Poor Taste for my SpAd, and New Beginnings for Purna Sen and Nancy Platts

One of my over-promoted SpAds, by the name of Andy Winter, has just bought himself one of those new Apple wrist watches. It’s hideous, a sort of bilious blue. My young intern (lovely gel) tells me  it’s like a teenager’s Swatch, whatever that is. I expect my staff to maintain standards at this Blog. I’m terribly shocked. There don’t seem to be any standards these days. Have you seen the way council officers dress these days, slobbing about in jeans? Quite extraordinary.

I hear the lovely Nancy Platts has been elected as chairman of the Labour Party. Well done Nancy. I’m sure the party will do well under your leadership. Bad luck in the election.  As the incumbent, Simon Kirby had a good opportunity of keeping his ‘grip’ on the seat (I said the jokes would be bad). What wonderful hair he has. I do envy men with a full head of hair. 

Tough about Purna Sen too, but what a fantastic job she’s landed at the UN. Much better than being an MP. No constituents to worry about. Purna, you’re moving into the upper echelons of society, but, be advised, I’m very used to that world. if you need any advice just call on me, the humble blogger.

Whatever you do don’t trust that Obama chap. He ate all the cake and pocketed the spoons last time he came to tea.

If this is the best Labour can offer in Brighton and Hove, we are doomed

The other week, shortly after Ed Miliband was elected Labour Leader, I received a ‘letter’ from the Labour Party entitled ‘A fresh fight for a fairer society’. It must rank as one of the most ineffective party political communication I have ever seen. If this is the start of Labour’s ‘fightback’ in Brighton and Hove, then the Greens and Tories will be laughing all the way to the election count next May.

It starts “Dear Voter”, immediately defining the relationship. The election is six months away, but I know that Labour is interested in just one thing. There is nothing about wishing to engage, work in partnership, recognise past failings.

The letter goes straight to an attack on the Tories and Lib Dems. That really should please me, but some how it doesn’t. There is no scene setting, nothing positive, just a rant against the Tories and Lib Dems. Only in paragraph 5 is there anything remotely positive and apart from that the whole of the first page is negative. There is some complete guff at the bottom “Labour Values” and “Community thinking”. What on earth does either of that mean? Is it “Labour values community thinking”?

At least page 2 starts with something a bit more positive – “We say – there’s a better, fairer way.” It then reports that “At our recent Party conference we elected a new leader and we will begin a fresh fight for a fairer society.” What the letter fails to do is say who the newly elected leader is. (I understand it to be one of the Miliband boys).

The rest of side 2 is ok, presenting some policy priorities, and then making an invitation to join the Labour Party. But the letter is not signed, and the only two names on the letter are mine (in the address box) and the name of the publisher, a Mr Keith Day of 49 Church Road, Hove. Even the email address in the “Contact us” section is “council@brightonhovelabour.com”.

This leaflet is a disaster, a waste of paper and of effort. Please, Labour Party, this is an embarrassment. We, the people of Brighton and Hove, need you to put up a bit of a credible challenge next May. At this rate you will let the Tories hold those seats where you should be challenging. If this is the best Labour can do, we are all doomed!

The Labour Party has failed young people; the Greens are now failing them

Brighton has had, for several generations, a tradition of resistance.  In the 1930s, when Oswald Mosely’s Black Shirts tried to rally in Brighton, there were fierce street battles, and the fascists were prevented from meeting on The Level.  In the 1960s, with the founding of Sussex University, radical student activity abounded, with sit-ins and demonstrations. In the 1970s there were dozens of left-wing and anarchist groups operating in Brighton, based around the old Resource Centre where the Brighthelm Centre now stands.  Punk, New Wave, and Ska music vied with the politics of fascist groups. Feminist and separatist women’s politics was flourishing.

The arrival of the Thatcher government in 1979, and with it mass unemployment, saw Right to Work marches, the People’s March for Jobs, and more fascist activity.  The National Front was active locally, with many of its national leaders living locally. The Anti-Nazi League attracted lots of support from students and young activists, although not from the Militant-dominated Labour Party Young Socialists who supported the less militant Committee Against Fascism.  Militant and the LPYS didn’t support the opposition to the Falklands War, but hundreds of young people did march against the war.  This growing activism created momentum that led to Labour’s assault on the Tories 130 year control on Brighton Council.  Hundreds of young activists had joined the Party and led by David Lepper and Steve Bassam, Labour took control of the Council in 1986 for the first time ever.

