Robert Nemeth and the Sir Winston Churchill 50 Dining Club

There are a large number of young candidates standing in May’s local elections, Rachael Bates (Momma Grizzly to her admirers and keen Sarah Palin fan), Tom French (who impressed all in last year’s St Peter’s and North Laine by-election, and Robert Nemeth. 

Several of my “spies” (as Dan Wilson calls you) have been talking about Robert Nemeth.  Robert, for those who aren’t familiar with him, was the  unsuccessful Conservative candidate in the Regency by-election in 2007 and who had come 5th in Regency in May 2007.

Robert was described by the Argus last May as a “young hopeful” who had “come to the fore”.  Robert does put himself about and is predicted to have a bright future in politics.  But he is a central player in local Conservative Party affairs.  In 2009 he succeeded Daniel Hannan MEP as chairman of the Sir Winston Churchill 50 Dining Club which, according to Daniel Hannan, “raises oodles of money from all over Sussex for the three Brighton and Hove seats”.  (Labour and Green activists take note.  This is SERIOUS fundraising with a very right wing edge).

Robert, a property developer, writes a regular architecture column, Building Opinions, in Latest Homes magazine.  In this week’s column he writes about Hollingdean: “Hollingdean began as one of the laines (fields) of the parish of Preston and was developed from the 1890’s. It is well known for the council depot and the waste transfer station beside the railway bridge.  Most interesting of all was the municipal abattoir on the same site that operated from 1894 to 1986”.

One can only assume that Robert is not standing in Hollingdean and Stanmer if that is the best he can write about Hollingdean. He could have mentioned the vibrant community around Five Ways (part of which is in Hollingdean), the golf course (and the wonderful but hidden Old Golf House), and the wonderful mixed community and schools  from the Dip, up Stevens Road, to Lynchet Close and Brentwood Road.

Robert has an admirer in an unexpected corner – Christopher Hawtree.  Christopher writes: “The Tories should have opted for Robert Nemeth in Wish rather than continue with the nationally discredited Ted Kemble. The Jason Kitcat case resonates. Garry Peltzer Dunn and Robert Nemeth would have presented a far stronger Tory case in Wish”.

So there you have it.  The future of the Tories locally is invested in the person of Robert Nemeth, and the tens of thousands being raised through the  Sir Winston Churchill 50 Dining Club.

Is the Brighton Argus in terminal decline?

As a regular (as opposed to an obsessional) reader of the Brighton Argus, I have to say that the standards of journalism and sub-editing seems to be hitting an all time low.  In the past the Argus could boast some exceptional journalists and columnists, but now it appears to be staffed by reporters and subs who know little about Brighton today and less about even its recent history.

I blame the editor and the subs for failing to retain quality journalists and demonstrate an inability to recruit adequate replacements.  Recently, they managed to reduce the brutal murder of a young woman to the appalling headline “Sex Change Prostitute Murdered”.  The Peoples Republic of Hove  blog was right to say that  “the least our local paper can do is show some respect and ditch the prurient sensationalism”.

With ‘journalism’ such as this is it any wonder that the current crop of journalists, forced to work under quite intolerable pressure to produce copy, produces such rubbish,

The sub-editors are no better.  On Friday (30 October) over a story about a local councillor (Les Hamilton) criticising store cards, the headline ran “MP criticises store credit cards”.  Does the Argus employ people who don’t know the difference between Members of Parliament and local councillors?

Having said this, I am a passionate believer in the importance of local papers.  Where else (assuming they are adequately staffed) will local and national politicians, health services, charities and quangos be scrutinised and held to account?  Where do journalists ‘cut their teeth’ and where does investigatory reporting really happen?  Writing in the Guardian earlier this year, Polly Toynbee wrote that one of the biggest threats to democracy was the decline of local and regional papers. I entirely agree.

The blogasphere will never have the resources to do proper and consistent reporting on local politics.  Local papers must be supported.  Local government, rather than printing and distributing its own ‘views sheet’ (as opposed to news sheet), should commit to using and paying for space in local papers, thereby throwing a lifeline to local papers.

I fear, however, that the days of the Argus are numbered.  I hope I am proved wrong, but I would not be surprised if this time next year we will be looking at Latest Homes to provide a brief glimpse of what local authorities are doing.