Stormin’ Norman and the Curse of the Coalition Government

I’m not one for making predictions, as my regular readers (Warren, Momma Grizzly, Councillor Christopher, and Biker Dave) will testify, but I have a premonition about the future fortunes of the Lib Dem Member of Parliament for Lewes, Norman Baker. I can feel it it my waters that his time on the Green Benches (the colour, not the party) may be limited.

Actually, there is speculation about his future in several quarters, not least in the pages of Latest 7 magazine and in Brighton and Hove News in articles written by one of the nicest and most principled journalists around, Frank le Duc.

So why should Stormin’ Norman’s future look so uncertain? Well, for a start, he is a Lib Dem, and as my regular readers (the said WM, MG, CH & BD) will know, I have had my doubts about the Lib Dems. Apart from being untrustworthy, lacking backbone, two-faced, unprincipled, deserving to be confined to the dustbin of history, I think they are rather a decent bunch.

The Lib Dems are facing meltdown at the next general election for several reasons:

For helping to create the Coalition Government and thereby allow the Tories to run the country without a mandate;

For betraying their pledge on tuition fees;

For standing by while the privatisation of the NHS has begun;

etc. etc. etc.

And Stormin’ Norman’s part in this is not great. He betrayed his own written pledge on tuition fees, he agreed to become a Minister in this government that is implementing policies that were not in either party’s manifesto nor in the Coalition Agreement, and his government is bumping up rail fares (something that will not go unpunished by commuters in the Lewes constituency). On the issue of rail fares, Stormin’ Norman not only remained silent, he is the Transport Minister responsible for rail!

But it isn’t all bleak for him, as Frank le Duc has suggested, Lord Baker of Lewes is a likely reward for his loyal service to the Coalition. However, that would be a sorry end for someone who inspired so much hope as an anti-establishment MP in his early career.

Doorstep Brighton 2: further reports for week ending 23rd January 2011

Following the first Doorstep Brighton update published yesterday, I have received further reports:

Regency: (I suspect this will be a fantastic campaign).  Both Jason Kitcat and Ania Kitcat have been out door knocking during the week and at the weekend.  They report the same pattern as both 2007, with Greens in first place and the Tories 2nd.  Jason assures me that “no chickens being counted here … will carry on the hard work right to the finish line”.

Hove: I am full of admiration for Lib Dem Mark Collins.  He is one of the few Lib Dems to have raised his head above the parapet.  He says that he doesn’t expect his reports to be taken into account, due to the huge anti-Lib Dem bias on this blog, most of which, he says, is thoroughly entertaining.  He assures me that he will fight my corner as always.  (For the record, this blog has not always had an anti-Lib Dem bias.  I called for tactical voting in favour of the Lib Dems in both Lewes and Eastbourne.  But that was before Nick Clegg and Norman Baker sold out). 

Mark says: “The Lib Dems were out in force in Hove this weekend, as we have been every weekend since at least September (since the General election for some of us). We were getting good returns on all fronts, which is not something any of us ever should learn to expect. We don’t take our votes for granted, and never have done. It is an incredibly tough time to be a Lib Dem. But I feel that is more down to the self flagellation from some of ourselves and the whisperings of the “chattering political classes” as witnessed here. An earlier poster stated correctly “the pavement is better than the barstool” for determining political preference. The reaction I have is predominantly positive. The only person who has bitten my head off on the doorstep was a long time Labour activist. Whilst that is never pleasant, it’s something a party of government has to get used to. We can’t please everyone, nor should we try to. I came into politics to make a difference to people’s lives and improve the community I was brought up in. Not sit in my armchair and shout down every decision I disliked. We’ll be fighting hard to make gains in May. In Brighton and Hove we have recruited more members, both pre and POST Coalition – who are engaged, active and keen to see us succeed. There is no point predicting results yet. The only thing to say is that there is all to play for in the short time until May. We’ll be campaigning to make sure it remains that way until 10pm May 5th!”

