Debate should not decline into bullying and name-calling

Let’s face it, there is not much that separates the different parties in Brighton and Hove. After all, 53 of the 54 councillors voted for the budget this year (the honourable exception being Lady Everton). Yes, there were differences about 1% of the budget, but on the rest there was agreement.

It is the 1% I wish to comment on, and how heated the debate is on these issues.

It has recently been suggested to me that politics in Brighton is getting increasingly polarised, that there are constant allegations of a Conservative/Labour alliance, accusations of the Barclays boycott being anti-Israeli & blogs about corruption. My esteemed correspondent say that it’s not healthy and that all 3 parties need to step back and take a deep breath.

Each of the three main parties in Brighton and Hove have decent hard-working members and councillors. Political activism is on the decline generally, so I have the utmost respect for the who give of their time, whatever their political outlook.

My regular readers (Momma Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave) will testify that I don’t like it when political exchanges become personally abusive. For one thing it gives politics a bad name.

Twitter has added much to political discourse but it is also becoming the vehicle of choice for political bullying. Twitter is great when one party or activist is questioned or challenged by another, it is something else when the pack mentality takes over, with challenges being repeated over and over, even when a reasonable response has been given. It does not reflect well on those mounting and sustaining the attacks.

As for specific issues, there is no Labour/Conservative alliance. On Brighton and Hove City Council these two parties are in opposition, and it is the role of the opposition to oppose. Their opposition, however, is more convincing if they can support the Administration wherever possible and not oppose for opposition sake.

The Barclays ‘debate’ on Twitter has not been one that has reflected well on the political process, being an example of where one female Labour activist seems to have been repeatedly targeted by others (certainly evidence of no Labour/Conservative alliance).

Israel is always a very volatile issue, and some cannot accept that criticism of the conduct of the State of Israel (and in particular, the Israeli Defence Force) and Zionism is very different from being anti-Semitic. I expect criticism for just saying that.

The purpose of this post is to make a plea for reasonableness in political debate. Have your say but respect your opponents. The public prefers it when politicians agree when they can, and they respect respectful debate where there isn’t agreement.

Strengthening the links between Labour and the Greens

A postscript to this morning’s post: I had intended to comment on the gender dynamic of the Bassam/Kitcat debate on Twitter, and to contrast it with the exchanges between Caroline Penn and Alex Phillips.

With Fassam and Bitcat, no quarter is offered, no quarter given. What would make this exchange better would be if Lord Bassam didn’t blame the Greens for the financial challenges in Brighton and Hove, rather he should blame the Tory-led Coalition for their obsession with cutting local government.

The contrast could not be greater in the Twitter exchanges between Ms Penn and councillor Phillips. These exchanges are robust and challenging, but they are done with respect and some affection. There are definite differences in their politics (Ms Penn is Labour, but with a tinge of Old Labour; Lady Everton is Green, but also with a tinge of Old Labour). Both fight firmly for their respective parties, yet both are respectful of the other, able to accept criticism and acknowledge positives in the views of others.

I think these two women personify what I like most about local politics. They represent what is positive about certain Green and Labour activists. I look to the day when they work together, in a Green-Socialist party. I don’t believe that they have yet met each other, but I suggest they meet for a skinny latte over the holiday period.

Where my gender theory is chalenged is the persons of Sven Rufus (Green), Pete Gillman (Labour) and Momma Grizzly herself (True Blue with as dash of Orange). Sven and Caroline Penn have agreed a Christmas truce (football and mince pies in No Man’s Land perhaps). Recent exchanges between the two of them have been warm and shows the way forward between Labour and the Greens. Pete Gillman, too, is a nice guy, but borders on being more focused on the Greens than the Tories. Should he see that Labour and the Greens have more to unite than divide them, he will be able to help bridge the divide between the two parties.

And then there is Rachael Bates. Momma Grizzly shows none of the sisterhood that exists between Lady Everton and Caroline Penn. And nor would she want to be part of such a sisterhood. While the Grizzly One will long remain in my affections, this season of peace and goodwill between humankind is not for her. But in spite of that, I wish her a happy Christmas.