The Poll Tax created further momentum and support for the Party peaked in 1990.  But within two years all was lost when the Brighton Labour Party was closed down as part of Kinnock’s witch hunt against Militant.  The Party has never properly recovered and young activists today are few and far between.  The anarchist and fringe left groups have gone.  Small, marginalised groups have emerged, but they are characterised by sectarianism and an inability to organise and mobilise.  Some young people have maintained their political awareness, but mainly in single-issue campaigning.  More often than not, they have become disillusioned and disengaged.  And who can blame them.

The Labour Party in government betrayed the heritage that brought advantage to many of its leaders by introducing tuition fees and saddling generations of graduates with years and years of debt.  Housing is a major concern and so too are job prospects.  The Greens, who should be in a position to harness the anger, aspirations and idealism of young people, are showing themselves to be poor organisers and somewhat elitist, in spite of the success of Caroline Lucas.  A question the Greens must answer is: why are talented young activists like Tom French in the Labour Party and not part of the next chapter of the Green’s march forward in Brighton?

The Labour Party has failed young people, the Greens are failing to capitalise.  What a failure by both.

Con Dem Nation will see the Lib Dems wiped out in Brighton and Hove

I have been cut off in Outer Patagonia for the last 12 days.  No news, no internet, nothing.  On the way back someone told me this ludicrous joke that Nick Clegg had done a deal with Cameron to creat a Con Dem Nation, that Uncle Vince Cable was in government proposing the sale of 49% of the Royal Mail, that Norman Baker had gon into government with the Tories, and that David Miliband was standing for the leadership of the Labour Party!

Actually, I hve found the last 12 days quite depressing.  But there is one silver lining on the cloud, and I have recognised a terrible mistake I made in the run up to the election.  It all has to do with the Lib Dems. 

This blog advocated tactical voting to kep the Tories out.  In Eastbourne and Lewes I said that a Lib Dem vote was important to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street.  I was wrong.

Next election my advice to voters in Eastbourne and Lewes will be ‘Vote Tory’. I would rather have the real thing than a poor yellow imitation that lends repectability to the Tories.

Clegg is the most rightwing Lib Dem leader in several gereations, cut from the same cloth as Cameron.  It is no surprise that they make such good bed fellows.  But Norman Baker, how could you ….. ?

As for the silver lining, the Lib Dems will see their support from left of centre voters collapse.  In Brighton and Hove this is good news for the Greens who can now be even more optimistic about picking up two seats from the Lib Dems in Brunswick next May.

Where now for Labour in Brighton and Hove? First it must get over its bitterness

Thursday’s election saw the Labour Party lose all three parliamentary seats in Brighton and Hove, seats they won in 1997 and held in the subsequent two elections.

The results were close, but not close enough.  These defeats come on the back of devastating local elections in 1998.  The Party now faces further humiliation next May when all seats on the City Council are up for election.

So where now for Labour? The three candidates, the impressive Nancy Platts, the demoralised Simon Burgess, and the determined Celia Barlow, will no doubt be extremely disappointed.  All three have worked hard, and when selected would have had reasonable expectations of winning.  Nancy was unfortunate to be up against Caroline Lucas in an historic election and breakthrough for the Green Party.  Simon lacks the killer instinct to win, and (unlike Nancy) was unable to inspire enthusiasm amongst his supporters.  Celia’s fighting instinct came through to limit the Tory majority to just 1,868.

In Brighton Pavilion, Labour risked its reputation and credibility going all out in saying that th Greens could not win.  They were wrong and those who remained with Labour because of this tactic will be unlikely to stay with Labour when they really wanted to vote Green.

The reaction of local Labour leaders shows the Party in a poor light, and is unlikely to win it friends amongst those Labour and Green voters whose loyalty Labour needs to retain.  Leader of the Labour Group on the City Council, Gill Mitchell, is quoted as this being “get real time” for the Greens.  She claims that Labour will be building on the electoral base and that Labour has “strong local representatives who will get things done in the council”.

