Announcing the outstanding candidate, with youth and good looks, for Hove 2015

From the reaction to yesterday’s post, it appears that the campaign in Hove in 2015 is already capturing the imagination. There is speculation about the Labour candidate, the advantage of women candidates, and the merits of experience over youth.

Councillor Christopher Hawtree agrees that Hove is an interesting prospect: “The subject of the Hove constituency is certainly more galvanising than a gathering of the Strategic Partnership. A point not made by the blogger is that, very winnable, Hove could attract the attention of candidates from elsewhere. Meanwhile, in studying it, I think I have found the key factor in a close-run Election, but am hardly going to say so here.”

Clive agrees that Mike Weatherley could be vulnerable: “1800 majority and 37% of the vote does not equal hard to shift, unless Argentina invade the Falklands again. It is very easy to exaggarate the effect of an individual MP’s efforts at social work.” Perhaps so, Clive, but Mike has already impressed with his careful nurturing of the constituency and he has a populist appeal.

So what can councillor Chris have discovered? He is right that Hove, as a winnable seat could attract candidates from beyond the city. If Labour or the Greens did so, it would be a mistake. There is much speculation that Labour is looking to Simon Burgess.

Luke Walter (who rumour has it may have Green leanings), writes of the likely Labour candidate: “For once, I agree with Zombie, a female candidate would stand a much better chance for Labour. However, given that the Kemptown seat is an all-woman shortlist (AWS) and Hove isn’t, Burgess only has one option (unless he can persuade the NEC to keep Pavilion open to all, though, I doubt he wants to stand there). Therefore, Hove it will be for Mr. Burgess unless the local party opts for someone else. Given Warren Morgan’s own friendship with Burgess and the East Brighton grip over Labour’s constituency parties in the city, I imagine the local Labour selection for Hove will be without a credible challenge to Burgess.”

But some feel that a different brand of candidate should be chosen. I suggested female and young in the case of the Greens. Likewise, Zombie proposes female and young for Labour: “A Green candidate in place now (probably Alex Phillips) could start to build a challenge. This could become momentum given a fair wind from B & H council’s activities or the kiss of death. Labour can help the Greens by selecting someone mediocre from outside the area, or can select someone with potential like the Benn girl who stood in Shoreham in 2010 or perhaps Clare Calder. Leaving selection late will help the Green challenger. In any event the Green Alex Phillips lookalike will need to show she is best placed to challenge Weatherly well beforehand for the Lab vote to evaporate.”

Zombie urges Labour not to waste time: “Labour would do well to select their Alex Phillips now and establish their own campaigning radical credentials. They might then squash the Green Alex as the clear non-Tory alternative.”

Finally, it appears that I am getting under Clive’s skin. He writes: “I do find the blogger’s repetitive promotion of a select few annoying, because it seems to be based on so little in the way of substance.” But Clive, I am totally devoid of substance! But give me some credit – I say it as I see it, and I am not often wrong. I predicted Alex Phillips’ Goldsmid by-election victory when others did not, I called Brighton Pavilion correctly, and I was within a seat for both Labour and the Greens this May. I also said that my friend Warren Morgan would romp home and that Brian Fitch would regain his seat. You are right, Clive, I concentrate on the select few.

But I do agree with Clive on his final point: “There is a wider, national malaise in our politics too, in the elevation of (relative) youth and (relative) good looks above substance.”

So to add to this national malaise, there is just one person who has the youth and good looks necessary to beat Mike Weatherley. Yes, it is your ever so humble Blogger.

Fall out from local elections continues

As you would expect, a very robust and coherent defence of Labour has been received from Warren Morgan in response to my post yesterday. Reglar readers will know that I am an admirer of Warren. He is a very able politician, and one who is able to organise well. However, before the election I repeatedly told him (when he was predicting greater success for Labour that materialised) that his views were influenced by the excellent organisation in East Brighton, something replicated in just a few wards elsewhere in Brighton and Hove. As the Greens have advanced, Labour has become more marginalised. ‘But we polled almost the same number of votes as the Green’s, I hear the Labour Deniers plea. But you didn’t win the seats. In the first year of a Tory-led government that is slashing public services across the board you should have been able to pick up more than a handful of seats from the Tories.