Mischievous Geoffrey Bowden, fighting Steve Bassam, and bullish Jason Kitcat

Do you have 3G? I don’t mean the Internet access on your phone or laptop, but Three Geoffrey’s? In the Bible the Three Wise Men travelled from the east to worship the Child God, or something like that. In Brighton and Hove, the Three Wise Men travelled to the west to King’s House. They are the Three G’s – Geoffreys Theobald, Wells and Bowden.

And rumour has it that each of the Three G’s is pulling in a different direction: Geoffrey W to the right, Geoffrey T straight ahead, while Geoffrey B pulling to the hard left (well just left of centre, really). And how do we know this? Well GB has tweeted that “Rumour has it that the Tory’s 2 Geoffreys – Wells & Theobald r @ war with Wells threatening 2 resign Tory whip @ full council on 15th”.

I know little more than what GB has tweeted, but hopefully one of my dear friends in the Tory Party will enlighten me further. Is this further evidence of the split between the Hove and Pavilion Tories on one hand, and the Kemptown Tories on the other?

But Geoffrey Bowden has been stirring it elsewhere. In another tweet, designed to get Warren Morgan spluttering, once again, over hi Sugar Puffs, he wrote: “Rallying Lab troops 2 help in Westbourne Warren Morgan reveals his fears Greens will look @ seat in E.Brighton if not stopped in bi-election.” Naughty, Geoffrey.

Less edifying on Twitter has been the ongoing obsession that Chuck Vere has about where Caroline Lucas lives. Most activists have long accepted that Ms Lucas has her only home in the Brighton Pavilion constituency, and Lady Everton, Alex Phillips, unambiguously made that clear on Twitter. Ms Lucas’s two main opponents at the general election, Chuck herself and Nancy Platts, both wasted little time returning to London after the election. Caroline Lucas is well and truly settled in Brighton Pavilion, and can expect a long incumbency as its Member of Parliament.

But what has been more interesting this week than the split between the two Blue Geoffreys, Labour’s fears for East Brighton, and Chuck Vere’s obsession as to where Caroline Lucas leaves her toothbrush, has been the role of Twitter in the debate on the City Council’s first Green budget. There have been two primary protagonists: in the red corner, Lord Bassam (the former Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council); in the green corner, the Green Administrations Cabinet Member for Finance, Jason Kitcat.

Steve Bassam has peppered Jason Kitcat with questions and comments, which councillor Kitcat has patiently answered over several days. This debate has shown two things: the tribal, street fighting, campaigning instincts of Steve Bassam, and the competence in financial matters of Jason Kitcat. For a new comer to Brighton politics, one would never have believed that, as councillor Bassam, Lord Bassam was responsible for cuts of an equal scale (including the closure of more public toilets than is currently proposed) and rate/council tax rises that makes councillor Kitcat look as though he is the true-born Son of Eric Pickles.

Finally, last week I invited supporters of Labour, the Tories, UKIP and the Lib Dems (if there are any of the latter group left) to send me their alternate budgets, saying I would post them on my blog for my three regular readers to review. But to date Momma Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave have been disappointed. The offer still stands. Perhaps Lord Bassam might oblige …?

Westbourne by-election: comments that open up the sluices at both ends

Apologies for my silence. I’ve not been well. Three days with, as Monty Python said in regard to some Australian table wine, the sluices were opened up at both ends! That’s already too much detail for my three regular readers (Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave. So Cool Soosie seems to have abandoned me).

I have just reviewed a few dozen comments on this blog and the overwhelming majority seem to be attacking the Green candidate, Louisa Greenbaum. It is quite obvious that Labour and Tory activists seem to think that Louisa is the front runner. And they are probably right.

Caroline Penn is one whose comments are normally positive about her candidate, Nigel Jenner, and lists his qualities. She makes a reasonable attack on the Tories for the closure of Hove Police Station.

