory mood when they retired to the Cricketers Pub for an orange juice after the count. Never before in the United Kingdom have the Greens become the largest group on a Council, and this is the largest group of Greens ever elected (what do you think of that, Norwich?). So congratulations to all newly and re-elected Greens throughout Brighton AND HOVE. I will blog more on the Greens remarkable achievements and the challenges that lie ahead in the next few days. But for now, enjoy the night, encourage Bill Randall to go wild and have another lemonade, return to your constituencies and prepare for ….. I’m not sure. A coalition? A minority administration? Definitely Christopher Hawtree to be Lead Councillor for Libraries! Congratulations, All.

Exploring the Green breakthrough in Preston Park and Labour’s successful defence

Councillor Warren Morgan has pointed out a basic error I made in a recent post when I talked of the election of Green councillor Amy Kennedy as a ‘breakthrough’ result. He asks “Why was Amy Kennedy’s result in Preston Park in 2007 ‘unexpected’? The Green’s had won a seat in 2003 with Richard Mallender, who I think then went off to be a councillor elsewhere.”

You are right, as usual, Warren, and I apologise for this error. However, I don’t agree with his next comment that “the unexpected thing at that point was that unlike in other wards previously where they had established a foothold, the Greens did not go on to win all three seats. In fact the other two Green candidates (including the then serving councillor Simon Williams who moved a la Sven Rufus) finished a good four to five hundred votes behind.”

My recollection was that the Greens, rightly at that time, felt that the prospects of winning more than one seat in that election were remote. They therefore concentrated their efforts on getting Green Amy elected. Warren points out that the two sitting Labour councillors, Juliet McCaffery and Kevin Allen had gained popularity over the school admissions debacle. That is no longer a live issue.

Allie Cannell points out that 4 years is a long time in electoral terms. Yes, Warren, the Greens success has largely been achieved at a time of an unpopular Labour government, but locally there’s the Caroline Effect which off-sets any reclaiming by Labour of lost ground. A line that Labour has spun in the past is a vote fornthe Greens could see a Tory elected. That line will no longer wash.

In fact, I have spoken to people who voted Labour at the general election because they believed the Labour line that a vote for Lucas would result in the election of Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Vere. When Caroline was elected, they felt cheated and several people have said to me that, even though they would normally vote Labour, this election they will be voting Green to make up for not having voted Green last time.

In Preston Park it is a fight between Labour and the Greens, and I believe that the Greens will make a gain here. Similarly, the Greens will also make a breakthrough in Hollingdean and Stanmer for this and other reasons.

Doorstep Brighton 8: Bits and Pieces, Dan Wilson at home with Caroline Lucas, and the ‘outing’ of the Brighton Politics Blogger

Bits and pieces from around Brighton and Hove.  Firstly, Preston Park ward where Scrapper Duncan writes of the Green candidates: “I hope Preston backs the Green Party by electing three councillors this May. The candidates are: Amy Kennedy (contrary to recently propagated rumours that she wasn’t going to stand), Leo Littman (lecturer) and Mike Jones (an NHS health adviser). I’ve been friends with Leo for several years. He is a very capable fellow and a real Brightonian – one of the precious few!”.  I am the guilty party who “propogated rumours” regarding the future candidature of Amy Kennedy.  I am delighted that Amy will be defending her seat.  Mark Sheppard reminds us “the Labour candidates for Preston Park are Kevin Allen, Juliet McCaffery and Tim Lunnon”.

 ‘Clive’ comments on the priorities of Labour activists: “With a divided opposition more interested in discussing Caroline Lucas’s house than a post-Tory future in B&H, she (he refers to Mary Mears) could well end up back in charge regardless. Truly depressing”.  I agree about the obsession about Caroline Lucas amongst Labour activists, Dan Wilson in particular.  Get over it, Dan, she won, Labour lost.  Constant nonsense about her abode, when time and again assurances are given that SHE LIVES IN BRIGHTON, does you no credit and makes several people I have spoken to get turned off by Labour and convinces them more and more to vote for Caroline next time.