Hollingdean and Stanmer: News reaches me that the Tories are fielding Rachel Bates as candidate in H&S.  There can be just one conclusion to be made.  Rachel is personable, very able, hard working, dedicated …. and likely to be nothing more than a paper candidate, meaning that the Tories are concentrating their efforts elsewhere.  Why do I draw this conclusion?  Rachel works for Hove MP Mike Weatherley and is unlikely to do anything outside the Hove constituency, especially in a no-hope area for the Tories such as H&S.

More from H&S.  Luke Walter (Labour candidate) reports that being asked for a ‘Vote Green’ poster this weekend is not the record. A Coldean residents (the heartland of councillor Pat Hawkes) wanted a Green billboard the weekend before.  Christopher Hawtree outdoes even this.  “Somebody in Brunswick asked me for a Green poster in October…”.  Enough, now.

And finally, Clive sounds a warning: “I can see this feature turning into an endless succession of entries reading ‘Out canvassing all day!!! Gr8 response!!!!!’   Perhaps the BPB should offer a small prize for candour in posts, and maybe a slightly bigger prize for anyone who spots a Tory out in daylight.”    Gr8 idea!!!!!    The smaller prize will be a ticket to a lecture by Paul Perrin of UKIP on ‘Democracy and the European Union’.  The slightly bigger prize … 2 tickets.  Boom boom.  (Sorry, normal service will commence soon – BPB).  Once the volume of reporting commences, such ‘reports’ will be rejected and a ‘list of shame’ introduced.

General Election 2015: Vote Labour or Tory in Lewes. Anything is better than the Dishonourable Norman Baker

Role of Honour: Caroline Lucas (Green; Brighton Pavilion) and Stephen Lloyd (Liberal Democrat; Eastbourne).

Role of Dishonour: Norman Baker (Liberal Democrat; Lewes).

And then you have your traditional Tories supporting cuts cuts cuts.  At least they are consistent and behaving true to form.

But Norman Baker has sold his principles to retain the trappings of office.  “I took what was probably the most difficult decision I ever had to take in my political career”, he moans.  He is referring, of course, to his vote in support of an increase in tuition fees.

During the general election campaign Norman signed a pledge that he would vote against any increase in tuition fees.

Norman said today that “the easiest option for me would have been to vote against”.  No, Norman, it would have been the principled option.  You gave us your word.  Your word is now worth nothing. 

This was not just one unfortunate comprise necessary in order to form the Coalition Agreement.  This was the one and only pledge that every single Lib Dem candidate, including Norman Baker, signed.  It was the very reason why many students voted Lib Dem.

There was a choice, and fellow Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd made that choice.  Norman has chosen his Ministerial career above his principles.  It is a shame that the recall of MP’s is not yet in place.  Nevermind.  His time will come.  My first recommendation for the next General Election is for voters in Lewes to vote either Labour or Conservative.  Vote Labour for an anti-Tory vote; vote  Conservative for a vote against a dishonourable Lib Dem.

What is the point of the Lib Dems?

So David Laws has gone – the shortest Cabinet career in living memory.  Lib Dem supporters are lamenting his passing and paying some rather ludicrous tributes to him.  The most ludicrous of all was that of Lord Paddy Ashdown who described him as “Mr Integrity”. 

Mr Laws took an “holier than though” stance during the height of the expenses scandal, only to be brought low himself because of his claims. And now he tries to say it was about protecting his anonymity.  Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, writing in today’s Observer, said that this isn’t about homophobia, more “second home-ophobia”.  He goes on “…. Laws moment in the spotlight wasn’t because of a welcome difference from other MPs, but  because of a tragic similarity”.

The problem with the Lib Dems is that they have often taken a ‘plague on both your houses’ approach, not least by Nick Clegg during the Leaders’ Debate.  But the Lib Dems under Clegg have moved rightward, and the natural coming together with the Conservatives was made all the more possible by the Lib Tories like Clegg and Laws.  Laws is a natural Tory but is said not to have joined them because of his disgust over Section 28.