Another Labour supporter, Gloria Van de Lay (who has teased me mercilessly in DM’s) describes Nigel as “locally resident” living, as he does, just outside the ward. She also sees the Tory record on policing as a weakness of the Tory campaign. I wouldn’t write Graham Cox’s chances off. He is an extremely strong candidate, is well known in the area, and is one of the most single-minded individuals I have ever met, judging from his record as the Top Cop in Hove some years back.

Having listed Louisa’s various interests from her Facebook page, Gloria announces that, on balance, she advocates a vote for Nigel. Fancy that. She is also beastly to the Lib Dem candidate, Gareth Jones. For me to defend a Lib Dem, well that how OTT she has been. I agree with Simon Williams, the former Green councillor, who suggests she lies down in a darkened room for a while.

Steampunk claims most of the Green councillors are over 70 but look younger due to healthy green lifestyles. He says that Alex Phillips is the youngest at 43. A brave man to take on Lady Everton. Careful crossing the road, Punk. You don’t want to be run over by a Big Lemon.

My Pal Paul (Perrin), the UKIP candidate, bemoans another party employee running for office. I understand Louisa works just 10 hours a week for the Greens. But why should it matter anyway? He also notes that Louisa was the Green’s ‘first’ candidate last time. A strong point in her favour, I would imagine, given that three of the other candidates stood elsewhere as recently as May. Her track record strengthens her position.

Paul also says that I have “really lost it” – I got his age wrong (he seems to have taken offence at giving his age as 14 and three quarters!) and guessing that my “beloved Louisa” was in her 30’s when she is, in fact, a male in her 50’s. Actually, she is 41. Paul says that I am “squandering whatever good will (I) have had in the past…”. Well, thank goodness for that. As long as Doris, Biker Dave and Grizzly still love me, I’m happy.

Linda F (a Young Tory, me thinks, under 50 anyway) joins the ranks of the Green bashers, mentioning the schools attended by Louisa (Leeds Girls’ High School) and a couple other Greens, as well as putting the boot into Nigel Jenner for attending Brighton College. I heard a rumour that the Tory Party leader, Dave Cameron, his mate Boy George, and several others in his Cabinet went to Eton, while his fag (not a derogatory term but indicates a junior boy who does the bidding of a prefect at a private school) Nick Clegg went to the inferior Westminster School.

My spiritual friend, Ghost, identifies some of Louisa’s advantages in this by-election, second on the ballot, the only woman, and an established profile in the ward.

Pete Gillman, like Caroline Penn, makes a characteristically positive intervention by focusing on issues, although he might be being a bit melodramatic by suggesting the Greens wanted “easy access to hard drugs and legalised brothels if they had their way.”

Mike Weatherley has gone out to show a united front with Graham Cox, promoting him on Twitter and canvassing for him. But the cause of unity is not helped by Valerie Paynter, the biggest fan of The People’s Mike in Hove. She challenges Graham: “You say you agree with Mike Weatherley ‘on most issues’. I wonder, could you tell us, on what named issues you disagree?”. Not helpful Ms Paynter, well not for the Tory cause.

My Pal Paul says this by-election will make no difference unless, of course, he is elected. I think he may beat the Lib Dems into 4th place, but not more. But RobS (who graces us with his presence, says that “the election of a Green is the one result that DOES make a difference to the running of the council. True it doesn’t change overall control, of course, but when a minority administration is running a council, an extra voice and an extra presence for committees etc. can improve the quality of council management and decision making.”

Apologies for the length of this post, but needed to catch up with you all. In your comments, please keep them fair and reasonable.

Westbourne By-election: Spare me the facts, speculation is rife about dates and candidates

The by-election caused by the resignation of respected Conservative, Brian Oxley, is going to be the big story in Brighton and Hove politics over the next few weeks, and the immediate two questions are: When will the by-election be held; and who will be the candidates.

But first, it has emerged that The Bishop has resigned to move closer to his elderly father who lives in Derby. It comes as no surprise that his resignation has been driven by a matter of principle, reflecting the quality that has made Brian the respected politician he is, respect that goes across party divide.