Some suggest that Dan’s obsession with Caroline goes deeper.  I love Nikki’s comment: “Jeez. Could Dan Wilson be more creepy? Is he trying to stalk Caroline Lucas? Sigh.  Yes, Caroline lives in Brighton. Yes, it’s in Pavilion. And yes, Dan, getting your panties in a bunch over someone’s private address *is* weird and rather unsettling behaviour. Try to get a grip & focus on trying to justify Labour’s sick-making actions over the past decade instead.”  For the record, I don’t believe Dan is stalking her, but get over her victory.

Sven Rufus poses a challenge to Dan Wilson, and comments on the possibility of a Labour / Green pact post May: “The really disappointing thing about Dan Wilson continually banging on about Caroline’s address is that I have already explained to him in detail the answer to his question, possibly even twice. That he keeps raising it despite that is strange – either he has short term memory problems, or struggles to assimiate basic concepts, or he is being deliberately provocative.  It is this sort of nonsense from Dan which makes it very hard for so many Greens to feel comfortable with the prospect of co-operation with the Labour Party. On the one hand he calls for ‘grown up politics, attacking the tories not each other’ – then he turns round and belies all those good words with juvenile and irrelevant attacks. If he wants to have a pop at Caroline/Greens for what we are doing in the political sphere, then we can talk, but while he debases debate like this, his actions suggest that the Labour Party is still feeling bitter about being beaten, and a bit lost – not yet ready to move on to the ‘grown up’ politics bit.  Let us know when you’re ready Dan.”

Steampunk has a great analysis on the Lib Dems approach to canvassing when commenting on Paul Elgood in Brunswick and Adelaide: “Oh dear, I can’t believe that Elgood told you that people don’t open the door to canvassers in bad weather! And you believed him. As you say, it’s a miserable time to be a Liberal Democrat. I personally can’t imagine anything more soul destroying than being an LD right now trying to tempt voters down over intercoms. What the hell do you say to them? – Hi, my names Mark, and I’m your local Liberal Democrat candidate – [click. silence.]  or – Hi, can I just quickly say before I begin that I’m really sorry about Nick Clegg and the whole coalition thing and… – Are you from the Liberal Democrats? – Yes, that’s right, please can I talk to you for 30 seconds? – [click. silence.]  or  – Hi, pizza delivery! – But I didn’t order a pizza? – Well, I’ve got a pizza for you, let me bring it up, we can have a quick chat, I won’t stay long… (NB this could prove expensive, but I suppose the advantage of only targetting two wards is that you get to concentrate your resources?)”.  Nice one, Punky.

In Goldsmid, Rachael Bates confirms that “none of the Goldsmid Conservative candidates are Estate Agents”.  So why do they dress like estate agents?

And finally, several people believe that they have ‘outed’ me by revealing my true identity.  ‘The truth’ (sounds a bit like ‘Honest Second-hand Car Dealer’) writes: “I see that Roy Pennington has been exposed as BPB.  He of course holds huge grudges towards Mears, Fitch, Bodfish, Burgess, Lepper, Theobald, Taylor and every Lib Dem on the planet (without exception). He fell out with them all, big time.  That makes this blog the sad musings of a nasty old man.”  Nice try, one and all.  I’m afraid if I begin denying one suggestion after another, in a mere 250,000 guesses you will have cornered.  And as for Lib Dems, “grudges towards …. every Lib Dem on the planet (without exception)”?  Such a silly exageration.  I knew a lovely Lib Dem (a Liberal back then) in 1981.  We got on great.  No grudge there.  But as for the rest of them ….

Doorstep Brighton 6: Official – no Estate Agents standing for the Tories in Goldsmid Ward … or is this denial really true?

Rob Buckwell, who I have met on several occasions and is a very nice, earnest young man, has the wisdom to say that “there are times when (the BPB’s) analysis is sadly incorrect. This is certainly the case with the Conservative campaign in Goldsmid.” 

He goes on with the usual guff that all candidates spout about working extremely hard to get their message out to the people of Goldsmid and reassures us that his party has far from given up on this ward.  He is hardly going to say we are a pathetic bunch of wasters with no hope of election. “On the contrary” he says “we are campaigning extremely hard to win all three seats in this crucial three way marginal. We passionately believe in our priorities for the ward and the city, and I look forward to the time Brighton & Hove has some of the lowest council tax in the country under a Conservative majority council.” 

Young Conservatives are becoming as bad as New Labour types with their on-massage line, with Tories it is looking forward to the time when “Brighton & Hove has some of the lowest council tax in the country”. 

