The Greens are well placed to have 2 MEPs elected in 2014

Over the next two years there will be two key elections that people in Brighton and Hove will be able to vote in. The first is the election in November of the Police Commissioner. The result of this pan-Sussex vote will almost certainly see the election of a Conservative into what could become a highly politicised, controversial position.

I think it is such a shame that the Labour Party is fielding a candidate since it has no chance whatsoever of winning. I have said before that an independent candidate, such as Ian Chisnell has a much greater chance of producing a shock result than someone from one of the opposition parties.

But the real reason for wanting an independent is that this role should be free from narrow party political influence.

But more intriguing is the election to the European Parliament in 2014. This election is based on a multi-member regional constituency across the South East. 10 MEPs are elected from this region. Last time the parties, all of whom field a slate of candidates, achieved the following results:

  • Conservative 812,288; 34.8%; 4 (total votes; 5 of vote; MEPs elected)
  • UKIP 440,002; 18.8%; 2
  • Liberal Democrats 230,340; 14.1%; 2
  • Green Party 271,506; 11.6%; 1
  • Labour 192,592; 8.2%; 1

No other party polled sufficient votes to have an MEP elected. The British National party, with 101,769 votes (4.4%) came sixth.

The interesting question is what will happen to the Lib Dem vote. It can hardly expect to hold firm. This will be true in every election coming up over the next three years. Some of its vote might transfer to Labour but it is likely that the Greens will benefit most.

The Green Party itself will no doubt benefit from the higher profile that the party has enjoyed following the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster and the election of the first ever Green Council in Brighton and Hove.

My friend, the Enigmatic Flo, will no doubt tell me that Green support itself will not hold firm, with Labour being the main beneficiary. But European elections are not that straightforward and it gives disenchanted voters from across the South East a positive opportunity to vote for, and have elected, non-mainstream parties. I include the Greens and UKIP in this category. Together they had 3 MEPs elected with Labour returning just Peter Skinner.

The Green Party will almost certainly take over from the Lib Dems in third place and, if the UKIP vote weakens, the Greens could be challenging for second place. In either case, it would result, almost certainly, in the election of two Green MEPs.

The Green Party is in the middle of the selection process for its candidates for this election. Particular interest should be given to who comes second and third, assuming that the current MEP, Keith Taylor, is number one on the Green list. The Green party would be well advised to select a woman is number two on its list in order to present a balanced ticket.

Locally, three candidates have put themselves forward, Jason Kitcat, Ania Kitcat and Alex Phillips. My prediction is that Alex Phillips is most likely to appeal to Green Party members in the region and would be a valuable asset at number two on the Green list. I would anticipate that in May 2014 Ms Phillips will join Mr Taylor in Brussels.

Advertisements

The divisions within the local political parties that provide such gold dust for this Blogger

Allie Cannell, one of the more astute political observers around, and the type of organiser that Labour would kill for, has asked one of the more sensible questions of late: “How do you have such good knowledge of all the campaigns in all the wards, BPB??? The political parties would pay a fortune to be as well informed about the opposition as you are.”

The simple response is that the political parties do have all the information themselves but a condition that effects many politicians is intrigue and division, and this leads to some handy tips coming my way.

On divisions, each of the four parties locally (and out of the kindness of my heart I still refer to the Lib Dems as a party rather than a joke with an appalling punch line), is divided to the core. Starting with the Lib Dems, they had two councillors and they managed to split right down the middle. That takes some doing. Imagine what it would be like if they had more activists to fill a phone box!

The Tories are split between the working class Kemptown Conservative Association and the ‘united’ Brighton Pavilion and Hove association. Could this be a bit of my enemy’s enemy is my friend. A uneasy truce exists within the local Tories, but just wait until the evening of 6th May when the knives will be out for Mary Mears, Dee Simpson and Maria Caulfield, especially if the Tories do badly. Payback time.