An example of that respect comes from someone at the opposite end of the political spectrum, Alex Phillips. Lady Everton wrote of Brian on Twitter: “Unsure as to why he stood down. He was very good though. A man I respected even if I didn’t agree with him. A gentleman.”

‘Clive’ who usually provides insightful and constructive comments on this blog, once again makes a helpful comment: “I don’t know the man at all except by repute, but he managed to pile up a lot of votes in Westbourne which must say something. As I’ve said on here before, that ward shouldn’t really be as blue as it is. One way or another I have a feeling that it won’t be after this byelection.”

When will the by-election be held? Valerie Paynter suggests that “residents won’t want the distraction of an election at Christmas.  That much is certain.” Valerie is probably right, but what is more relevant is that neither the Tories nor Labour will want a pre-Christmas by-election. They are both still licking their wounds and have been introspective since May.

The Greens, on the other hand, have everything to gain from an early poll. A December by-election will come before the details of the Council’s budget are fully absorbed. The Greens continue to have momentum, and an election before Christmas, when most people would be distracted, has the prospect of Green supporters in areas such as Westbourne being less flakey than those of the other parties. At present, as I have said in recent posts, given the choice locally of the parties of Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Caroline Lucas, I know which comes across as more aspirational and exciting.

As for candidates, my first prediction has proven to be way off the mark! Luke Walter won’t narrowly beat Caroline Penn as I suggested yesterday. Nor will he win, and neither will she. I have had it on very good sources that neither will be allowing their name to go forward for selection. A shame as both would make excellent councillors.

Someone in the know, Valerie Paynter, has suggested several names including Patrick Lowe (who also lost in Hollingdean in May), or Robert Nemeth (who lost to a Green in the previously safe seat of Withdean, and before that to a Green in Regency). Valerie dismisses the chances of Jan Young who, she says, “lost Central for a reason.  For CH to have been chosen over her seems to me to be more about rejecting her than showing enthusiasm for CH.  A number of residents led me to conclude this.”

Valerie’s comments suggest a split between the Hove Tory Establishment and the camp around Mike Weatherley. She suggests that the Tories will need to “rely very, very heavily on the goodwill that MP Mike Weatherley has accrued over his first year as a highly active Constituency MP in order to provide any hope for themselves in the by-election.”

If that is the case, which of his Young Turks will be the Anointed One? Will it be the Estate Agent, Rob Buckwell, a ‘veteran’ of by-elections having stood and lost in the St Peters & North Laine by-election? Perhaps the smart and fast rising Robert Nemeth, as suggested by Ms P? Could it be the genuinely delightful and charming Michael Ireland, surely a huge asset on the doorstep? Or could it be your blogger’s personal favourite, Momma Grizzly herself?

I have heard some whispers about possible candidates including a Green candidate, early 40’s, who sounds as though she may well make a positive impact in a by-election and on the Council. More on her and other possible candidates tomorrow. In the meantime, you can share your take on the by-election either by DM me @BrightonPolitic or emailing me at brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com. I’ll share your comments only with my three regular readers (Grizzly, Biker Dave, and welcome to So Cool Soozie, a woman with a certain mystery…).

In taking on the St Paul’s protesters, Weatherley goes where angels fear to tread

A week is along time in politics, and the People’s Mike won’t have enjoyed it too much. Last week I praised him for his Man of the People impressions – taking up issues that, by pure coincidence, would appeal to the people of Hove at a general election. But then he backed a wrong horse, and his mate George Osborne let him down.

Mike Weatherley had said he personally wanted to clear away the campers in the Occupy London protest from outside St Paul’s Cathedral. Perhaps the good Christian folk of Hove will note this. Even that well-known radical churchman, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has come out in support of the protest. I guess he had to given his Boss said: “It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” I also recall something from my childhood Bible study about “the rich being sent empty away” and “Blessed are the poor”. Perhaps someone could assist me with some more accurate Bible quotes.

In taking on the St Paul’s protesters, Weatherley goes where angels fear to tread

But the big disappointment of the week for Mike was the downgrading of his meeting with the Chancellor, George Osborne. A press release from his office on Tuesday said: “Mike Weatherley, the Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, is to meet with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to discuss the EU budget proposals.” Good stuff, Mike. Influential, eating at the top table.