In fact Warren himself talks about how close it was: “Labour scored the same number of votes citywide as the Greens – a fact. It didn’t get those votes where they were needed to win the seats, admitted. Labour was 150 to 200 votes short of winning additional seats in seven wards. It didn’t, but had it done it it would have been the largest group, just. Labour finished a relatively close second in all three parliamentary seats in the city last year, and level with the winners in terms of votes this year. Labour’s vote went up in every ward, most by 350, some by 500, one by 700. That does not paint a picture of a Party in terminal decline.”

Warren does reveal something I have called for, that there will be a wide and open review of what went wrong: “Of course lessons need to be learned both in terms of policy, organisation and message, but any debate is painted as dissent and division. Over the coming weeks and months Labour will be consulting, meeting, listening and debating, not just within our membership but with voters, organisations and others to determine what we can do better.” I welcome that open debate although having seen some comments by various activists (for which I am criticised when quoting them on this blog) I am aware that there is a wish for greater control to be put in the hands of a smaller number of individuals at the expense of ward branch organisation. Very dangerous. But good luck in that debate, Warren, and if I can be of any assistance ……!

We get an interesting Green insight from Luke Walter, one of the most able campaigners in Brighton and Hove who was unlucky to have missed election in Hollingdean and Stanmer purely on the grounds of the alphabet (something he identified several weeks ago was likely): “We understood our demographic better than Labour, we understood the kind of people who vote in local elections, we even understood their motivation for voting. In nearly all of these, Labour and the Tories got it wrong. Labour were saying ‘if you vote Green you get the Tories.’ The Tories were saying ‘if you vote Green you get Labour.’ I think we were the only ones saying ‘if you vote Green you get Green.’ The truth is, Warren and his councillor colleagues in the Kemptown constituency need to try and understand why 1000 or so voters in EB and M&B voted Green in the locals with no obvious campaigning and with the continuous message ‘Greens can’t win’ or ‘voting Green only helps the Tories here.’ ”

What is impressive about Luke (something not that obvious in other parties) is his ability to be self-critical about the Greens own performance: “We Greens are also at fault. We greatly underestimated our vote in those wards, as well as Westbourne in Hove. This mistake won’t be repeated again. Reading the comments from Labour councillors and Labour supporters, it is clear the party is in a pickle, as I’m sure the Tories are as well. Weatherly should be sweating in Hove and Portslade losing six seats last Friday. The same for Kirby in Kemptown, who was beaten into third by the Greens in two sizeable wards in his constituency. If the Greens political opponents are waiting in the dark until we slip-up, they’ve got another thing coming. From now on, they can expect a more confident, more slicker and bolder Green machine in Brighton AND Hove.”

Dr Faust reprimands me, that I “need to develop a more even handed approach with your critisisms of parties.  You ask for an apology from Labour about ‘misleading’ material (which I would contest), but don’t ask for the same from the Green Party.  You say the same about claims made over recent elections, but again don’t expect any contrition from the Green Party who did exactly the same.  In both cases I consider the material put out to be par for the course tactics in trying to win votes and seats. Consistancy would be welcome.”

My dear Doctor, I have never pretended to be consistent or even-handed. A hint of bias has occasionally come through in my writings on those two-faced, yellow-belly, snake-in-the-grass, rats sometimes known as the Lib Dems. I was SO sad to see them wiped off the face of the political map in Brighton and Hove on May 5th. As for being even handed in my criticism, I don’t dish it out for the sake of it. I am critical of Labour’s use of misleading graphs in two elections in a row and the poor organisation in the City and of party HQ. Last week I did criticise the Greens for their use of a graph but their use was less misleading because of a simple factor – they WON. Labour’s claims were misleading as they claimed that, in 2010, they were the only party who could beat the Tories in Brighton Pavilion (horribly misleading and unforgivable, as would the Greens claim had they not won) and, in 2011, that they were the only party that could form an administration. With just 13 seats out of 54 that is a big ask!

(In case there is any doubt amongst those other than my four regular readers – Warren, Christopher Hawtree, Momma Grizzly, and Doris Day – I am not anti-Labour. I voted Labour on May 5th. I just want to see Labour get its act together. I am also aware that there is a suggestion that there is a ‘snitch’ in Labour’s ranks, someone who is passing me information. In fact, there are almost a dozen Labour activists with whom I am either in regular contact with or who DM or email me regularly, along with several Tories and several Greens. No Lib Dems, alas).