Who does she think will be believing her dillusional thinking at this time?  The Greens have so much momentum going forward, and the Green councillors (of whom I have been quite critical) are, member for member, far more impressive than their Labour opposite numbers.  If Labour want to make a positive impression locally, they need to have leadership that can inspire, rather than this tepid lot who are yet to recover from 2008 rout.

Labour are in danger of coming across as poor losers.  Former Brighton Pavilion MP, David Lepper, could not have been less magnanimous in the face of his Party’s defeat.  He said: “I believe it is a good move for the career of Caroline Lucas but bad for the party across the city.  I think they expected to win by more votes and citywide they came fourth.  With a hung parliament, a new election could be only six months away and Caroline will have to defend a very small majority of 1,200”.

I disagree with his bitter analysis.  Regardless of the majority, the Greens won and he should have acknowledged the Green’s historic breakthrough.  Should there be a second election later this year, I would predict a majority of 5,000 plus as scores of Labour voters vote for the policies they support – those of the Greens. 

I was most disappointed at Mr. Lepper’s snide comments regarding Ms Lucas’ personal abilities: “I also think she will find the transition from MEP difficult and has to from the politics of grand gestures to the politics of everyday problems”.

Such bitterness is hardly going to inspire traditional Labour supports (like me) to return to Labour.  Faced with a choice of a party full of sour  recrimination, or a party which is full of confidence (and which is opposed to Trident), the choice is not that difficult.

Labour needs to get its act together.  At the next election, I want to see a Labour victory, and from Brighton and Hove I want to see two Labour and one Green MP’s returned.  To my Labour friends I would say, have a moment to mourn your defeats, but then come out fighting.  The opposition for many of us is the Tories.  You seem to think it is the Greens.  Continue like that  Labour will be all but wiped out in Brighton and Hove next May.

The sleeze allegations against Blairites will stick to Labour unless Gordon Brown does to the the Right what the Right did to the Left

This blog has repeatedly called for tactical voting to ensure that the Tories do not form a majority government after the election.  The recent narrowing of the opinion polls has pointed to a hung parliament, while optimists hope that Labour can pull victory from the jaws of defeat.  The joker in pack has been the Blairites, including Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, or as they are also known the Bitterites, who hate Gordon Brown more than they hate the Tories.  They are, afterall, Tories in Labour clothes.

I had always expected the Blairites to put the boot in during the election campaign.  They may yet do this.  They have form, not least in 1983 when they openly attacked the Labour Manifesto even though many were standing for election on that very platform.

What has come as a surprise, though why it has shows my innocence, are the disclosures about cash for influence.  The video footage of former Blairite Minister, Byers, has brought condemnation from his former colleagues, and there may be more to come in tomorrow’s Dispatches programme.

What Gordon Brown should do is withdraw the whip from them for the duration of this Parliament while the Party undertakes an investigation into their actions that clearly bring the Party into disrepute.  The Labour Party has never hesitated doing so against the left, but will it, and Brown himself, have the courage to do it against the Blairite right?  It would send a signal that Labour finds the alleged behaviour unacceptable.

But of course, Labour won’t do this, and Gordon Brown will at best remain silent, or at worst try to give the Bitterites some political cover.  He thinks he needs them and that his personal prospects depend on their loyalty.  They don’t and they won’t remain loyal.  This will be another opportunity lost for Brown.

Labour claiming government spending is Party spending

In a Tweet a few minutes ago, @brightonhovelabour claimed that “Labour provide free internet and laptops to #brighton families with children who get free school meals”.

This is in effect Labour claiming government spending to be Party spending

The local Labour Party must immediately apologise for this claim and withdraw the Tweet.  It is not Labour that is providing the laptops.  It is the tax payer. The Government is not the private preserve of the Labour Party.  Yes, there is a Labour government, and yes it is a Labour policy, and good policy at that. 

 But the Labour Party should never be arrogant enough to claim that government expenditure equates to the Labour Party itself doing something.

