Jeane Lepper and Dawn Barnett, two councillors who will stick in there like chewing gum on you shoe

Councillor Sven Rufus is normally a wise owl. As a seasoned campaigner he downplays the prospects of his party, the Greens, doing particularly well in Hollingdean and Stanmer where he is a candidate. But he just doesn’t get the Jeane Effect!  He writes: “I’m ever grateful for your certainty it will be a good result for the Greens – but I do disagree with you about why we won’t/can’t take the third seat. You constantly tell us that there is a strong personal vote for Jeane Lepper, and that will carry her across the line. I wonder what you base that on?”  The Ghost of Nobby Clarke plays down the importance of a personal vote: “Personal votes didn’t help Messrs Bodfish & Burgess 4 years ago did it in Queens Park?”.

Tonight I will explore the concept of a personal vote.  Where you have a councillor who is diligent in their case work, and who has been around for many years, as in the case of Jeane Lepper, constituents will vote for the person rather than the party.  Jeane will have helped many hundreds of residents of Hollingdean and Stanmer with what some activists might dismiss as pavement politics. Where there has been a noisy neighbour, Jeane will have intervened.  When someone’s son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter, has not got into the school of their choice, Jeane will have written a letter, even represented them at an appeal. She will have lobbied on planning applications, helped with housing applications, even raised issues about dog shit and bent lamp posts.  For individual residents, these issues matter, and as an effective councillor (as opposed to high profile) she will have made a difference to the lives on several hundred individual households. 

It is that history and record, to answer the Wise Owl’s question, is what I base my forecast on. The Lepper name, too, will help enormously, since David Lepper was an exceptionally diligent constituency MP.  He may not have set Westminster alight, unlike his successor, Caroline Lucas, but he was (is) well known and highly respected by ordinary constituents.

So what about Queens Park? Why did the personal vote not save Ken Bodfish and Simon Burgess.  The answer is simple.  They represented an administration that had become arrogant and detached from the lives of ordinary people.  They were seen to have been associated with, even responsible for, many ill-fated initiatives from the mayoral campaign, schools admissions, and the Council house debacle. Their prominence as the successive leaders of the Council over-shadowed anything they may have done as ward councillors.  Other leading politicians have not neglected their own constituents (I don’t think Simon did).  Other good examples are Mary Mears, Maria Caulfield and Bill Randall who work conscientiously on case work and who come across with humility and not the arrogance that characterised (perhaps unfairly some might say) the Queens Park Mafia.

Steve Bassam was another who knew where his base lay.  An exceptional case worker, he may have become a very divisive figure in the town and within Labour, but he never came anywhere near losing his power base in Tenantry Ward even though it was, I understand, the heartland of Militant.  If  Hangleton and Knoll returns to Labour, it won’t be a clean sweep.  Dawn Barnett, who knows every household down to the name of their late and much missed pet dog, will stick in there like chewing gum on your shoe.  Labour will just not be able to get rid of her, and the Greens will not be able to get rid of Jeane Lepper.

Who else, current or former councillors, would you say is/was a great ward councillor whose personal votes would see them through, thick or thin?

Doorstep Brighton 13: Ghosts, Spectres and the Grudges of Christopher Hawtree

Christopher Hawtree has raised the spectre of the ‘Simon Fanshawe Problem’, as he describes it. He asks what happens if there is a hung Council after the local elections. Would Simon become the King, or Queen, Maker?

‘Steampunk’ asks whether the “trepidation of Fanshawe’s ‘domineering approach’ imply that, given a close result in May, there will need to be some rough and tumble between the sheets (besides behind smoke filled doors) to determine who comes out on top? How much slack does Mr Big need exactly? I can’t speak for Simon Fanshawe but I can’t imagine Bill Randall will be thrilled at this prospect.”

If this was to happen there are many elder statesmen and women locally who could be an honest broker if talks were collapsing, although I think that Mary Mears and Bill Randall could work it out together. It wouldn’t be pretty, but they both have the best interest of Brighton at heart in spite of their obvious political differences.

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke suggests that Celia Barlow might be standing in Central Hove. Chris Hawtree says that this “must surely stem from her being seen by the Brighton Political Satellite’s cameras as she waited on Church Road to go into the selection meeting the other Saturday.”