Tory young guns firing bullets of indignation

I am not a small-state, socially liberal and fiscally conservative kind of guy. That may come as a surprise to some of you Eco-Marxist, Commie (credit for those labels to Chuck Vere and Paul Perrin – that would be a marriage made Hell) fanatics who have infiltrated the Green Party. I have a problem. I like Michael Ireland, one of the young breed of Tory candidates who stood and fell last Thursday. But Michael describes himself as a “small-state, socially liberal and fiscally conservative kind of guy.” I imagine it’s just a phase he’s going through.

The young Tories had such high hopes only to see each one fall to the Greens or, in the case of Michael, to Labour’s Brian Fitch, and Kerry Underhill also to Labour. Rachael Bates, George Dore, Mike McFarland (the guy lucky enough to leave his toothbrush next to George’s), Robert Nemeth, and Adam Love were beaten by Green opponents.

Young candidates from other parties fared no better with Labour’s Clare Calder, Tom French and Harris Fitch, the Greens’ Luke Walter and Allie Cannell, and the Lib Dems Rebecca Taylor, Tallulah Frankland and Larissa Rowe all lost. In fact no new young councillors were elected, and there remains just one councillor under the age of 30, the Greens’ Alex Phillps.

The young Conservatives are not a happy bunch. Last night I posted comments from a Tory Party member regarding the young Conservatives. Today I have been bombarded by these said Tories denouncing each other as if one of them is my informant. At no point did I intimate that my correspondent was one of their number. But look at how they turn against each other:

Michael Ireland: “I was shocked to see this post after having just cleaned my teeth this morning. Whilst the anonymous poster might have provided a fascinating observation for the blog, their comments, whilst ostensibly representing our group, are merely their own opinion.”

Robert Nemeth: “I’ve never posted on here before but it has been drawn to my attention that it may well be assumed that I am your cowardly friend. As I am neither cowardly nor your friend, I would very much like to distance myself from public attacks on colleagues. There is no real group of young Conservatives as such but, if there were and it did have a spokesman, that person would not be such a sneak. Hopefully it is nobody that I know. For the record, I am dead impressed by the Greens’ organisational skills. I doubt that they managed to get in such a position by sneaking around on blogs.”

Rob Buckley: “Your informer, whoever they may be, does not speak for the entire younger generation within the local Conservative Party. I know some of his/her assertions to be inaccurate. This highlights the problem with hiding cowardly behind anonymity.”

And finally, Momma Grizzly: “I entirely agree with Rob Buckwell. Whoever your ‘informant’ is should have the guts to come out from behind the veil of anonymity if they are to say such comments. They certainly do not speak for all of the younger Conservatives and I’m not impressed that this person who has chosen to remain anonymous has taken it upon themselves to say that they represent our views.”

Labour activists reacted with similar indignation when one of their numbers passed on views which were then passed on to this Blogger. Anonymity is something that you may have to get used to. But there are some fascinating insights that I won’t share, which is a shame. For example, today I received a great email from a Labour activist from Hove who asked me to keep his/her comments ‘off line’, a request which I will respect.

But do keep the comments coming, email to brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com and indicate whether I can use them. Alternatively, Direct Message me through Twitter @BrightonPolitic, or simply leave a comment on this blog.

Congratulations to the Greens for making history in Brighton and Hove

I must first of all start by congratulating the Greens on a result that exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. It exceeded mine. I thought the Greens would end up with 21 or 22 seats. I didn’t expect the two amazing results in Withdene where Sue Shanks topped the poll, nor Christopher Hawtree’s sensational efforts in Central Hove. I suspect that Green High Command had some doubts, but one man did not share them – Chris Hawtree himself.

The Greens have emerged from this election with 23 councillors (including 6 in Hove, up from 1), the Tories are down to 18 and Labour have remained static with 13. The Lib Dems have been wiped out as predicted, hoped for and encouraged by this Blogger. Labour now has just one councillor in Brighton Pavilion where the Greens are now winning in Tory strongholds.

