A great night out with young Conservative candidates

I must say I had a great time today. I never knew I would enjoy the company of a group of young Conservative candidates SO much. Talk of a 1p Council Tax cut, the removal of ALL cycle lanes, and how estate agents are doing in this testing economic climate. What fun we had. And to top it all off, we had a group photo taken. From left to right, Kerry Underhill (North Portslade), Adam Love (Goldsmid), Robert Nemeth (Withdene), Michael Ireland (Hangleton and Knoll), Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates, Hollingdean and Stanmer), the Blogger, George Dore (Preston Park), le Toothbrush (Mike Macfarlane, Regency), and the Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell, Goldsmid). And now we are off to Belushi’s Below for their fantastic rock and metal night, Abandoned, to listen to a couple of rythym and beat combos, Slayer and Megadeath.

Young Tories

Young Tories

And now for something completely Different – How Politicians Think!

The other day I had an email from a local Tory candidate saying that I am “becoming the darling of the Tory right since almost all of my Conservative friends seem to be reading your blog daily.” It feels nice to be appreciated, even loved. Alternatively, this Tory candidate may have very few friends. I am safe in assuming that I have more friends in the Tory Party than I have in the Lib Dems.

My Tory candidate correspondent says he/she was told that I had ‘outed’ him/her as The Tory Tipster. He can be assured that I don’t ‘out’ anyone (although I did once mistakenly quote someone who had sent me a Direct Message on Twitter).

My correspondent accepted that my “intention was to be scurrilous rather than malicious”, saying that I had been “very kind in (my) references ever since so all is forgiven.” I think that is a fair summary of my approach. I have respect and admiration for politicians of all parties (Lib Dems apart). I enjoy the company of people of different political persuasions, and I enjoy the cut and thrust of political debate and activity. I respect the time and effort most politicians put into serving their communities.

Politics can be cruel, such as when a diligent councillor is tossed aside by the electorate because of trends at a national level. I try not to be cruel (except to Lib Dems) but given the emotional energy most politicians and activists expend in pursuit of political ends, the merest hint of criticism or poor prospects is magnified in their minds.

So why do ordinary people put themselves this thankless, gruelling, unpredictable experience? Most do it because they want to make a difference to their communities. They might think they can do a better job than the incumbent, or have a burningnsingle issue that they wish to promote.

Once elected, there is a seduction, either through co-option into an establishment or a self-seduction that, once elected as a councillor, one has become ‘special’. I have referred before to one of the leaders of the anti-poll tax movement who, the da after being elected, laid his poll tax because “as a leading citizen I have to set the correct example.”

A danger for all elected politicians is complacency. A sense of entitlement can develop (look at the parliamentary expenses scandal). Locally, some councillors stay on well beyond their ‘sell by’ date when a graceful exit would do them credit and their party a big favour.

Some politicians and activists can lose their sense of humour. They love to read about themselves but hate it when they are treated with irreverance. Others, to their credit, seem to enjoy some noteriety. Momma Grizzly, for one, seems to like her moniker. Even Le Toothbrush, I am reliably informed, “can live” with that name, but I have been discretly advised to go easy with La Toothbrush as Mike’s blood is known to “boil”.

But once I have exhausted my views and limited knowledge of local politicians (some may say I have long pastvthat point), I may just turn my attention to Council officers ….

Naming names and ‘outing’ people

I’m sitting in Pavilion Gardens reflecting on a comment left on this blog yesterday. Tom Matthews wrote of ‘greenpartymember’: “If you’re going to pretend to be a Green Party member, don’t make your username ‘greenpartymember’”.

This has forced me to think about the number of people who engage with this blog but who hide behind made up names, such as Baron Pepperpot, Steampunk, Hove Lawn, Dr Faust, The Ghost of Nobby Clarke, the Tory Tipster, and Christopher Hawtree.

Others have been masquerading with names such as The Estate Agent, Momma Grizzly, le Toothbrush, Bishop Brian, and The Buddha. Rumour has it that these people are, in reality, Rob Buckwell, Rachael Bates, Mike Macfarlane, Brian Oxley and Bill Randall.

What is it about these people who make comments but not in their own names? I think it is nothing short of a disgrace!

Greens electoral tactic may just take them over the winning line

The description that the Greens are using to describe themselves gives a fascinating insight into that party’s ambitions for Brighton and Hove City Council. It is employing a tried and tested method of ‘borrowing’ a vote for one of its candidates from the other parties. In certain wards it has described its candidates as “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, “Green Party Second Choice Candidate” and, where there are three seats up for election, “Green Party Third Choice Candidate”.

This tactic is being used in seats where the Greens have concluded that they can’t win outright. Where they believe they can win all the seats, they describe their candidates simply as being from “The Green Party”.

From this we can assume that the Greens are confident of winning St Peters and North Laine, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and Regency. If the Greens were to hold all the seats in these wards they would return 11 councillors. In Preston Park and Goldsmid wards, the Greens are not prioritising any candidates. In Preston Park the Geens are grouped in the middle of the ballot paper with very popular sitting councillor, Amy Noelle Kennedy (Noelle? You’ve kept that quiet, Green Amy!) listed alphabetically just beneath one her fellow Green candidates.