Chris Hawtree suggests that “the LibDems are so desperate that Paul Elgood is trying to lead Argus readers into thinking that Brian Stone is already a Councillor. Beneath the letter in which he tries to get in on the great border/North Dakota debate, he puts ‘Couns Paul Elgood and Brian Stone’.” He says that the campaign in Brunswick and Adelaide is “getting dirty”, but ‘Andy’ says that “if politics is getting dirty it is only because Hawtree makes it so. His grudges are legendary – Sue John, Ken Bodfish, Mary Mears and most famously his duel with the clown David Smith.” Not so, says Hawtree: “I do not have grudges. Life is too short to waste on such things. Banter is another matter. Sue John and Ken Bodfish came to dinner, and it was a jolly time.”

Luke Walter says that the Green slate was completed in January, “probably the first and only party in the city to do so”. I have been quite critical of Labour for not having candidates in all seats in place months ago. I reserve the same judgement for the Greens. This election has been known about for ever. Candidates should have been identified months and months ago. Immediately after the general election the Greens should have selected all it’s candidates as well as having a recruitment drive on an unprecedented proportion. I realise everyone must have ben exhausted after getting Caroline elected, but a superhuman effort continues to be required if the Greens are to make the breakthrough elsewhere.

Warren Morgan says that “most Labour candidates in our target seats have been in place for over six months – many were selected before the General Election. What’s the point of the Greens selecting candidates but keeping them under wraps? Surely the whole point is for them to be out there campaigning and making themselves known? If I don’t know the Green candidates running in my ward, the public are hardly likely to have registered them.” Luke responds, jokingly, that the Greens “just like to keep the opposition in suspense.”

As for the Greens and the 2015 general election (assuming the Coalition lasts that long), I think that the Green candidates for Brighton Kemptown and for Hove should be selected by the autumn. There are one or two individual who would make outstanding candidates. I will return to this theme after May.

Rob Buckwell, leader of the Estate Agents Tendency of the Tory Party, and candidate in Goldsmid, says that I am “right to point out that bringing council tax down is important to us. However, you are wrong to say that I “cannot think beyond council tax cuts”. We have many other important issues which we are campaigning on. If you are lucky enough to live in Goldsmid, you will have received or soon receive our leaflet outling some of these. Of course, if you don’t…”

Showing more imagination in Goldsmid is councillor Alex Phillips who with St Peters and North Laine Green councillor Ian Davey organised a very effective demonstration on Saturday in The Drive against the ludicrous decision of the Tories to remove the cycle lane. If you haven’t watched the video, do so by clicking this link.

A word of apology to Ms Phillips. The title in a post yesterday referred to ‘Ice Cold is Alex’, a feeble play on words referring to that great movie ‘Ice Cold in Alex’, trying to reflect it was very cold on Saturday morning.  A resident of Goldsmid ward questioned me about this. I apologise to councillor Phillips who is anything but cold. She is one of the most able politicians locally, hard-working and who the Greens should consider for to be a candidate in a national election in the not too distant future. Perhaps I will return to this theme after May….

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 ….

The campaign in Queens Park is getting lively and turning nasty!

Labour’s Tom French alleges that Green Queens Park councillor Ben Duncan was “slated by member of public for not attending 6 Police Authority meetings”.  Really?  The public no less.  Everyone of them?  Tom French then says that the Tories  “refuse to protect local bus services in Queen’s Park”.  The infamous, number 81 no less, the one with ‘Brian Fitch’ on the front.  He calls on another Green councillor, Jason Kitcat, to support the campaign to save the number 81.  Councillor Kitcat replies “if valued bus services are being actually cut then I’d be very very worried. But no firm signs of that yet”.  Then councillor Kitcat says “AFAIK”. What could he possibly mean?

The Queens Park campaign is likely to be one of the liveliest in the city.  The three Labour candidates, media-savvy Tom French, local community activist-extraordinaire Chris Cooke, and the other one (the lovely Dan Chapman) are hard workers, part of the new breed of Labour activists who lack electoral experience (which is a good thing given the tired out hacks on the council radiate doom and defeat). 

But up against them is the Green Dream Team, sitting councillor Ben Duncan (who cares if he misses the occasional meeting – focus on your own campaign, Tom French.  Attacking a popular and hardworking councillor like Ben Duncan makes you look shallow).  Steph Powell, a youth worker, is energetic and personable, and offers an alternative to voters because it is rumoured she is not a gay man!  Again it is rumoured that Labour tried to recruit her as recently as November.  Geoffrey Bowden, the Sussex Square, matches Tom French in his use of new media.  He is a communications consultant, no less. 