But no. A correction was send out 32 minutes later from one of his aides, Momma Grizzly herself, stating: “Contrary to the earlier press release, Mike will be meeting the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mark Hoban, not the Chancellor.” More picnic in Victoria Park, Portslade, than a Palace Garden Party, more go-carts on the seafront than Formula One.

And on the issue of Formula One, petrol head and Green councillor Alex Phillips hooked up with former world champion Damon Hill on Saturday in a Brighton to London race. Actually, it was a race to see who can get from Brighton to London using the least amount of energy. The car Lady Everton drove used the least energy. How many of us can say we have beaten a racing world champion? Certainly not the People’s Mike.

Mike Weatherley and Alex Phillips: Eyes on 2015

Of the 200 most recent emails waiting in my inbox (brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com), 58 were from Mike Weatherley, or rather from Michael Ireland, Robert Nemeth and Rachael Bates who all work for the MP for Hove.

Mike, with an eye on 2015, is clearly not taking any chances. The issues he has been raising are no doubt very close to his heart but, co-incidentally, they are issues that would appeal to a wide cross-section of his constituents. These issues range from prisoners’ bank accounts (the liberal vote), drugs (law and order, perhaps?), gay marriage (a bit obvious, that one), stem cell research (scientific progressives), VAT on electronic books, newspapers, etc. (all the geeks in town), and a climate change project (will he get The Dowager, Lady Everton’s vote with that one?).

Having looked at Lady Everton’s Tweets for the past few weeks, she seems to be here, there and everywhere, quietly going about her business, building a solid base for herself, and organising more than her fair share of Hen Do’s. Could it be that May 2015 might see a head to head between The People’s Mike and Lady Everton? It would make a very interesting contest given that the new Brighton Pavilion and Hove will be a boring one-horse race. Brighton and Hove North, on the other hand, will be fascinating, not least should the Greens pick up several additional seats, including Luke Walter winning the seat of retiring (though not shy) Jeane Lepper (a worthy successor to a fine councillor).

But back to the People’s Mike, while he shows a populist touch (get up close and personal to Alice Cooper, for goodness sake), he seems to have made a couple of gaffs in the last week. First, his high profile threat to rebel on Europe came to nothing. (Lady Everton is very pro-Europe, I believe, although believes that the UK’s membership should be renegotiated).

And now Mike has offered to personally evict the the St Paul’s Catherdral protesters @OccupyLSX. What is amazing about the St. Paul’s protesters is the very wide support they seem to be getting, not least from within the churches. At Rochester Cathedral on Sunday morning, for example, when the preacher criticised the closure of St. Paul’s, the congregation applauded. Mike is backing the wrong horse on this one. Today Mike said : “Quite simply, long-term camping in public spaces as a form of protest is unacceptable. Great thinkers and leaders did not find solutions to the world’s problems by lying around in public parks and squares.” I think Mike will find that two of the world’s greatest thinkers and leaders did lie around, one in simpleloin cloth and on hunger strike – and brought down Britain’s rule in India; the other in his prison cell, refusing to be released on anything but his own terms which lead to the downfall of apartheid South Africa.

It would be good to hear Mike criticise bankers’ greed, but then he would have to criticise capitalism. He is as likely to do that as Lady Everton is to down a steak and kidney pie.

Can’t I leave you alone for just a couple of months without everything falling apart?

What on earth have you been up to while I’ve been away? Can’t I leave you alone for just a couple of months without riots, the collapse of a media empire, and further financial crises? And I hear rumours that a Green councillor has reported a Tory to the Standards Committee – tradition has it that it should be Tories referring Greens?

The riots were as predictable as they were tragic, and there will be more. Super-cops from New York are unlikely to understand what is happening in our inner cities, where second and third generations of unemployed, poorly educated, and alienated youths have little at stake in society, nothing to lose and some immediate gains to be made. “It’s our ‘pay day'” as one looter described it.