I heard that at a recent hustings organised by the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, the Tories were represented by Mary and The Bishop, (Brian Oxley) – Kemptown and Hove together. Mary is said to have responded to every single question while the The Bishop sat serenly by, in silent prayer, without muttering a word!

There are hidden divisions with the Greens, but they are well covered. Originally, the fault line was between those supporting Caroline Lucas for the nomination to fight Brighton Pavilion and those who wanted a local candidate (in the form of Keith Taylor). Dynamic though he may be, Keith is no match for Caroline. I really can’t see that Keith could have pulled off a sensational victory for the Greens last May! Similar divisions persist. Who will be the top two on the Green list for the next European elections. This dispute is simmering. I couldn’t possibly comment on this contest other than to say that women candidates are doing better than male candidates of late, and there are several excellent women Green activists locally.

Labour, traditionally the local party most divided against itself, has few divisions of late, so I am told. Yes, the East Brighton Polituro has taken over from the defeated Queens Park Mafia. So shell-shocked has the party been following two successive and devastating defeats at the polls, that people are pulling together. Yet there was no proper analysis and no changes following previous defeats. But following the third devastating defeat, the reality of which is scheduled to hit home mid afternoon on 6th May, Labour must take a long and hard look at itself.

So why is all of this relevant to Allie’s fascinating question? Politicians of all parties ‘speak’ to me, some directly (you can find me most evenings in the Neptune masquerading as Chris Hawtree), others by Twitter Direct Messaging (@BrightonPolitic) or by emailing me at brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com. My mobile number is 0765 3789 754 123 856 (ha ha ha, as the horse used to say in the John Smith Bitter advert).

I use only a fraction of what I am told. I struggle, believe it or not, to get much out of any Green activist other than Green Amy who sends me the occasional recipe for tasty cakes. The Greens are a disciplined bunch.

As I said above, the parties have all the information that I rely on since most (not all) of it comes from them. I remain just a humble scribe, with few friends and fewer prospects.

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 ….

Goldsmid – a three-way marginal that the Greens really must win to become the largest group on Brighton & Hove City Council

In Hove, the most interesting seat is surely Goldsmid and all three parties in Brighton and Hove (given its sole councillor and standing at 8% in recent opinion polls, I don’t think we need to regard the Lib Dems as a viable party locally) believe they can win the three seats in Goldsmid.

Currently, all three parties have one councillor, Ayas Fallon-Khan (Conservative), Melanie Davis (Labour) and Alex Phillips (Green).  Councillor Fallon-Khan has been deselected by the Tories and will be standing in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean where (to the shame of Labour) he has a better chance than not of being elected partly due to his own personal strengths and because of the work undertaken by the sitting ward councillor Maria Caulfield.  Fallon-Khan’s deselection will significantly reduce the Tory’s chance of holding a seat and I predict that they will go away empty handed in May.  A challenge for residents in Goldsmid is to identify the Tory candidates for the ward.  It appears to be a well-guarded secret, and long may that last.

Melanie Davis has worked consistently since elected last time out, but she will struggle with the dire state of the Labour Party in Hove, and in the east wards of Hove in particular.  A quick look at Brighton Labour Party’s website shows out of date it is, some sections have been ‘under construction’ for many months, and has no reference to May’s local elections nor a list of candidates.  (The latter omission may be wise since Labour is struggling to find candidates in several seats in Hove).  The website is symbolic of a locally party on its knees.  While there is activity elsewhere in Brighton (Queen’s Park, East Brighton, Regency and, em, well, err, somewhere else, I’m sure), Labour in Brighton and Hove is a poor shadow of its former self. 

Back to Labour in Goldsmid, it at least has its own website.  But a website is a two-edged sword.  In reporting Labour’s track record in Goldsmid, there are only 6 entries since September 2008, and some are attacks on the City Council and the Tory councillor.  It also provides links to its most recent leaflets, the most recent two having been published in Spring and Summer 2010 (oh, dear, not much ambition there).