Before touching on other results, can I mention those sitting councillors who have lost their seats. Politics can be cruel, and election losses for sitting politicians offers no hiding place. Focus is on those who have been victorious, but this evening we should pause to thank the following for their service to the City, often at a cost that ordinary citizens, even party activists, don’t see and can’t always appreciate: Paul Elgood, David Watkins, Jan Young, Melanie Davis, Ayas Fallon-Khan, Pat Hawkes, Christine Simpson, Maria Caulfield, Trevor Alford, Kevin Allen, Juliet McCaffery, Steve Harmer-Strange, Ted Kemble.

I got one result hopelessly wrong – Moulsecoomb and Bevendean – where I felt that Maria Caulfield would win and, on her coat tails, Ayas Fallon-Khan (moving from Goldsmid) and Cath Slater (well known locally) would cause an upset in Labour’s back yard. I was wrong. And so I eat Humble Pie (though I do prefer Sugar Puffs). And congratulations to Labour’s team in M&B, Leigh Farrow, Mo Marsh and mayor-elect, Anne Meadows. This result, along with the return of the Legend that is Brian Fitch in Hangleton and Knoll, the anticipated gains by Penny Gilbey in North Portslade and Alan Robins in South Portslade, and the unexpected election of Anne Pissaridou in Wish, were the few positives on a day when it seemed the Greens were conquering everything before it.

A bitter-sweet result, and one predicted in this blog, was Jeane Lepper successfully defending her seat in Hollingdean and Stanmer. A combination of the Lepper name and Jeane’s own reputation as a hard-working and effective caseworker saw her survive. One of the few errors the Greens made this year was to underestimate Jeane Lepper.

A quick word on the one Green who was not successful in H&S, Luke Walter. Luke must be incredibly disappointed tonight, but he should be proud of his achievements. He probably worked harder than any candidate in H&S, but electoral politics can be unfair, especially when your surname begins with a W or a Y (ask Jan Young). Luke has the advantage of age on his side, and his time will come before long. (I will be blogging on the fortunes of all the young candidates in the near future. None of them, other than sitting councillor, Alex Phillips, who I heard described as the “Baby of the Chamber” today, was elected.

But the day belonged to the Greens who, I understand, were in celebratory mood when they retired to the Cricketers Pub for an orange juice after the count. Never before in the United Kingdom have the Greens become the largest group on a Council, and this is the largest group of Greens ever elected (what do you think of that, Norwich?). So congratulations to all newly and re-elected Greens throughout Brighton AND HOVE. I will blog more on the Greens remarkable achievements and the challenges that lie ahead in the next few days. But for now, enjoy the night, encourage Bill Randall to go wild and have another lemonade, return to your constituencies and prepare for ….. I’m not sure. A coalition? A minority administration? Definitely Christopher Hawtree to be Lead Councillor for Libraries! Congratulations, All.

Labour talking a good fight and paying respect to Pat Hawkes

The Honey Monster (Craig Turton) has reacted to my comment that “So disorganised are they (Labour) in some seats that members have complained about not being given posters for their windows”. Craig says that could be because “like in East Brighton ward – where doorstep enthusiasm for Labour far exceeeds 2003 and 2007 – demand for posters is outsripping supply. Same in Hangleton and elsewhere.” Nice try, Craig, but the empty windows suggests otherwise. There is still no enthusiasm for Labour. Brighton and Hove is not like the rest of the country – the Caroline Effects will still make a difference.

As for enthusiasm for Labour in the future, Blue Labour isn’t going to play at all well in Brighton and Hove. I wanted Red Ed Milliband to win. What on earth is he doing? He is proving to be a disaster, while Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper are, at least, putting some clear water between Labour and the Tories.

Steampunk suggests that Labour has given up on Central Hove: “A Labour party member told me ruefully last weekend, ‘no matter what you do, the Tories will always win in Central Hove’. So I suspect that having come fourth last time round, this year they have been focussing on the more winnable wards further out such as Wish, Hangleton and the two in Portslade. Or perhaps everyone has gone to Queens Park?”.

Blue Lady Linda says that “There is a hive of activity going on in most of the wards from our activists: telephone canvassing, envelope stuffing, literature deliveries, knocking up and general cross ward support. There is much that goes on ‘under the radar’”. Lady Linda is right that traditionally the work of the Tories is not that obvious but they have been able to get out its vote.

She says that she thinks that all parties other than the Tories have given up on Hove Park. “I come to this conclusion, because I have yet to see any literature or sighting of a candidate, other than Tory, in Hove Park Ward.”