Much of the rioting was negative destruction and much of the looting was purely criminal. But to dismiss it as only that is wrong. It was also a political statement, with thousands of young and older people expressing their detachment from the norms that govern. How is it that after years of a Labour government, there are large numbers of young people so disillusioned that they are willing to destroy their own communities?

What surprised me was how quickly the rioting began under the Conservative-led coalition. I thought that it would be next year, in the run up to the Olympics, once many of the cuts had begun to bite and the ‘undesirables’ had begun to be moved off the streets, that anger would boil over.  I think tthat remains a possibility.

The saddest part of the rioting and the appalling arson attacks, attacks that I condemn without equivocation, is the unlikelihood of investment going into these areas which will become more deprived and greater restrictions placed on the movement of youths around our capital and other cities.

As for riots in Brighton and Hove, I did hear a report on Twitter that there had been a tense standoff and a near riot in Brunswick Square when Waitrose ran out of organic peaches.

As for the Murdoch’s and News International, I did feel ever so sorry for them.  Afterall, who hasn’t gone in for a bit of phone hacking?  How do you think I get some of my not-so-exciting scoops?  But I realise I must apologise for my past excesses, for revealing the Sugar Puffs breakfast habits of Warren Morgan, exposing Lady Everton’s secret identity, exploiting the torments of the Estate Agent, and splashing scoops on the party life of Momma Grizzly.  I do apologise to each and every one of you. This is the most humble day of my life.

And who has been picking on poor Dawn Barnett? I thought that her initiative to provide travellers with directions to Green wards was a great political stunt.  Of course it will not deal with the challenges posed by travellers in the city, but it is not worthy of a referral to the Standards Committee.  I have always opposed the Standards system.  It was wrong when Jason Kitcat was referred to it, and it ill-becomes other councillors, particularly a Green councillor (if the rumours are to be believed) for making such a complaint.

So what else has happened while I’ve been away?  Not much news reached Tuscany this year.  Our neighbours, the Cameron family, packed up and left in a hurry.  Dave C (who was seen walking around in t-shirt, sandals and messy facial hair – I initially mistook him for Luke Walter, the best councillor Brighton doesn’t have) was heard muttering something along the lines “I will kill Boris …”.

I hope you have had a good summer.  I have had a relaxing time.  Now back to business …

Is there any place for comedy in politics?

The excellent piece by Pearl Ahrens got me thinking about humour in politics. Here’s a start: A man with a crocodile walks into a pub and asks the barman: “Do you serve Lib Dems?” “Sure”, says the barman. Man: “Could I have a pint of beer and a Lib Dem for my croc”. Not very funny, I know, and I adapted it from a joke told by Kevin Maguire on Twitter the other night. The butt of Kevin’s version were social workers, so I am showing some bias in the telling.

Politicians of all parties can be funny, but I am not sure whether they (we) as a breed are naturally funny. The ‘jokes’ at Prime Minister’s Questions are often very laboured, well prepared, and delivered with the same gentle touch that Vinnie Jones employs when he arranges flowers.

In Britain we have been blessed by generations of amazing satirists who have brought pompous politicians down to earth. Among my favourites is Brighton’s own Steve Bell. I’m not sure what kind of mind he has. How does someone think to picture John Major wearing his underpants outside his trousers? I heard from the great man himself (Bell, not Major) that Michael Hesseltine had loved being portrayed as Tarzan, even offering to pay a large sum of money for an original until Bell told Tarzan’s assistant that the cheque should be made payable to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament!

Much political humour is aimed at putting down one’s political opponents. Much of Churchill’s humour had a nasty edge, saying that Clem Atlee had a lot to be humble about, his reference to an empty taxi pulling up outside No 10 and out stepped Mr Attlee, and saying to a woman who had accused him of being drunk that she was ugly but at least he would be sober in the morning.