On the plus side, Labour in Goldsmid has selected three candidates (important if you want to win an election!). They are Lis Telcs (who was soundly beaten in the Goldsmid by-election a couple of years ago by the Green’s Alex Phillips), Nigel Jenner (about whom I know absolutely nothing – he must be a footballer, then) and councillor Melanie Davis.  Melanie should survive but I can’t see Labour doing any better than that.  Her defeat would signify a crushing defeat for Labour in Brighton and Hove, something that can’t be ruled out.

Alex Phillips is one of the sitting councillor in Goldsmid having won the 2009 by-election giving the Greens their first ever councillor in Hove and critical momentum for Caroline Lucas’ successful campaign for Parliament in 2010.  Alex, who works part time for Keith Taylor (who replaced Caroline Lucas as MEP in the south east) has nurtured the ward since her election and should be re-elected without too much difficulty.  She will be joined in the election by science teacher Rob Jarrett and ‘young mum’ Ruth Buckley.  Rob has been around forever, popping up here and there on different campaigns over the years.  Ruth Buckley is relatively new to electoral politics, but part of a generation, particularly women, inspired by Caroline Lucas.  The Lucas effect stretches beyond Brighton Pavilion and could result in a Green clean-sweep in Goldsmid.

However, if the Greens fail to make progress in Hove and in Goldsmid in particular, their hope of becoming the largest party on the City Council will be dashed.

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: New-Comer of the Year

In a year dominated by the general election, it is quite hard for a new-comer to make his or her mark.  There have been very few individuals who, newly arrived on the Brighton and Hove political scene,  have made their mark. In fact, there is just one nominee for this category, and therefore is the winner.

As a result of the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster, her European seat became vacant and was duly filled by the second person on the Green Party list from the last European elections, Keith Taylor.  Keith had been a long-standing, if uninspiring councillor for St Peter’s and North Laine.  Keith resigned from the City Council to take up the European seat.  The by-election was keenly fought by Labour and the Greens.  While the seat was won by the Green’s Lizzie Deane (who has disappeared without trace since her election), it was Tom French, the Labour candidate, who stood out as the outstanding candidate.

Tom was hard-working, charming, energetic, and won plaudits from all parties.  At a time where charismatic individuals are largely absent from the ranks of Labour, Tom was a breath of fresh air.  He is my New-Comer of the Year.  Labour needs to find another dozen or so candidates with similar qualities if it is to avoid a heavy defeat in May, although it is probably too late.

Just one word of warning to Tom.  Being the latest ‘bright young thing’ is great while it lasts.  But no matter how well you perform, time will mean that you will not always be young, and you rapidly lose the image of being the new kid on the block.  My advice is to remember your roots, the people who supported you when you set out on your exciting journey. Neglect your core base at your peril.  For the local elections, you have chosen to abandon (as some see it) St Peter’s and North Laine, as well as Hanover and Elm Grove,  in favour of Queen’s Park .   Take some time to mend fences.  You will never be bigger than the Party.  The Labour Party needs you to succeed and I wish you well.

St Peters and North Laine – vote with your conscience

St Peters and North Laine was the birthplace of the Greens in Brighton and Hove when Pete West won their first-ever seat in the city.  This once Tory seat (there have been some boundary changes), became safe Labour in the 1980s and early 1990s.  But Blair’s New Labour saw to that with members of the left and right leaving in droves.

Now it is the safest Green seat.  In May 2007 Pete West, Keith Taylor and Ian Davey all polled over 2,000 votes with the best placed Labour candidate, Sarah Ogden, polling just 979 votes. 

In a recent by-election, caused by Keith Taylor succeeding to the European Parliament seat vacated by Caroline Lucas on her election to Westminster, the Green Lizzie Dean was the comfortable winner. The energetic campaign run by Labour’s Tom French, hardly dented the Green majority.

St Peters and North Laine will return 3 Green councillors in May.  It is an area where there is no danger of the Tories benefiting from a split Labour / Green vote.  Therefore, I don’t need to advocate tactical voting and suggest anti-Tory (and former Lib Dem voters) to vote according to their conscience.