It now begs the question, what is the point of the Lib Dems.  They have become little more than the recipients of Tory votes with a conscience.  But even that is lost because of the likes of Laws whose appointment gave comfort to more hard-line Tories who had a distaste for the Lib Dems.

This blog called for tactical voting in the general election, to keep the Tories out.  How wrong I was.  I had always thought I would vote Lib Dem in Lewes and Eastbourne had I lived there.  No longer.  Norman Baker and Stephen Lloyd have forfeited the right to anti-Tory votes.  My advice in the future will be to rather vote for a real Tory than one cloaked in false conscience.

The Lib Dems split the anti-Tory vote in Brighton Kemptown and Hove, allowing the Tories to win.  The sad and ineffective bunch of Lib Dem councillors in Hove (if two can be called a bunch) should just join the Tories.  Their supporters should join the party that most represents their views, Labour or the Greens.  There is no point in voting Lib Dem.  There’s no point in the Lib Dems existing.

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.

A final plea for tactical votes in Sussex

It’s polling day.  For the past six months or so, I have been advocating tactical votes in Sussex to minimise the number of Conservatives elected.  Last year, with the Tories running in the polls at plus 40% and David Cameron thought it was a formality that he would become Prime Minister, I feared that 16 Tories might be returned from the 16 seats in Sussex.  There was an outside chance that with tactical voting we could see that number reduced to just 8.  The reality is that we might keep that number at 9, although Crawley is looking particularly vulnerable following the unforgivable decision of Laura Moffatt to stand down at the eleventh hour.

So, for a final time, here are my recommendations for tactical voting today:

Vote LABOUR in Brighton Kemptown, Hove, Hastings and Rye, and Crawley

Vote LIB DEM in Lewes and Eastbourne

Vote GREEN in Brighton Pavilion

The decision in Brighton Pavilion between Labour and the Greens took some serious reflection, but having advocated a Green vote as far back as January, I am more confident than ever that it is the right call for Brighton Pavilion.

Missed Opportunity on Politics Show by parties not fielding Caroline Lucas, Charlotte Vere or Nancy Platts

Politics Show with Ian Davey (Green; Hove), Simon Burgess (Labour; Brighton Kemptown), Henry Smith (Conservative; Crawley) and Norman Baker (Lib Dem; Lewes).  Davey hesitant and not that impressive, particularly on drugs and alcohol.  Simon Burgess quite assured.  Henry Smith smooth.  Norman Baker very competent.  Only men on the panel.  Big mistake by all 4 parties.  Good question from MothersInc.  Amusing observation that none of the panel are working mothers.

The SussexSquare (Geoffrey Bowden) asked question about Pride.  Debate around tolerance. Simon says “Norman is right”, not quite “I agree with Norman”!  Ian Davey got good plug in for Caroline Lucas at end of debate, but Caroline should have been there herself. A missed opportunity for Caroline, Nancy Platts and Charlotte Vere.

There’s more to this election that just Brighton Pavilion. Tactical voting remains so important

I am in danger of presenting the general election as being about just one campaign – that in Brighton Pavilion.  In fact Roy Greenslade, a titan of the newspaper industry (and I do mean that sincerely) almost suggested that when he said on the Guardian’s Greenslade Blog, that this was “a lively blog where the left-of-centre author appears to be enthused by the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas.

In Hove, it is looking increasingly likely that there will be a Tory win, although Celia Barlow pulled off one of the most amazing results last time by holding the seat.  Greens are suggesting that it is a lost cause for Labour so anti-Tories can vote according to their preference.   Don’t vote Green in Hove, not in this election.  Wait until the Greens have developed their base beyond the solitary but high profile and impressive Alex Phillips.

In Brighton Kemptown Green Ben Duncan is putting up a bit of a show, but he will come nowhere near ousing the anti-Tory challenge of Simon Burgess.  Again, don’t vote Green this time around in Kemptown.  Vote tactically for Simon Burgess.

So in Brighton and Hove, I am advocating tactical voting for Labour in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove, and definitely a tactical vote and a principled vote for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion.