Signed: Outraged from Brighton

Terrible medical condition afflicting Labour and Green councillors in Brighton

Many years ago there was a Labour Party activist in Brighton called Chris Stanley whose partner, Hilary Metcalf, was one of the Poll Tax rebel councillors.  In his younger years Chris had been a councillor somewhere in Kent.  He made an observation that there was a medical condition that afflicted decent, ordinary individuals in quite amazing ways.  Their speech would be affected, they gained a sense of their own self-importance, a sense of grandeur. They isolated themseloves from others, tending to socialise only with those afflicted with the same condition.

That condition, according to Chris Stanley, was known as ‘Councilloritis’. Yes, ordinary men and women, who previously showed no symptoms, would be afflicted almost immediately after they had been elected as councillors.  Take speech, if the victim served on the Council’s Planning Committee, where previously they may have said, “Those windows look a little bit pokey”, they would suddenly use a strange language, “I believe the detail of the fenestration on the southern facade requires further examination”. Where they may have once referred to “puddles in the road”, they began talking about “excess surface water on the highway”.

As for their sense of self-importance, they believe themselves to have somehow become superior to the rest of us. A tragic case involved the secretary of the Brghton and Hove Anti-Poll Tax Union who, on the back of his campaigning against the Poll Tax, was elected as a Labour councillor in Moulsecoomb in 1990. The very next day he paid his poll tax.  When challenged on this he repied, “Now I am a leading citizen of the town I have to set the right example”.

What about today’s crop of councillors? I am sad to say that the condition is rife in the ranks of Labour councillors with few, if any, showing signs of normality.  I don’t know many Tories so it is difficult to make any conclusive diagnosis.  The Greens have seen an outbreak amongst their ranks although some appear not to have been afflicted at all, able to live totally normal lives (if you regard the wearing of Stasi-style tabbards as normal, which clearly Green Amy does!).

Other Green councillors, sadly, are showing extreme symptoms and should be witdrawn from public life.  The good news is that one can recover, either through sheer determination or total abstinence from engaging in councillor activities.  But first the inflicted have to acknowlede the condition, and overcoming denial is the hardest part.

The Laughable Left

I have always identified myself as being to the left of Labour. Well, that’s not hard these days with even Roy Hattersley coming across as a dangerous left-wing extremist!

The best characterisation of the left is the scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian when the People’s Front of Judaea hate the “enemy” separatist faction, the Judaean People’s Front, more than they hate the Romans

So to does it sometimes appear on the left of British politics. The number of left wing factions is laughable.

The Socialist Workers Party is largely made up of middle age men, still fighting student union battles of the 70s and 80s, with slogans to match.

Disillusioned lefties, such as Dave Hill, have left Labour yet dream of great victories by gathering in new parties such as No2euYes2democracy or the Socialist Labour Party.

Even those leaders of the left during the halcyon days of the poll tax are sidelined. Whatever happened to Richard Stanton? Sheila Hall emigrated to Spain, Jean Calder ended up writing for the Argus (although she does not seem to have betrayed her feminist and left-wing credentials), and Andy Winter  does little more than watch and write about cricket!

There are two main consequences of all this. Young people and campaigners are focusing their time and effort into single issue campaigns, with the wider Labour movement becoming increasingly moribund.

The rightward drift of Labour has created perfect conditions for the growth of the BNP. The rise of the far right is not the fault of the left. It is the failures of the Labour government that has caused division and disillusionment.

A strong “opposition” within the Labour Party could have prevented this.

Has Labour given up and gone home?

The thing that amazes me about reaction to this blog is the absolute lack of response from Labour supporters. Not one person, even those who know me, has defended Liz Telcs, the campaign that was run (or not) in Goldsmid Ward, or the reputation of the Labour Party in Brighton and Hove.

I remain, at heart, a Labour (that’s Old Labour) supporter. I am a socialist, not a Green. But frankly, the Greens offer an alternative, and show some ambition. Come on Labour Party members. Has the Party died in Brighton? Have you all given up and gone home? Have you just rolled over and surrendered?

Is there anyone out there?

PS Good luck tomorrow, Alex. A Green victory is in the best interest of Brighton and Hove.