Brighton and Hove Politician of the Year 2010

There are five nominees for the Brighton and Hove Politician of the Year: Juliet Williams (Lib Dem), Paul Perrin (UKIP), Mike Weatherley (Conservative), Nancy Platts (Labour), and Caroline Lucas (Green).

And the winner is Caroline Lucas.  Her election in May, the only non-Conservative in Sussex and the first ever Green Member of Parliament, came after the liveliest, most keenly fought election campaign in living memory (for that credit should be shared with Nancy Platts and Chuck Vere).  But Caroline’s achievement was extraordinary, locally and nationally. 

The award is for more than the election victory itself.  It is also for how she has conducted herself since May, her energy and determination as a local MP.  She is almost the only politician who has provided any opposition to the ConDem Coalition, and thereby encouraged those who are opposing the cuts and who are being impacted by them.

Her victory shows that there is an alternative to Labour and the Tories.  It poses the biggest challenge to Labour for a generation.  There is no Labour politician locally who matches Ms Lucas in terms of competence and reputation.  For traditional Labour voters, Caroline Lucas provided a viable and attractive alternative, allowing them to cast an anti-Tory vote without fearing that their vote would be wasted.  There were those in Brighton Pavilion who stuck with Labour for just that reason, fearing that a Green vote would split the anti-Tory vote and allow Chuck Vere to be elected.  Next time they will have no such dilemma and Caroline Lucas will be returned with a significantly increased majority.

The challenge for the Greens is whether they can convert the goodwill and enthusiasm resulting from Caroline Lucas’s election into electoral success in May’s local elections.  There is no reason why they should not be able to do so other than the Green’s poor organisation in their target wards.  It takes more than energetic candidates to win elections; it requires the organisation and mobilisation that Caroline Lucas was able to achieve.  Can the Greens do it again?  I am not yet sure.

Political Awards 2010: Politician of the Year Part 2 (Labour and Green)

Yesterday Conservative Mike Weatherley, Lib Dem Juliet Williams, and UKIP’s Paul Perrin were nominated as the possible Politician of the Year for Brighton and Hove. Today, the Labour and Green Politicians of the Year.

Both nominees are obvious choices, being the stand-out candidates in the General Election last May.  Both received regular praise in my blog, and both were obvious assets for their respective party.  Caroline Lucas, elected as MP for Brighton Pavilion is likely to be recognised in many reviews of the year. As the first ever Green MP in the UK, she has been a breath of fresh air nationally.  Her appearances in Question Time and Any Questions, as well as other political shows, has given the electorate a clue what politics could be like if we could be freed from the central high command that characterises both Labour and the Conservatives.  Caroline demonstrates that there is an alternative, and by doing so exposes Labour for all its conservative tendencies, and the Lib Dems for its lack of back bone.  Caroline Lucas is the Green Politician of the Year.

As someone who votes Labour or Green, depending on the election and the candidates, but whose roots are most definitely in the Labour Movement, I am put off by the attempts of some Labour activists who engage in petty point scoring as if that is going to drive voters back to Labour.  The opposite is true.  Labour has a fundamental problem given the success of Ms Lucas.  That problem is how to galvanise not just voters but supporters and Labour members alike who are increasingly impressed by Ms Lucas as a constituency MP.  I was quite critical of Ms Lucas in the run up to the general election, but am pleased to say how wrong I was.  Small-minded Labour activists will ask how many nights a week does she spend in Brighton.  I don’t know, don’t care.  It clearly is enough as she is seen around the constituency and attending events.  Like Mike Weatherley and even Simon Kirby, she is proving to be an excellent local MP.

The Labour Politician of the Year defied all expectations by polling extremely well at the general election and coming a very credible runner up in Brighton Pavilion, relegating the Conservative Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Vere to third place.  Nancy Platts was, as I have said previously, selected at the wrong time and in the wrong constituency.  Her misfortune was to be up against Caroline Lucas in this general election. Had the Greens selected Keith Taylor, Nancy would have won, although Chuck Vere would have pushed her close.  Caroline took votes from both Nancy and Chuck.  Nancy ran an energetic campaign, remained (at least in public) upbeat, and never doubted the strength of her campaign. She motivated her supporters and, had she been running in Brighton Kemptown, she surely would have won.

Even though I may have been unseasonably mean to Nancy for giving her the ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ award, Nancy will be remembered for her excellent campaign. I sincerely hope that she will stand at the next general election, though not in Brighton Pavilion (assuming the seat survives the current gerrymandering). She will be a great MP and I will follow her career with interest.  Nancy Platts is Labour’s Politician of the Year.

Political Awards 2010: Politician of the Year Part 1

This award has five nominees, one for the three main parties in Brighton and Hove (Conservative, Labour and Green) and one for two of the fringe parties locally (Lib Dem and UKIP). 

The nominee for the Conservative Party is a politician that has established himself and consolidated his position in a relatively short period of time.  Mike Weatherley is the MP for Hove, elected in May with a majority of 1,868 over the sitting Labour MP, Celia Barlow.  This was a good showing by Celia and the narrowness of Weatherley’s majority should not lead to the conclusion that this will be a marginal next time.  Weatherley has quickly established a reputation as a hard-working constituency MP.  He goes about his business with diligence and little fanfare, but he is making it count where it matters – the careful nurturing of communities of interest.  He is following in the tradition of other effective local MP’s such as David Lepper, Des Turner and Andrew Bowden. Weatherley understands that an MP who neglects his core support will struggle to retain the seat in a bad year.  Weatherley is a formidable politician, likely to stick around for many years to come.  Hove is set to become, once again, a safe Tory seat.  This is why Mike Weatherley is the Conservative Politician of the Year.

Paul Perrin of UKIP is not my kind of politician.  For one, he is a member of UKIP.  I am on record as saying I would prefer to stick pins in my eye than vote UKIP.  But Perrin has a slightly obsessive characteristic needed to make a mark on behalf of a party that is going nowhere.  Without the likes of Perrin, it would go somewhere – to deeper, if not permanent obscurity. Perrin blogs and Tweets with great enthusiasm.  He is the only local UKIP activist who I can name, probably because he is the only UKIP activist locally.  But his single-minded determination to fly the UKIP banner in Brighton and Hove means that he is the UKIP Politician of the Year.

Finding a Lib Dem to nominate as Politician of the Year has proven to be a challenge.  There was a temptation to nominate David Watkins simply because he has been deselected by the Lib Dems, not for breaking pledges and promises (that gets you promoted in Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems), but for being basically a decent sort. But the Lib Dem who stood out for me over the last year is its candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Juliet Williams. At one hustings in Brighton Pavilion, she substituted for that constituency’s candidate on the panel. Juliet gave a barnstorming performance, completely on top of her brief, passionate, with grace and humour.  With candidates like her (not forgetting some backbone and principles) the Lib Dems could avoid being trounced at all elections for the next 5 years.  Juliet Williams is the Lib Dem Politician of the Year.

Tomorrow, Labour and the Greens.