The Greens are yet to reach their peak – next stop Hove and Portslade

I thought that the Greens would do well in Thursday’s elections, and they did. But I had doubts where that Party goes next. I felt that there were certain limitations to their reach. I was sure that the Geens would extend their reach to the maximum at this election, and then the challenge would be to hold that position at the next general election (no difficulty there) but defending their council seats might be a challenge. I have changed my mind because of the results on Thursday.

In Brighon Pavilion, the Greens are now challenging in the Tory heartlands. The Normans, Anne and Ken, will not stand again in Withdene and the Greens, having won one seat and having come close in a second, will have high hopes of winning all 3 seats in May 2015. In Hollingdean and Stanmer, Jeane Lepper, now the sole Labour councillor in Brighton Pavilion, will not stand again, leaving the way open for Luke Walter to join Sven Rufus and Christina Summers on the Council.

And there is the final frontier, Pacham. The Theobald Machine held firm once more, but with a local council election being held on the same day as a probable general election, everything is up for grabs. And will any of the current three councillors stand again? Brian Pidgeon will retire, and Carol and Geoffrey Theobald must be considering when it will be the right time to call time.

Three years and 363 days out I am making this prediction – the Greens will win EVERY seat in Brighton Pavilion in 2015.

I will comment on Brighton Kemptown at a later date, but I think that, for the Greens, Hove and Portslade is where their future lies. After Thursday, the Greens have 6 seats, Labour have 6, and the Tories 8 seats. The Greens have consolidated its first and only seat in Goldsmid where Alex Phillips led a strong campaign to win a seat off the Tories and to defeat Melanie Davis who was a strong candidate and respected councillor.

But it is Christopher Hawtree’s breakthrough in Central Hove that changes everything. That single gain shows what is possible, and the Greens must already have begun to eye Westbourne, Wish, and the other seat in Central Hove. The Portslades, North and South, have similar demographics to Hollingdean and Stanmer, and both will become vulnerable should (as is likely) both Bob Carden and Les Hamilton stand down in 2015.

And then there is Hangleton and Knoll, a large ward which, again, like Hollingdean and Stanmer, is an area where the Greens could thrive. Dawn Barnett and Brian Fitch are no longer spring chickens, and won’t go on and on and on. Does Brian have another campaign in him (probably) but will he want to be a councillor, should he be re-elected in 2015, will be approaching 80 at the end of that term in office.

So why all this speculation about 2015? If the Greens begin building in Hove, establishing a local organisation in each of these wards (don’t fall for Labour’s mistake and run everything from a High Command), and get a dynamic parliamentary candidate in place sooner rather than later, who can support, motivate, encourage, nurture the party in Hove, then there will be a further Caroline Effect, although it could come to be known as the Alex Effect …..

Reasons to be Cheerful … for 39 candidates in Thursday’s elections

‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads was released in July 1979, shortly after Margaret Thatcher had been elected Prime Minister. Cut, cut, and more cuts was the order of the day. On that occasions the Tories were able to make cuts to their hearts content. They didn’t have to rely on those disgraceful, turncoats, the Lib Dems, to help them. (I have gone for more than a week without a cheap comment about the Lib Dems – is this a record?).

But there are a number of people, 39 to be precise, who have reasons to be cheerful – those who I am confident will be elected (whatever the weather and their positions on the ballot papers). Some campaigns are too close to call, and in some wards I am only predicting one or two winners. The figures in brackets are the number of seatsup for election.

Brunswick & Adelaide (2) – too close to call

Central Hove (2) – too close to call

East Brighton (3) – a Labour 1, 2, 3: Gill Mitchell, Warren Morgan, Craig Turton

Goldsmid (3) – Melanie Davis, Alex Phillips (Labour, Green)

Hangleton & Knoll (3) – Dawn Barnett, Brian Fitch (Tory, Labour)

Hanover & Elm Grove (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Matt Follett, Bill Randall, Liz Wakefield

Hollingdean & Stanmer (3) – Jeane Lepper, Sven Rufus, Christina Summers (Labour, Green, Green)

Hove Park (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Jayne Bennett, Vanessa Brown

Moulsecoomb & Bevendean (3) – Maria Caulfield, Ayas Fallon-Khan (Tory, Tory)

North Portslade (2) – Bob Carden (Labour)

Patcham (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Brian Pidgeon, Carol Theobald, Geoffrey Theobald

Preston Park (3) – Amy Kennedy (Green)

Queen’s Park (3) – Ben Duncan (Green)

Regency (2) – a Green 1, 2: Ania Kitcat, Jason Kitcat

Rottingdean Coastal (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Lynda Hyde, Mary Mears, David Smith

South Portslade (2) – Les Hamilton (Labour)

St Peter’s & North Laine (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Ian Davey, Lizzie Deane, Pete West

Westbourne (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Denise Cobb, Brian Oxley

Wish (2) – too close to call

Withdean (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Robert Nemeth, Ann Norman, Ken Norman,

Woodingdean (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Dee Simpson, Geoff Wells

In summary, the above predictions will see elected 8 Labour councillors, 13 Green, and 18 Tories. That leaves 15 seats that are too close to call. Privately, just between me and you, my four regular readers, I predict 8 of these will go Green, 3 to the Tories, and 4 Labour. A hung council made up of 21 Greens, 21 Tories, and 12 Labour councillors. A nightmare scenario for many ….!