MJ must be a Labour hack because who else would come out with the following tosh: “Word is that the Greens are under pressure in Regency and are stalling in Queens Park and Brunswick. They may also drop one seat in Hanover, Preston Park and Goldsmith. The Labour vote is too high to see Green or Tory gains.” There’s no such ‘word’, there is no such pressure, they are not stalling, and the Greens are not going to drop seats. Luke Walter’s reaction is right when he simply responded “LOL”.

The love within Labour is overwhelming. Baron Pepperpot writes: “As a paid up member of the Labour Party who fully supports our Queens Park campaign, I would like to say how happy I would be to see us get completely stuffed in Hollingdean and Stanmer…”. Wow! I’m intrigued as to why you feel this strongly. Do say more. And if this is the mood with Labour ten days out from an election, what levels of fratricide can we expect if my predictions are correct and Labour is left with a smaller rump than they currently have?

Christina Summers, one of the Green candidates has responded to my praise of Luke Walter and his campaigning zeal: “Don’t worry BPB, Luke is most definitely not a lone Green campaigner in Hollingdean & Stanmer…and our opponents are most definitely not complimentary nor do they resemble any sort of firework…apart from the occasional banger…usually when we’ve leafleted their homes.”

As regular readers will know, I have been predicting two Greens and one Labour (Jeane Lepper) being returned in Hollingdean and Stanmer. This would see the end of the long and illustrious council career of Pat Hawkes who has represented the area for many decades. She has also been an active trade unionist, rising to be President of the NUT. Consistency in service (although not always in views) means that she deserves respect, and she certainly has mine.

Ten days to go and the campaign has gone oh so quiet

I’ve been silent for much of the last week, listening and observing. I have spent a bit of time in the majority of wards, for one reason or another, and spoken to several candidates in each party. What has emerged is a depressing picture – and election campaign that has failed to catch the imagination of the City, including party activists and members.

With very few exceptions (East Brighton, Queens Park, and seats in west Hove) Labour is in the doldrums. Some candidates and councillors are out and about, but in some seats it has been hard to get any party members to do any door knocking. In one town centre ward, just the three candidates have done in any door knocking and even then one of the three has limited his activity to the minimum.

It is largely candidates and councillors doing 95% of the work for Labour. So disorganised are they in some seats that members have complained about not being given posters for their windows, while others have decided not to out them up at all.

Members in Queens Park are full of praise for the tireless efforts of Tom French (no surprise there) and to a limited extent his running mates. In East Brighton, Warren Morgan (no doubt fortified by regular supplies of Sugar Puffs), Craig Turton (masquerading as the Sugar Monster) and Gill Mitchell, are going about their business with quiet determination (I said QUIET DETERMINATION, Warren). Labour posters are in clear evidence in East Brighton, but other than Hollingdean and Stanmer, and Hangleton and Knoll, this election is resembling a poster-free zone.

Tim Ridgeway recently counted the posters he could see from the number 26 bus (Chuck, the 26 goes from Churchill Square to the Hollingbury Industrial Estate) and he counted less than 10 posters in all. This included the Green heartland of St Peters and North Laine where Labour posters are numbering the same as Green posters. (I’m not predicting a shock result here but my sources have been impressed by the one woman campaign being run by young Clare Calder who is said to be out on the doorstep most days).

The Greens are faring a bit better, with activists turning out and members from beyond Brighton coming in at weekends to help. Momentum has been maintained in their key target seats. Much effort is going into defending the seats in Queens Park and challenging for gains in Brunswick and Adelaide and in Goldsmid where Green posters are clearly in evidence and Labour posters largely absent.

In Hanover and Elm Grove, where Labour is focussing much of its efforts, moving resources from elsewhere in the city, the small advances being made by Labour in what was once its safest seat, will come nowhere near displacing the Buddha (Bill Randall) and his two Green running mates.

Hollingdean and Stanmer continues to be a hot-bed of activism. Momma Grizzly is out most weekends but most of her efforts are focused on Coldean. Jeane Lepper has been here, there and everywhere, like a Catherine Wheel of bonfire night, and always a complimentary word for her Green opponents (well, perhaps not). But it is the Greens that are most evident and winning the poster war. In particular, Luke Walter is campaigning full time. Ironically he could be the loser in this Alphabet Election as he is bottom of the ballot paper and might be pipped to the post by Jeane Lepper.

