The division within the Greens over Christina Summers’ expulsion

The Argus’s Tim Ridgway is fast establishing himself as an outstanding local government correspondent, and the Argus is the better paper for his reporting.

Not that the Greens will be thinking so this morning as Tim reveals the list of those Green councillors who signed the letter resulting in Christina Summers being expelled from the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

According to Tim, those who signed the letter were: Liz Wakefield, Rob Jarrett, Leo Littman, Phelim MacCafferty, Lizzie Deane, Sue Shanks, Christopher Hawtree, Ben Duncan, Sven Rufus, Mike Jones, Stephanie Powell, Amy Kennedy, and Ruth Buckley.

Those who did not sign were: Matt Follett, Bill Randall, Geoffrey Bowden, Ian Davey, Ollie Sykes, Alex Phillips, Pete West, Jason Kitcat, and Ania Kitcat.

I am personally disappointed with some who signed and pleasantly surprised by one or two who did not.

When histories are written of political administrations, the moment that an under-fire group turns on its own members is the moment that defeat becomes likely. The Greens still have time to reflect on what got them elected in 2011 and return to the campaigning political operation that so inspired many voters.

(Note: the original posting had Tim Ridgway as a “loyal government correspondent” now corrected to “local government correspondent” and the names of Geoffrey Bowden and Bill Randall had become fused as Geoffrey Randall. What a thought!)

A review of May’s local elections, as seen by birds

I was recently sent an amazing, original review of the local elections. With the agreement of the author, Pearl Ahrens, I reproduce an extract here.

“It’s a week after kestrelection day, and the kites have been counted, cormorants have been congratulated / consoled and meetings have been held. Last year’s kestrelection victory was replayed, with the Grebe Party winning 23 seats on the barnowl, making them the biggest party. The Grebe Group made the announcement on Monday that it will not form a coachicken with the Labullfinch Group, but instead form a minority admoorhenstration.

“Grebes Phalarope Maccaferty and Owlie Snipes took over from the defector Diverd Waxwing, who was standing again as and indepheasant, and Paul Eagled, a Lib Dem. The Lib Dems selected Brian Rock-Dove as a fellow cormorant for Paul.

“Ania Kitcoot, the only Slavonian Grebe on the barnowl, got a seat next to her husband, Jason Kitcoot.

“Tern Sandfrench lost out on a seat in Quail’s Park that he really wanted, by 325 kites. But Quail’s Park is still grebe, with Ben Dunlin staying on but two new barnowlors taking over: Steph Petrel and Geoffrey Birden.

“In St Pintail’s and Nuthatch Laine, Lizzie Dunnock got about 300 kites more than her fellow Grebe cormorants Ian Diver and Pete Whinchat, but they all got kestre-elected. Clare Curlew (hatchling of Jean Curlew and Andean Condor) put up a good flight but should probably try again in a safer Labullfinch seat.

“Diver Bangs, author of the book ‘Where the meadowpipit meets the waterpipit’, stood in Moulescoomb and Bevendean for Tern Union and Stonechat Coachicken (T.U.S.C.), but to no avail, as, sadly, he only got 267 kites.

“The Consparrowhawks ditched barnowlor Magpie Mears as leader of the Consparrowhawk group in favour of Geoffrey Theobaldeagle, ex-cabinercaillie-member-for-the-envionment. Fellow Rottingdean Seabirds barnowlor Lynda Hide caused outrage at the budgie meeting by squarking at the public gallery to “Pay your taxes!”

“The Consparrowhawks did very badly all over the city. Rob Jayrett, Ruth Bullfinch and Skylarks Philips snatched the former Consparrowhawk stronghold of Goldcrest for the Grebes.

“The result in Patcham was only as expected. All 3 Consparrowhawk barnowlors got kestre-elected with a 609 majority on the runner-up cormorant: Hugh Woodcock, a Grebe. Carol and Geoffrey Theobaldeagle and Brian Pigeon are the barnowlors.

“In a welcome surprise victory, the Grebe Christopher Hawktree won his long-eared long-tailed seat in Central Dove. He famgrousely got challenged to a duel by Tory barnowlor Diverd Smewth in the pages of the Argoose. Hawktree rejackdawed the challenge because he was going to the librookery that day.”

Apologies that I didn’t post this much earlier but I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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 ….!