Responding to a comment I made about the three Tory candidates resembling estate agents, he writes: “I can inform you that I am not an Estate Agent!”  But Rob fails to provide the assurance that neither of his fellow candidates are not estate agents either.  What does this omission tell us?

I am always pleased when some controversy surfaces about those wards with less prominence, and even more delighted when it becomes personal.  The shy and retiring ‘Dr Faust’ hesitated before making this comment given what he perceives as my general view of Green councillors, and my particular “affection for Amy Kennedy”.  In response to the headline that Green councillors take their responsibilities more seriously, have more weight of expectation upon them, and work harder (not my view, I hasten to add) he says that in Preston Park ward it “is certainly not the case”.  He says that it is his experience “that Amy rarely replies to issues raised, other than a ‘holding’ response, whereas the Labour members are more likely to.”

‘Steampunk’ jumps to the Good Lady’s defence.  He writes: “A Labour supporting work colleague from Preston Park recently told me that the two Labour councillors in her ward were pathetic (her words) but she found Amy very diligent.” 

I have previously been known to tease Amy by making made reference to her obsession with baking and her Stassi-style tabards (ok, she only wore it once) but I am happy to say that I have great respect and admiration for her as an unapologetic feminist.  I still think the speech she made in 2009, in which she introduced a successful motion calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to celebrate its leadership of women’s rights by adopting the Fawcett Charter, is worth watching (it can be found on You Tube).

My ‘spies’ in Preston Park ward tell me that Amy has been fantastic as a ward councillor, and several of them involved in the protracted campaign against the development of land alongside London Road station have been so impressed by her that at least two activists (both former Labour Party members) have joined the Green Party.

Preston Park remains one of the most interesting seats in the City, a key battleground between Labour (with two councillors – Kevin Allen and Juliet McCaffery) and the Greens.  Rumours have it that both Juliet and Amy will not be seeking re-election.  In both cases, a great shame.  Perhaps someone could let me know if this is actually the case, and who the candidates are for both Labour and the Greens.

‘Clive’ takes me to task by saying that I you never took up his point regarding David Watkins and Ann Giebeler who ended up as independents, and how little renegade independents seem to prosper. I agree, Clive.  I think it is a shame that there are so few independents elected at local level across the country.  Clive refers to the exception that was Jayne Bennett, but asks, “how renegade was she anyway?”.  Indeed. 

And here ends the latest Doorstep Brighton update – with no mention of Christopher Hawtree.  Oh, damn.  Ruined it …

Preston Park: A three way marginal that will decide the future of the City Council

And then there was Preston Park.  This is the last of my reviews of what might happen in next year’s local elections.  Preston Park (or Preston Ward) as it used to be known under different boundaries) was once solid Conservative.  You know the old adage that if you put a blue rosette on a monkey it would get elected.  Well, in a County Council election in 1989, I think, the Tory candidate was someone called Gibbon!  And, you guessed it, he lost.

The ward had become a relatively safe Labour seat until May 2007 when Green Amy Kennedy upset the normal order by topping the poll with 1,633 votes.  She was the product of the Green’s cunning plan of encouraging a vote for one Green candidate, allowing traditional Labour voters a protest while still giving the majority of their votes to the Labour candidates.  In Preston Park two Labour councillors were re-elected, Juliet McCaffery (1,630 votes) and Kevin Allen (1,474).  The third Labour candidate and the two other Greens all polled over 1,000 votes.

This is a genuine marginal between Labour and the Greens with the Tories now well adrift.  (However, I wouldn’t altogether write off their chances). Green Amy is a favourite of this blogger for her Delia Smith impersonation and shamelessly donning of a Stassi-style tabard at the Green Party conference.  Far more importantly, though, is her record on the Council, championing women’s issues, and her record on Planning issues.  I would hope that, at some point in the future, she will stand in a winnable parliamentary seat for the Greens.  Her work as a ward councillor has impressed, and her reputation could well sweep two other Greens onto the Council.  (In case anyone is wondering, I am not the Mr K referred to in her, sadly, inactive blog).  I just hope that her qualities will not take her into professional green planning pastures and away from local politics.

Preston Park is a must win seat for the Greens should they wish to become the largest party on the Council.  My recommendation to voters in Preston Park is to vote Green, Green and, with their third vote, Green.