In Regency, when James Asser isn’t stuck on trains, he and Dan Wilson, along with the Determined Anne Freeman, are working their socks off, but so too are the Kitcat Two. Dan and James may well reduce the Green majority but they have too much to make up.

Finally, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean looks as though it may produce a split result, but the Tories remain narrow favourites to take all three seats but Anne Meadows might yet hold on to her seat.

I still don’t have a feel for the campaigns in Central Hove, Wish and Westbourne wards. Has everyone given up and gone home? And what of Christopher Hawtree? It is very quiet on the Hawtree Front and our readers are missing your daily overview. Just 10 days to go and it will all be almost over …..

Bits and pieces from the local election campaign

Luke Walter has observed UKIP delivering leaflets in Hollingdean and Stanmer. He says that he suspects that they will take a few votes from the Conservatives and Labour on the estates. I suspect he is probably right, with a few more from the Tories than from Labour. I can’t see UKIP taking any votes from the Greens.

This raises an interesting question: who will the independent candidates harm most? And will the Lib Dems influence the outcome at all?

I think that the most significant independent this election is Jo Heard who will split the Tory vote in Hangleton and Knoll, as well as taking a few votes from Labour. Michael Ireland is likely to lose out amongst the Tories, while Alum Jones, due to alphabet voting, will suffer, but not by much. Jo’s candidature is not likely to be decisive. A stunning result would be if she was elected along with the Terrible Twins, Dawn Barnett and Brian Fitch. Not impossible but unlikely. I doubt an independent will win this May. The most likely result remains the election of Banett, Tony Janio and Brian Fitch.

Ben Codfish (what a clever play on words) asks whether we should rule out a Blue / Red Coalition. Gasps of indignation can be heard in this far corner of Hove as Warren Morgan splutters over a late night bowl of Sugar Puffs. “Never! Never! Never!” goes the cry in his best Ian Paisley voice.

If people vote according to their age, Steph Holder makes the following observation regarding this demographic: “The 2001 Census noted that 42% of people in Brighton and Hove are aged 20-44 – above the England and Wales average of 35% and the 34.6% average for the South East. 21% are aged 60+. A bit of quick research shows that about 70% of Tory councillors fall into the 60+ category – so the Party is very, very far from being representative of local people. Labour seems to be similar. Greens seem to most closely reflect the population, demographically speaking.”

Linda says that we shouldn’t knock the more mature councillor. “With age comes wisdom and I think a council with a wide age range and views is sometimes healthier. Remember, the outlying areas of B&H have a much older (perhaps more Tory?) electorate. We also have many residential & warden assisted homes in Hove.. Not everyone here is a right-on, cool, cycling, Green, Liberal.”

I think there is an issue here – which has allowed the Tories too easy a ride in the outlying areas. Christopher Hawtree identified this several weeks ago, as did Luke Walter. The Green tide is spreading far and wide, even in Withdean and Patcham. Earlier today Christopher wrote: “Nobody should regard the “suburbs” as a block vote.” I do agree, but I still don’t think the Greens will come within 1,000 votes of the Tories in Rottingdean Coastal.

Meanwhile, in Goldsmid ward (a ward that warrants close attention, along with Central Hove) I sense a gap is opening up between the Greens and Labour. I have previously predicted that Melanie Davis would top the poll for Labour and that the Greens would have Alex Phillips and another of it’s candidates elected, probably Ruth Buckley (not to be confused with the Estate Agent, Rob Buckwell). Given the strength of the Green campaign, and the popularity of Alex Phillips, I would not be surprised if Alex Phillips topped the poll with Melanie Davis and Ruth scrapping it out for second and third places.

I really don’t have a feel for Central Hove – too close, perhaps. The Tories are strong here, Celia Barlow is a very well known name, and Rebecca Taylor is running a great campaign as a Lib Dem candidate. (Please note, this praise of a Lib Dem is personal and should in no way be regarded as a softening of my totally unreasonable attitude to the Lib Dems. I do rate Rebecca Taylor).

There are just over 2 weeks to go before polling day. Do let me know how it’s going in your neck of the woods.

What prospects are there for a Green/Labour coalition?