The student vote will swing Hollingdean and Stanmer for the Greens and consolidate their position elsewhere

It seems that the consensus is that the student vote will make a difference primarily in Hollingdean and Stanmer, and has already made a difference in St Peters and North Laine, and in Hanover and Elm Grove, with Regency also benefiting from the student vote.  All this is possibly stating the obvious as these seats have high concentration of students, and all are in Brighton Pavilion where the Green’s organisation has galvanised the student vote.  In Moulscoomb and Bevendean, where Labour and the Greens have little organisation on the ground, the student vote is less influential, allowing the Tories to take seats in this tradional Labour seat.

DAP thinks that students will make the LibDem destruction even more felt everywhere, coming in poor lasts.  He thinks that the “Tories will also be hit (in M&B for example) not because Tory students will change their mind and vote left, but beacuse previously non voting students/first timers will be more inclined to vote Green/Labour because of recent tuition fee rises/high youth umemployment/low graduate employment (as will the parents of future students)”.  Perhaps, but I think that Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will be won, not by issues impacting on students, but on the record of Maria Caulfield as lead councillor for housing. 

My dear Baron Pepperpot agrees with my take on Hollingbury and Stanmer: “The Greens in Hollingdean & Stanmer are heavily targeting the student vote. I understand they are readily campaigning at the campus, and will be there on the day. The Greens campaign in this ward has been in full flow for sometime, and is showing signs of a very carefully thought out strategy. An added advantage too is student hostility towards the coalition and the Lib Dems in particular.If someone wanted to bet me that 3 Greens will be returned from Hollingdean & Stanmer, they wouldn’t see much of a return on their stake!”

As you know, Baron, I think the Joker in the Pack is Jeane Lepper who I believe will hang on because of her many years careful stewardship of the ward. I still say two Greens and Jeane Lepper for Labour.

Brighton’s own Mr Pickwick, Christopher Hawtree, thinks that the student vote will be influential everywher: “It is not only the student vote that makes Moulescoomb an interesting area for the Greens. Look at the rest of it.” I don’t think so, it requires strong organisation on the ground, and Labour doesn’t have it, and the Greens are targeting their efforts in selected wards.

The activist with probably the best knowledge of the student vote, and someone who has received little public credit for the success of Caroline Lucas’ campaign is Allie Cannell.  He writes: “I think the best reference I have ever got was from Charlotte Vere after the general election when she said in an e-mail to the University of Sussex Conservative Assosiation something along the lines of: ‘We could have won it if the Labour vote had softened but in the end the Greens’ student mobilisation campaign was just too successful’.  I learnt a lot coordinating the campus campaign at the general election last year and it was really really successful (if only i could tell you what the sampling data said), this year we started campaigning earlier on campus and we know how to do it. I’m confident we will get a good Green vote from the students again.”  I am sure you are right.

Regarding the student vote at Brighton University, and those in Kemptown, Allie writes: “We have made some connections with Brighton students, but as you say there hasn’t been a strong campaign there as we have to target. It will be interesting to see how those students vote this time though.  There are a lot of students that live in SPNL, and H&EG too, what a supprise that they’re Green wards.”

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke tends to discount the influence of the student vote: “The Students have always been a questionable influence in the old Stanmer ward and the now H&S ward, will they place Sven “Long Hair Kung-Fu Man” Rufus back on the council,do they know how too tactical vote? or do they let Rachel “momma grizzly” Bates through the middle, she is after all an ex Sussex Uni student and that may count for something with her old campus pals, we could see Ian Fyvie out with his loud hailer!”  Now having Ian Fyvie on the Council would be something, but somehow I think he will just miss out, by a thousand votes or so!

HP thinks it is studentification’ that could be a factor.  Not on students, I think, but on those living in town centre wards who complain about car parking and noisy neighbours, blaiming it all on students. HP writes: “Of course, another way the students might swing the vote is in relation to the party that promises the most effective action to limit the spread of student houses at the cost of family housing. The outgoing Labour Govt was in the process of addressing just that issue, but then the Tories came in and buckled to the demands of their landlord mates and watered down the new rules. However, a locally implementable mechanism exists to stop family houses becoming student lets and I for one would be happy to vote for a party that has the courage to impose it (unless that party is the Tories, obviously I’d never vote for them). We then need more purpose built student accommodation in the right places with sustainable links to the campuses.”

But is any of this speculation meaningful? Dan Wilson thinks not: “Student turnout at local elections is typically very low indeed”  but Mr Pickwick senses something different now: “It seems to me a motivated student vote this time. Many were inspired by first Green MP. That was also apparent in the Lizzie Deane camapign. And that was a summertime when most political types assumed that it would be a snoozy electorate.”