More surprising is the Green’s decision not to prioritise their candidates in Goldsmid. Up against the Greens is another popular sitting councillor, Labour’s Melanie Davies. I have predicting a split result here with Melanie topping the poll with two Greens elected in second and third place. What concerns me is that sitting Green councillor, Alex Phillips, is one from the bottom of the ballot paper, and listed well below her fellow Green candidates who are near the top of the ballot paper. I think that the decision not to prioritise Green candidates in Goldsmid is a mistake and whoever was behind this decision shows a fundamental lack of political and campaigning judgement.

Having said that, I believe that Alex Phillips will be one of the two successful Geens. Her breakthrough in the Goldsmid by-election, when she became the first-ever Green to be elected in Hove, was key to giving the Big Mo to the Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion. Alex Phillips is currently the Baby of the Council Chamber, but she is cut from the same cloth as Caroline Lucas and will, in years to come, be as significant a politicians as her mentor.

Assuming three and two Greens are elected from Preston Park and Goldsmid respectively, that would take the Green total to 16.

Then there is Hollingdean and Stanmer. The Greens have not prioritised candidates in this ward, suggesting it is confident of winning all three seats. I have always said that I expect Jeane Lepper will hold her seat. If the Greens do win two seats here, it would take the Green total to 18.

The Green’s number 1 target is Brunswick and Adelaide. Once again, the Greens are not prioritising its candidates for the two seats up for election in this ward. Success here would take the Greens to 20. Just where the next 7 seats might come from is a matter of guess work. Central Hove could just provide a shock and Chris Hawtree, as the “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, could be elected.

The Greens could pick up the odd seat here and there. Allie Cannell and Chris Hawtree are confident about Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. Rottingdean Coastal and Patcham have been mentioned in dispatches. I don’t see it, but the Caroline Effects may yet prove to be the decisive factor on May 5th.

Finally, the romantic in me wishes George and le Toothbrush a long and happy life together. But their chances of success in May? No chance.

George Dore and le Toothbrush, and the continuing decline of the Lib Dems

Intrigue surrounds George Dore’s move from Moulsecoomb and Bevendean to Preston Park, and that of her beloved, le Toothbrush (Mike Mafarlane) from Queens Park to Regency Ward. Dan Wilson asks: “Why change wards now? Totally bizarre.” Dan’s twin brother, Warren Morgan, observes: “Tories seem to be abandoning Kemptown wards as fast as they are selected. Does not bode well for Mr Kirby.”

The Tory Tipster thinks that the problem lies in the heart of the Kemptown Conservative Association: “And another one bites the dust!!! First Mike Mac then George Dore – something is very wrong in Brighton Kemptown when their most talented candidates are jumping ship! I take on board your comments about Maria Caulfield but at the risk of sounding ungentlemanly, she is now very much past her best and now looks rather tired and sagging. Thank goodness the Hove Association has the good sense to have so many bright young candidates on the ballot paper!”

Linda F asks “Why would Ms Dore finish lower in Preston Park than M&B, if she appeals more to the PP middle class voter? I think she is just the right candidate for the aspirational younger families living in PP. She just needs to make sure her voters come out on the day. This switch is an interesting development anyway.” Well, Linda, Preston Park is a Green / Labour marginal and disillusioned Lib Dems are hardly going to move rightwards but will split their votes between the Greens and Labour. The share of the votes of the left parties will definitely increase in Preston Park. The question that I cannot answer is who will benefit most from the collapse of the Lib Dem vote.

But the Ghost of Nobby Clarke thinks that the Tories should not be written off in Preston Park: “Don’t underestimate the very impressive George Dore in Preston Park. She might just surprise a few people. After all some of us still remember excellent former Tory councillors there such as Doreen Radford and Vic Marchant.”

But what is emerging tonight is how low the Lib Dems have sunk. I wrote yesterday that “It appears that (the Lib Dem) decline continues with some pace. For the first time in living memory, the Yellow Ones are unable to field a full list of candidates. In an area like Brighton and Hove it shows that this party is now a bit part player, not to be taken too seriously (have I ever?) and should be regarded along side other marginal groups such as the Socialist Party and UKIP.” Not for a moment did I suspect that the LibDems could only field 8 (yes that was EIGHT) candidates across Brighton and Hove. According to the Lib Dem website, otherwise known as The Life and Times of Paul Elgood, the Lib Dems are fielding candidates in Regency, Brunswick and Adelaide, Central Hove and South Portslade wards.

I have been criticised in the past for being too harsh on the Lib Dems and that my prediction of their imminent demise was premature. I had never anticipated that they would field just 8 (yes, I repeat, just EIGHT) candidates! With the deadline for nominations closing at 12 noon tomorrow (Monday 4th April), there is still time for the Lib Dems to find a further 46 candidates. But they could, at this late stage, be no more than paper candidates, unwilling and unable to mount a city-wide campaign.

Finally, I was thumbing through some back editions of the Midhurst and Petworth Observer, as one does on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In the edition for Friday, 5 June 2009, I came across the election result for the Billingshurst division of West Sussex County Council. Trailing in third place, behind David Duke of UKIP and the Conservative Amanda Jupp who won the seat, was Larissa Rowe standing for Liberal Democrats. Could this be the same Larissa Rowe who is standing for the Lib Dems in Regency (where le Toothbrush is standing for the Tories)? And could this be an omen that will see the Lib Dems beaten into 5th place by UKIP in a seat that, until recently, returned a Lib Dem councillor? Watch this space for a positive response from UKIP’s own Mr Cumugeon (Paul Perrin).