Mary Mears is saying to anyone who is willing to listen that she wishes Labour and the Greens well in their soon to be announced coalition. She hints that a deal has already been reached between Gill Mitchell (Leader of the Labour Group) and Bill Randall (Convenor of the Greens).

To be or not to be …. a coalition, that is, is one of the most intriguing questions in local politics. I am sure that councillor Mears might be just a tad disingenuous in her statements. “Vote Labour, get Green; vote Green, get Labour” she might as well be saying. She knows what a wind-up this is for Labour and Green activists alike. Naughty Mary.

But leaving Green and Labour activists to one side for a moment, the Lovely Dani has been pondering the prospects post May 5th: “I hope a Labour/Green coalition (or some kind of agreement) will be achievable too. I am intrigued to see how this pans out. A Green-led council in Brighton & Hove could be a rallying point for the anti-cuts movement across the country, if councillors are prepared to stick to their principles. Or it could be a disaster (see the tragic outcome of Green participation in a coalition government at national level in Ireland).”

But Dani, you have already named the elephant in the room that will have Warren Morgan spluttering over his Sugar Puffs – that there will be a Green-led council. Warren and his colleagues are adamant that Labour is on the cusp of a great victory, and that the Greens are in decline. What hope is there of a coalition should Labour fail in its recovery? Will they continue with the Big Sulk that has characterised its response to the last locals and the 2010 defeats?

Warren shows the hostility towards the Greens by rubbishing that Party’s commitment to the return of the Committee system within Brighton and Hove City Council: “I’m afraid this is another Green manifesto pledge which sounds good but which is alreadty in place and which they have no way of implementing independently.

Warren goes on: “Actually, holding a coalition council together under the committee system would in practice be harder, as the Greens would need to whip their councillors to vote with their administration in every committee and in council. Currently they allow their members a free vote on every issue. If an administration can’t carry its policies through committee and at council it will be at risk of division and of falling at every stage.”

Dani, with her characteristically optimistic outlook, responded: “It’s good to know this is an ambition the Labour group shares. I think a formal coalition between Greens and Labour will be difficult to hold together under any circumstances. That’s why I think a less rigid set of agreements on particular issues and open debate in committees might have a better chance of working in practice.

“With a leader & cabinet system, there’s going to have to be a divvying up of cabinet seats between two parties and a more sustained level of joint working.

Craig Turton responds to Dani’s comment that “a formal coalition between Greens and Labour will be difficult to hold together under any circumstances.” he writes: “Who knows? I was the only member of the Labour Group after the elections 4 years ago who proposed and voted for a coalition with the Greens. Would I do it again?” This is where the deepening divisions between Labour ane the Greens are revealed: “After 4 years of watching some of the Greens’ antics, I’m not so sure. Labour and Greens have far more in common than some in both Partys pretend in public. I have huge respect for some individual Greens, particularly Amy (Kennedy) and Bill (Randall) but holding a coalition together requires compromise, discipline, flexibility and honesty. Should the election reveal the Council is in No Overall Control, then both Labour and Greens need to reflect on these qualities which will be required in order to work together for the common purpose of serving the people of our City.”

These are wise words, but the Greens approach to whipping might be a critical factor in undermining a coalition, an approach explained by the Green’s Luke Walter “Warren knows full well that Green councillors come to a consensus decision, rather than being told how to vote by whips (and sometimes the Westminister Labour front bench or those sitting in Labour HQ).”

So what do I think? Given that I think that the Greens will end up with between 20 and 22 seats, and that Labour will end up with around 13 seats (win some, lose some), leaving around 21 Tories, some sort of compromise will be needed.

Some Greens are more than willing to work with Labour, but there are a few that might be too purist, perhaps not mature enough (in attitude not years) to understand that to achieve things in politics you sometimes have to compromise.

Within Labour, much depends on who will survive the cull of councillors. There are a couple who find it hard to remain civil even to colleagues in their own party, while others (as I have said previously) retain a pathological obsession with the Evil Princess and All Her Works, including her Green councillors. On the whole, it is Labour councillors who need to change most – accept that they will have been rejected in three elections in a row and that there is a new political order in town. That, in my mind, is the single greatest obstacle to a successful Green-led/Labour coalition.