Speculation is rife regarding Labour’s new candidate in St Peters and North Laine

There seems to be a great deal of interest in who the new Labour candidate in St Peters and North Laine might be. The general consensus is that the candidate is female. (I think I may have intimated that already).

The speculation includes former leader of the Council, Lynette Gwyn-Jones who represented the old St Peters ward in the early 1990s. Is she from a family dynasty locally. Her former husband is the former Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown, Des Turner. Interesting.

Someone has suggested Tom French’s mother (whose name I don’t know). She lives in the ward and is an active Labour Party member. But can a one-off by-election candidate qualify the family as a dynasty?

Claire Calder has been suggested by Dani (who often has her pulse on events) and another (Farris Hifch – very funny). Both Claire’s parents, Jean Calder and Andy Winter, were Labour councillors in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This heritage has more credibility than, say, the French family, but they are hardly in the class of Theobald, Firch or Les Hamilton.

Luke Walter suggests someone from the Forrester Clan. Delia Forrester was part of the Queens Park Mafia that was so soundly defeated by the Greens four years ago. Tom Forrester was a Labour councillor in Hanover before defecting to the SDP in the early 1980s. Is Delia making a comeback? Or is another generation of Forrester about to grace us with their candidature?

Harris Fitch, a fourth generation Labour activist and future councillor) has written of the prospective candidate: “The person is a dear friend of mine, they are extremely capable and will make a great candidate and councillor! I don’t know when it’s being planned to be announced but you certainly have it right that the Greens will be worried!”

I suspect that an announcement will be made tomorrow or Saturday.

A vampire, a bishop, and a ‘Labour/Green’ activist all standing for the Tories in Hove!

More on the new Tory website, and an answer to the mystery about the disappearance of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. Momma Grizzly writes: “Just a quick note on Moulsecoomb & Bevendean: it’s covered by the Kemp Town Conservatives rather than the Federation of Brighton Pavilion and Hove & Portslade Conservatives, hence the absence on this site.”

But where better place to start in this next part of my review of the new Tory website than North Portslade and Tevor Alford? Arable writes: “On becoming a councillor, Initially, I spent 3 years on the following committees: Audit Committee; Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee; and Overview & Scrutiny Commission. Since May 2010, I have served on the planning committee and am also the cabinet member for Central Services, an exciting and challenging role.”. And in his spare time he’s pretty good at head-banging along to the likes of Megadeth and Slayer!

The Patcham Mafia (Pidgeon, Theobald G, and Theobald C) have biographies that speak volumes for their years and years and years service to Brighton and Hove, equalled only by the 14 generations of Les Hamiltons in Portslade and the soon-to-be four generations of Fitch’s.

Andrew Hancox, the Tory candidate in Regency, seems to have lost his bearings somewhat: “During this time I have experienced many of the challenges that living in Central Hove presents”. Mr Hancox, you are standing in Re-gen-cy, not Central Hove. It is the other Andrew, Wealls, standing in Central Hove. Re-gen-cy is in Brigh-ton. (It doesn’t really matter since Regency is due to return a Green Kitcat double act. I say this purely to elicit a reaction from my mate Dan Wilson).

Where do I begin with the Tory candidates in South Portslade? The sitting Tory councillor is Steve Harmer-Strange who is joined by Stephen Harbor-Wade! I am not making this up, honest. Any further comment from me would detract from the beauty of the situation.

In Preston Park and in St Peters and North Laine the Tories are fielding paper candidates, an indication that they have written off certain seat as unwinnable. And to think, that the old Preston ward would have gone Tory even if they put up a monkey with a blue rosette up for election. That was the case until Jeane Lepper (I believe it was her) beat a Tory candidate called Nicholas Gibbon! She sure made a monkey out of him …..!

Phlebotomist Denise Cobb is hoping to defend her seat in Westbourne. So busy is Denise she has little time for leisure activities other than “exercise, dance, swimming, cooking, being creative and travelling.” Standing with the Vampire is Bishop Brian, a devout member of the Church of England. Brian Oxley has managed to remain a decent guy in spite of working for Tory MPs for almost 20 years, and is a Tory for whom I have the utmost respect.

In Wish ward the Tories a fielding Garry Peltzer-Dunn. From his statement you would think he was standing for Labour or the Greens: “I have been made increasingly aware by residents that they feel that the City Council is failing to provide even basic services in a proper manner. It is essential that we return to basics and deliver the services residents want in the manner they require.” Garry, it is your party that has been running the show for the past 4 years. It is the Tories that you are saying are failing “to provide even basic services in a proper manner.”