I can be accused of name calling on this blog, and I apologise if anyone has taken offence, although I think that secretly – or not so secretly – my ‘victims’ quite like my feeble attempts at humour. Momma Grizzly uses that description on her Twitter profile. The Estate Agent enjoys his title not so much, nor le Toothbrush or la Toothbrush. I’m not sure what Lady Everton, the Bishop, and others think of their names. I am advised, and The Ghost of Nobby Clarke can tell me if this is true, that the former Labour rebel, Richard Stanton used to refer to a very macho Labour Chief Whip (whose name I can’t remember) as Skippy (as in the Kangaroo). He apparently hated it.

Actually, the reason for this post is so that I can tell a couple of feeble jokes, and hopefully you can respond in kind. So here goes –

A politician went to see his doctor: “Doctor, I’m addicted to Twitter”. The doctor replied: “I’m sorry, I don’t follow you”.

At a political meeting I met a young women. I asked her her name. “Chantelle”, she said. I said “Go on”.

And finally, a joke I’ve told on this blog before: A man goes into the Lib Dem bookshop and asks the assistant: “Can I have a copy of your manifesto?”. “Sorry, we’ve sold out”. “I know that, but can I have a copy of your manifesto?”.

Is it time to consider tactical voting for May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove?

Can Brighton and Hove afford another four years with a minority administration? It might come as something of a surprise to many that I think the Tories have not done too badly as the administration for the last few years. Much of what they have done I can applaud, other things not. I have found all the Tories with whom I have engaged open and friendly. They have been prepared to listen. On the other hand, they seem to have two obsessions – with the motor car and with a minuscule cut in the Coucil Tax.

It is the young Tory candidates (in particular Momma Grizzly and The Estate Agent) who believe that the insignificant Council Tax cut is likely to put fire in the bellies of ordinary folk in Hollingdean and Stanmer and in Goldsmid wards. There seems to be collective denial that the savage cuts being imposed by the Coalition government might provoke a more negative reaction for them. They are fortunate that much of the anger has been channelled into two related issues – university fees and Education Maintenance Allowance – and that most of the anger is focused on the spineless Nick Clegg and his Yellow Band of Traitors. (Do you really think that I, on occasions, allow my feelings for the Lib Dems to show – damn them all to hell?).

Central government cuts are yet to bite fully, but when they do, the Tories will experience their own special pain. The Lib Dems will experience pain all too soon as they line up on May 5th with a request to voters: “Please punish me, and please make it hurt …. a lot”. (I believe that there have been Tory MP’s, no one current, who have paid good money for such services).

So, from a tactical voting perspective, who should be supported? Labour has little chance of forming an administration in May. If they stand still they will have done very well. They will pick up the odd seat here and there, but are likely to lose the same number, if not more, seats.

I’m therefore advocating a mass tactical vote in favour of the LIB DEMS. I’m sorry, I’ll type that again. I’m advocating a mass tactical vote AGAINST the Lib Dems. I don’t know what came over me there.

The Greens, for several years, the party in the ascendency, should end up with at least 20 seats, but with some tactical voting they could edge up to the magic 27. I am not advocating votes for Greens in seats where they don’t have a monkey’s chance of winning. No, I would still encourage Labour votes in those wards.

Should the Greens fail to reach 27, I hope that a coalition between the Greens and Labour might be achievable. Being the junior partner in such a coalition administration might be exactly what Labour needs – a reminder that they have lost the confidence of the people of Brighton and Hove. Labour councillors and activists should begin building for 2015, showing humility and respect, not least for Caroline Lucas and what she represents. Labour hopefuls could do a lot worse that listening to and learning from her. (I now await the predictable tirade from Labour activists that follows whenever I make such observations).

Does this make me a Green? Absolutely not. I remain torn between both parties and I expect to be voting for at least one Labour candidate in May. But I am impressed by my dealings with several Green councillors and activists and, of course, by Caroline Lucas herself. But the Greens have huge challenges ahead, not least how to respond to cuts being imposed from central government. Their talent ranges from the inner serenity and wisdom of the Buddha himself (Bill Randall), the experience of Pete West, the talent and discipline of Green Amy (not to mention her tasteful range of Stassi tabards), and the youthful potential, passion and energy of Lady Everton (Alex Phillips).

The election campaign is fascinating, but so too will be what emerges after May 6th.