Greens and Labour should prioritise its candidates in key marginals to maximise representation

In this local elections, which is likely to be decided by the smallest majorities, it is not too late for the Greens and Labour to prioritise some of its candidates to increase the chances of having councillors elected. The Greens have prioritised candidates in the seats where they have little or no chance of being elected, but inexplicably in some marginals they have not. I have said before that this decision demonstrates a fundamental lack of judgement and political instinct.

Take Preston Park and Goldsmid wards. The Greens have one sitting councillor in each ward, and they have a reasonable chance of winning all three seats in both wards. Nevertheless, the result will be close and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that both Amy Kennedy and Alex Phillips could be defeated. Both are excellent councillors and their experience will be necessary for the Greens should they be the largest party on May 6th.

Alex Phillips, in particular, could be vulnerable as she is second from the bottom, eleventh of twelve, on the ballot paper. Her Green colleagues are second and fifth. It would be a major set back for the Greens in the City, and for the City itself, if councillor Phillips was to lose. While there are a large number of young and very young candidates standing for the first time in May, none other than Robert Nemeth has much hope of winning. As someone who is well past my ‘sell by’ date, I am all for a wide range of ages of councillors on the Council. Alex and Robert are likely to be the only two councillors below the age of 30. (A little aside regarding the lovely Luke Walter – should Jeane Lepper retain her seat, as I think she will, Luke will be the one most likely to lose out purely because he is bottom of the ballot paper).

That is one reason I hope that Alex Phillips will be re-elected. Another reason is she is more likely than most to be able to work with Labour, a quality that will be needed post May. The Greens should have prioritised (and still could) its candidates in Goldsmid, with Alex Phillips as the First Choice Green Candidate. It is foolish to jeopardise he prospects of one of your key assets. If you live in Goldsmid and are not a Green supporter, I would encourage that you loan one of your votes to Alex Phillips.

Similarly in Preston Park, Amy Kennedy should be the First Choice Green Candidate. It is less of an issue in Preston Park as the three Green candidates are grouped sixth, seventh and eight, with Stassi Amy at seventh. Like Alex, Amy is a formidable councillor, and a strong feminist. If she was to lose her seat it too would be a great loss to the Greens and the City.

There are few obvious Labour seats where prioritisation should take place, but that shouldn’t stop the party. In Goldsmid, sitting councillor Melanie Davies is the highest Labour candidate on the ballot paper, as is Brian Fitch in Hangleton and Knoll. Other areas where Labour is defending a seat, the sitting councillors is the highest Labour candidate on the ballot paper. That leaves longshot seats for Labour, such as Queens Park, Hanover and Elm Grove, and even St Peters and North Laine. Targeting, say, the top candidate on the ballot paper could see some interesting developments. Just a thought.

George Dore stands down in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean

I am grateful to Luke Walter for alerting me to the decision of Georgina ‘George’ Dore to stand down as Conserative candidate in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. The teacher from Brighton College via Oxford was the subject of some discussion on this blog a week or so ago.

Her candidature was confirmed by the Conservatives on 15th March and videos of her and fellow Conservative, Maria Caulfield, appeared on You Tube. The reason for her standing down is not clear. Speculation includes that the exposure proved too much for her, that she received hostility on the doorstep, and (most likely) the negative publicity she attracted to Brighton College resulted in pressure on her to go.

Mike Macfarlane, “the guy lucky enough to keep his toothbrush next to George’s” remains the Conservative candidate in Regency.

Replacing George is Cath Slater who has lived in Brighton for 13 years. Cath is 36 and has two teenage daughters. She works in school catering. The Tory website reports that “she has worked in a community association for 10 years, has been involved in a youth forum, and helping with domestic violence issues. Cath enjoys helping people with their problems, and hopes to do so working as a councillor.”

This is probably a very opportune turn of events for the Tories. Cath is more likely to go down better in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean that Geore, no matter how humble her origins were. The video of her and Maria were stilted, and probably didn’t show Maria in the best possible light. Maria is a huge asset for the Tories and had she been the Tory candidate in Brighton Pavilion, rather than Chuck Vere, the Tories would have come closer, even winning the election. A Conservative team in M&B with Maria, Cath and Ayas Fallon-Khan, is very likely to do very well in May.

As for George, I don’t think we have heard the last of her. She will probably emerge at a general election in a more traditional Conservative seat and before long she will be seen on the green benches at Westminster. Standing somewhere other than Moulsecoomb and Bevendean will be less embarrassing for the brass at Brighton College.