Queens Park was the outstanding result last time for the Greens.  Ben Duncan, the very popular Rachel Fryer and the much respected Paul Steedman ousted Labour’s leadership on the Council, Simon Burgess, Ken Bodfish and Delia Forrester.  Ben beat Delia by a mere 15 votes, but it would be wrong to think that a small swing to Labour nationally will even things up and allow Labour back in.  Rachel, Paul and Ben have consolidated the Greens position and the Greens could be on the verge of being the natural party to represent Queens Park.

But one shouldn’t forget Chris Cooke who has been everywhere in Queens Park over the last few years, with a profile as high as that of an active councillor.  We could get a split decision here.  My prediction is that Queens Park will return 3 Greens or 2 Greens and one Labour councillor.  No wonder it is a lively battle, and no wonder it is getting dirty!

Labour in Brighton: no vision, little leadership, few prospects for success in May

Ed Miliband was in Hove yesterday.  It is said that his secret appearance before a carefully invited group of ‘local residents’ was part of Labour’s campaign for this May’s local elections.  He is touring the country in a series of events aimed at understanding what voters want as part of a comprehensive policy review.

At the meeting he said that he understood that people felt that Labour hadn’t represented the needs of people in the last stages of the Labour government.  Actually, Mr Miliband, it was more than that.  It was Iraq, tuition fees, Labour’s unethical foreign policy, the third runway at Heathrow, to mention just a few.  All Ed Miliband is offering is a poor impression of a Labour Leader.  He is doing quite well at Prime Minister’s Questions, but he needs to offer a vision.

And the problem for Labour in Brighton and Hove is just the same.  Labour ended as a very unpopular administration, and saw the decapitation of its leadership at the last local elections (Simon Burgess, Ken Bodfish, Sue John, Delia Forrester).  Moving into the vacuum was Gill Mitchell, very pleasant but hardly dynamic.  Against Labour is a confident, ambitious Green Party to whom Labour has haemorrhaged support.  And in Mary Mears, the Conservatives have a confident, working class leader who is more able to connect with ordinary people that anyone Labour can field.

Since the late 1980’s, and from 1997 in particular, Labour had become the ruling party in the City, controlling the Council and with all three Members of Parliament.  Today they are nowhere, no MP’s, little leadership, fewer prospects.

Where is Labour’s vision for the City?  What is the Party putting forward to inspire the electorate and to regain those votes lost to the Greens?  The best Labour activists come up with is to attack the Greens.  Continue to do that and Labour deserves to experience more pain in the polls in May.

Queens Park: One of three key seats that will decide the Council in May 2011

Queens Park provided a complete body blow to Labour at the last local elections when three of its most senior members were beaten by the Greens.  Green Rachel Fryer topped the poll with a massive 1,826 votes, followed by Paul Steedman (1,549) and Ben Duncan (1,473).  The top Labour candidate was Delia Forrester just 15 votes behind Ben Duncan on 1,458 votes.  Former leader of the Council, Ken Bodfish was fifth (1,455) and the then Leader of the Council and Labour’s prospective candidate in Brighton Kemp Town, Simon Burgess (1,418).  The introduction of the School Place Lottery cost Labour dear.  The nice folk on East and West Drive didn’t want their darlings mixing with the ruffians from the Council estates.

This result was the low point for Labour at this election, and symbolised the unpopularity of the Labour Council.  The Greens had hoped to win one of the three seats, but won all three.  The three new councillors have worked very hard, are widely respected, and would expect to win all three again next May.  But there is a potential problem.  At one point it looked as though all three would be standing down in May, but they are reconsidering their positions.  Ben Duncan is definitely standing. He is probably the most high profile of the three, although both Rachel and Paul are highly respected within the ward and beyond.  I personally hope that at least one, if not both, will be on the ballot paper with Ben in May.

The Greens must hold all three seats in Queens Park if they are to become the largest party on the Council.  Even if Rachel and Paul don’t stand, the reputation of the Green Party in this ward should see them home.

For Labour, the three young men selected (Dan Chapman, Chris Cook and Tom French) will no doubt put in a strong performance, but their appeal will be limited. All three would hope to poll well in the gay community, but  Ben Duncan has a strong track record on campaigning on LGBT issues in the ward and beyond.  The Queens Park mafia broke the local party, and there is little enthusiasm or campaigning experience within the local Labour Party.  The unpopularity of Bodfish Forrester and Burgess might continue to be reflected in May’s poll.

Queens Park will be one of the key seats in May, and the result here will provide an indication whether Labour has turned the corner or whether its decline is still terminal.

I would like to see the Greens become the largest Party, not because I am a Green but because I think the Greens have the most energy and ideas locally.  Labour has had its opportunity and don’t deserve to get back in, not yet, anyway.