Finally, for today, Withdean. The Barbie and Ken of Brighton politics, the Normans, are joined on the Tory ticket by Robert Nemeth, the third of Mike Weatherley’s staff seeking election. I have previously said that he is one to watch. In fact, all three of Mike’s staff (Robert, Michael Ireland and Momma Grizzly herself, Rachael Bates) have large political futures ahead of them. At some point I will do a review of young politicians locally. These are interesting times, and we have some interesting young activists who should be watched and followed.

On Hard Working Councillors

Mark Collins, Lib Dem activist extraordinaire, has taken exception to Steampunk’s assertion that only Green councillors work hard. I find myself in the alarming position of agreeing with much of what Mark says about hard working councillors, although I don’t agree with his criticism of Jason Kitcat when he asks: “I still do not understand why Cllr Kitcat and others refuse to hold surgeries.”  There are many ways of engaging with one’s constituents, and surgeries are just on.  Some of the most diligent ward councillors never hold surgeries, but are accessible throughout the week.  It could be said that by holding monthly surgeries, some councillors are restricting their availability.  It is clear that Jason Kitcat is one of the most active and accessible councillors in Brighton and Hove, and Regency ward electors will return him with a sizeable majority. 

Sven Rufus provides a perfectly reasonable response: “Just quickly on the comment about not holding ward surgeries – in Regency we did, and over the space of 6 months at a cost of £30 a time to the Council, only one person came, and that was someone I had already been in touch with who just happened to be passing. No-one other than journalists and political opponents has ever raised concerns with me (and I think I speak for Jason too) about us not holding ward surgeries. We are there at the end of the phone, email, letter and will happily meet with people in person if requested to do so. I’m certainly not convinced that £180 over 6 months to be able to say ‘Nice to put a face to a name’ represents good value.”  Well said, Sven.

Mark Collins is a fan of Paul Elgood.  He says that Paul works extremely hard. “Lib Dems can’t afford not to. Unlike the Tories and Labour there is no such thing as a safe Lib Dem seat.”  I think after May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove, Mark may need to revise that to “there is no such thing as a Lib Dem seat”.

This is where I agree with Mark: “There are Labour and Tory Councillors who knock spots off of others. Dawn Barnett is a hard working Councillor for Hangleton and Knoll. I recall a time when my parents who live in the Ward were having trouble with some god awful road works in the street. An email was sent at 10:30pm and at 9:30am the next day, Dawn was on their doorstep, and by 4pm the next day the works were finished.” 

I don’t think Mark is too off the mark when he says of Dawn Barnett: “She works hard, and has nothing to fear from a ‘return’ by Brian Fitch.”

I think that Marks’s insight into the Les Hamilton Dynasty is worth repeating in full: “Let us also recall that Les Hamilton Snr had a street named after him, by request of local residents (and a bus). He was a truly exceptional councillor, and we can all take lessons from his example. Les Jnr appears to have taken after his father’s spirit as a hard working fighter for his community. Although I’m sorry to say Les, that you have a little way to go to convince my ever combative Nan that you are as good as your father. I’m sure you are.”

My view? There are hard working councillors in all parties (even the Lib Dems!).  I have high regard for the hours and hours most put in to serving their constituents and the City as a whole. I genuinely believe that they deserve better recognition and better financial reward.  If I could redesign the system, I would cut the number of councillors and pay them much more.

Portslade – the Carden and Hamilton dynasties prevented total humiliation for Labour

North Portslade and South Portslade both saw one Labour and one Conservative elected in May 2007.  In North Portslade, long-standing Labour councillor Bob Carden topped the poll with 1,142 votes with Tory Trevor Alford second on 1,082.  The Tories were third with Labour’s second candidate fourth.

It was a similar story in South Portslade where Labour’s Les Hamilton polled 1,119 votes. The Tories had Steve Harmer-Strange elected with 1,061 votes.  The Tories filled third place and Labour fourth.

It was clearly the Carden name and his personal vote that saved Bob, as it was with Les Hamilton (but not with Brian Fitch in Hangleton and Knoll).  Cardens go back to the 1920s in Brighton, with Herbert Carden being responsible for the City’s huge land holding, more than 10,000 acres and more than a dozen farms.  Carden Avenue is named after Herbert.

As for Les Hamilton, he used to hold the seat with his dad, also called Les Hamilton.  It sometimes feels as though there have been Les Hamiltons going back a thousand generations in Hove politics.

While Bob and Les have done well, dynastic politics can have the great weakness of poor party organisation and renewal. Labour paid the price for this in 2007.

If Labour is serious about becoming, once again, a serious force in local politics, it must win all four seats in May 2011 in the two Porslade wards.  In both wards the Lib Dems and the Greens came absolutely nowhere.  So it is an easy recommendation that anti-Tory tactical voters should vote Labour.

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.