St Peter’s and North Laine by-election: vote for Tom French

Good luck to both Tom French and Lizzie Deane in tomorrow’s St Peter’s and North Laine by-election.  It is good that those of you with a vote in the election can expres your choice without having to consider voting tactically.  It is a two horse race, and you can express your preference without worrying about letting the Tories or their feeble baby brother, the Lib Dems, through the middle.

As I have oftn stated in this blog, I hope that the Greens win next year’s local elections in Brighton and Hove, that they will be the largest party even if they don’t achieve a majority.  Winning the by-election is important to the Greens but not essential.  Losing the seat will be a set back, but not a disaster. 

Bearing this in mind, and having considered the merits of Tom and Lizzie, I am urging that people vote for Tom French.  With dynamic candidates like Tom, and with the prospect of Labour becoming renewed, it will be an interesting time for politics in Brighton and Hove over the next 12 months for those of us who are non-aligned on the left.

My hope is that next May the Greens are the largest party, followed by Labour, with the Tories down to single figures on the Council.  As for the Lib Dems, much deserved oblivion awaits in Brighton and Hove.

Jean Calder – hedging her bets by supporting both candidates in St Peter’s and North Laine by-election

Two days to go before the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election and there is an oddity in the leaflets of both the Labour candidate, Tom French, and the Green candidate, Lizzie Deane.  Both are claiming to have been endorsed by former Labour councillor, Jean Calder. 

In the Green leaflet, Ms Calder applauds the support given by the Green Party in the campaign to save St Peter’s Church.  Jean Calder is the Convenor (a very Green concept) of the Friends of  St Peter’s Church.

Then tonight a leaflet is being distributed in St Peter’s and North Laine and there, again, is Ms Calder praising Tom French and saying that the Greens should have recruited him. 

Democracy is usually about deciding which candidate you wish to vote for.  Jean Calder seems to have taken it one step further – wanting to support the two leading candidates.  At least she is hedging her bets and will be able to claim she supported the winning candidate!  Now that’s what I call tactical voting.

St Peter’s and North Laine by-election: strong showing by Labour’s Tom French

Next Thursday is the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election. What is encouraging for the Labour Party is the performance of its candidate, the impressive Tom French.  He has run a high profile and energetic campaign.  He is just what the Labour Party needs following the general election.

So could Labour’s revival begin in this by-election.  It could be argued that the Green’s win in Brighton Pavilion got the Big Mo, momentum, from the Goldsmid by-election (even though Goldsmid is in neighbouring Hove).  In Goldsmid the Greens fielded 24 year old Alex Phillips.  She was enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive.  In St Peter’s and North Laine, Labour has a 24 year old, enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive candidate. The Greens had never won in Goldsmid, nor for that matter in any ward in Hove. It is many years since Labour came even close in St Peter’s and North Laine and, before that, in the old St Peter’s Ward.

But can the “positive, passionate and dedicated” Tom French win? (That was a quote from his election address going out this weekend).  He is “local and active in our community”, and he is “listening and acting on your concerns”.  Tom French is a strong candidate, quite comfortably the most impressive of all the candidates. Trefor Hunter (Lib Dem) will do as well as he has done in countless elections over the past 25 years in Brighton – he will lose.  Rob Buckwell, the Conservative candidate, is a nice young man, but he doesn’t have it, at least not yet.  He can repeat Tory Party policies but he lacks the instincts required of a successful local politician – to make the issues of local residents the ones he champions.  And finally, Lizzie Deane.  What can I say?  She has run a very low-key campaign, hardly seen, even spending a weekend away in London.  Does she actually want to be a councillor?

What will probably happen is Lizzie Deane will hold the seat for the Greens with a much reduced majority over Tom French, with the Lib Dems and Tories contesting who will come a very poor fourth place.  The Greens would be wrong to dismiss any collapse in its majority as normal poor turn-out in a by-election.  After the success of Caroline Lucas in the general election, the Greens should romp home with a four figure majority.  It should be a wake-up call for the Green Party, its councillors and candidates.  If it is to break through the 20 councillor mark next May (and I really hope it does), it must ensure that it runs campaigns that epitomise its ambitions, not a half-hearted campaign as it has run in St Peter’s and North Laine.

As for Tom French, keep up the fight.  The City Council would benefit from someone of his calibre. I will watch his progress with much interest.