In Hastings in Rye I have always been impressed by the work ethic of Michael Foster who is defending the seat against the Tory, Amber Rudd.  Please give a tactical vote for Labour in Hastings.  Michael may not set the world on fire, but he has been an excellent MP.

In Lewes it has to be the Liberal Democrat, Stormin’ Norman Baker.  If Mandelson is to New Labour what Portillo was to the last Tory Government, then the re-election of Norman Baker will be the worst thing possible for Mandelson.

Finally, the election in Eastbourne is turning nasty where sitting Tory MP Nigel Watersons in real danger of losing to the Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd.  All Labour and Green supporters must vote Lib Dem in Eastbourne.  If Stephen wins, it won’t be the last we will hear of Waterson – he has already threatened to see Lloyd in Court over an election leaflet.  Who would have thought it, nasty politics in Eastbourne.

David Cameron is right – we DO deserve better, but it is certainly not him

Gordon has kissed hands with the Queen and the campaign is up and running.  “Britain deserves better” says David Cameron.  That is true, but we aren’t going to get it from HIM.  Here is what I hope we will wake up to on May 7th.

I really don’t want to see a Conservative government elected.  The UKIP candidate in Hove recently accused me of not being open-minded.  Guilty as charged.  I have little if any confidence in the ability of George Osbourne to manage the economy.  The Conservative Party may pretend to have reformed itself, but it is instinctively a party that cuts public expenditure and public services.  It continues to claim to be a party of small government.

Be clear, a vote for the Conservatives will mean savage cuts and even greater support for big business than even Labour will deliver.

I hope Labour ends up with the most seats but not an overall majority, not because it deserves a further term, but because it is the lesser of two evils.  Labour will cut, but some of the excesses that can be expected from the Tories may be tempered, especially if Labour forms a minority government.. 

While hung parliaments are not a great thing generally, I hope that the new parliament will have more independents and minority parties upon whom Labour will need to depend to get its programme through.  This would mean that the Whips will have less influence.

Amongst the minor parties I hope and expect that the Greens will win their first seat, Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion.  I also hope that there will be further successes for the Greens, but my lack of knowledge about campaigns elsewhere requires me to remain silent on those campaigns.

Locally, I hope Stormin’ Norman Baker holds Lewes (likely), Labour holds Hove and Brighton Kemptown (both unlikely), and Michael Foster holds Hastings and Rye (very possible).

I remain an admirer of Nancy Platts and would wish to see her in Parliament – perhaps she could beat the sitting Tory MP for Brighton Kemptown in the next general election …. in October.

35 days to go: Tories to win Hove, the Greens Brighton Pavilion, Lib Dems Lewes, and Brighton Kemptown too close to call

Just 35 days and it will almost be over. Yes, just 5 weeks and an hour or so and the polls will have closed.  The final ‘knockin up’ will have been completed and there will be nothing more to be done but to wait for the count.

At 10pm the BBC, ITV and Sky will give their prediction of the national result. My personal forecast is that there will be a hung parliament, and I am prepared to go out on a limb to say Labour will be the largest party.

The wheels are beginning to come off the Tory’s campaign, and George Osbourne contin ues to underwhelm. The Tory toff label will dog ‘David Dave’ Cameron.

Stormin’ Norman Baker will hold Lewes, the Tories will win Hove, the Greens Brighton Pavilion, but Brighton Kemptown is too close to call.  In that constituency both candidates (Labour and Tory) have been lacklustre and disappointing.

Brighton Pavilion remains the most exciting, inspiring contest, and I remain impressed by Caroline Lucas and Nancy Platts in particular.  Charlotte Vere, who contrary to many comments on this blog, has many positive personal qualities.  I have enjoyed meeting her but feel that she has been disadvantaged by not having a quality campaign manager to guide her. Her focus has been too much on her opponents and not enough on herself.  Not that I sad about that.  Caroline Lucas will be an excellent Member of Parliament.

Finally, I am grateful to Mike for providing this link to an article on the campaign in Brighton Pavilion that appeared in the Economist http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15821483