A round up from Doorstep Brighton – Sunday 3rd April 2011

In reverse order from the anticipated election results, I’ll start with the Lib Dems. It appears that their decline continues with some pace. For the first time in living memory, the Yellow Ones are unable to field a full list of candidates. In an area like Brighton and Hove it shows that this party is now a bit part player, not to be taken too seriously (have I ever?) and should be regarded along side other marginal groups such as the Socialist Party and UKIP.

Rebecca Taylor, one of the Lib Dem candidates in Central Hove where the Lib Dems have managed to find 2 candidates, has written regarding my round up of young candidates: “Reading your post on twitter I felt I’d like to comment – you’ve forgtten a couple of us young uns! Though 30 might not be so young, me and Mark Collins are working hard to win in Central Hove. I’m proud of Mark as at 22 it’s fantastic to see him so committed to working for his city. Like you I’m equally encouraged by all the young candidates emerging. I’ve met Clare (Calder) and Tom (French) and wish them and all of us the very best in the elections.”

As I have suggested before, Rebecca is too gifted an activist and person to remain in the Wastelands (the Lib Dems). But as for including herself as a ‘young’ candidate, she’s got to be joking. She is now closer to qualifying for a Freedom Pass (a bus pass at 60) than her birth. (That all assumes that her party in Coalition doesn’t abolish them in the next few years).

The Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell) corrects me regarding his age. He is not 22 as I suggested but a “positively ancient 27”. I personally can’t imagine what it will be like to be 27. He writes: “It’s all to play for here in Goldsmid, and we are campaigning hard to win in this 3-way marginal. Watch this space…”. Well, Rob, I watched the space for about an hour last night and nothing happened. I suspect the same will be true in May.

Warren Morgan thinks Maria Caulfield is at risk in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean: “A YouGov poll this week of areas holding local elections predicted the Tories will lose 1000 seats on May 5th. If Maria Caulfield’s isn’t one of them I will be very surprised.”

Brighton Boy says that “If warren morgan is looking for councillors who might lose their seats in may the canvass returns for east brighton suggest he may like to look closer to home!”

Peter Booth is a Tory candidate in East Brighton who is standing against Warren Morgan. He insists on referring to Councillor Morgan as “Mr Morgan”. Fear not, Peter, in the early hours of 6th May you may legitimately call Councillor Morgan by the title “The Winner” as you pay tribute, in your speech accepting defea, to his fine victory in East Brighton.

But in his analysis, MISTER Booth says that Warren Morgan “has not a clue what he is talking about! The East Brighton Conservative candidates are working hard to unseat him and his cohorts, and are very pleased to have been supported by Simon Kirby our MP for Brighton Kemptown. I am also delighted to inform him that the 2 Conservative Associations in our city have never worked closer with each other! The Conservative team across the city is now firmly in place, and we are all working hard and up for the final 32 days of campaigning to keep Brighton & Hove Blue.”

I like the dreaded vote of confidence Mr Booth gives to the two Conservative Associations. As for the Conservative Team being firmly in place, it was firmly in place in mid March when the candidates were announced, before George Dore joined the Toothbrush (Mike Macfarlane) in crossing from Kemptown to Brighton Pavilion.

Allie Cannell, one of the most astute activists around, suggests that something interesting is happening in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean “I had a great time doing a bit of door knocking in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean the other night. Those people who have put an outside bet on the Greens getting a seat there might be in for a nice suprise.” I certainly wasn’t one of them, but Christopher Hawtree agrees with Allie: “Moulescoomb could prove very interesting for the Green.” Chris is “more sure than ever that Westbourne could be a swing state. Greens gain Westbourne? Watch that space.”

Finally, Paul Perrin, my favourite Cumugeon, returns to the young candidates and asks: “Do you still think it is a good idea to have all these children (many of whom have only ever drawn on public funds, provided by wealth-generating taxpayers for their sustenance) aiming to run the council?” I have just one question for Paul, do you do stand up routines at open mike events?

More later on the intriguing story of Janet and John (George and the Toothbrush).

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.

Doorstep Brighton 7: On Selections, De-Selections, Undecided Voters, and Trouncing the Lib Dems

In a recent post I confessed a lack of knowledge regarding the candidates in Preston Park Ward and the future of the three sitting councillors.  Dr Faust advises me that both Kevin Allen and Juliet McCaffrey are certainly standing again for Labour but he is not sure about the third candidate.  Mark Sheppard and James Asser both fill in the gap by advising that the third Labour candidate is Tim Lunnon.

Similarly, I am grateful to Luke Walter who reassures me that Amy Kennedy will be standing for re-election.  He says that the other candidates will be announced formally very shortly.

It does surprise me that in such a key seat as Preston Park the Greens did not select ages ago and announce their candidates last year.  It s not as if this election was announced at the eleventh hour.

On David Watkins deselection, Mark Collins, a leading Hove Lib Dem, writes that “Paul Elgood (and Brian Stone, for that matter) had nothing to do with David’s deselection. Candidates for the Lib Dems (as in other parties) are selected by an approval panel made up of ordinary members, Exec members and at least one person from Regional level. David’s approval was rejected by that panel. It was subsequently appealed to Region, who again rejected the appeal. Neither of these processes had anything to do with Cllr Elgood or Brian Stone. It was an unfortunate episode, because I liked David immensely, but the Ward requires someone who will go out and work with and for the community, not solely speak on its behalf. David’s deselection was purely of his own making, and that is the saddest part of the affair.”

Still in Brunswick and Adelaide, Michael Taggart reports that he bumped into Phelim MacCafferty, one of the Green candidates in the ward.  He describes Phelim as “a very nice young man”  Michael says that Phelim is confident of trouncing Paul Elgood and says the ‘doorstep’ has been pro Green.”

In the interest of balance (I must be having a weak moment) Mark Collins says that in the Lib Dem campaign in Central Hove “things are going steadily, but well. Last week and this week have been tough, the weather hasn’t really helped with encouraging people to open their doors. But those I met yesterday and the week before were positive and engaged. Most voters consider themselves undecided as the election is ‘miles away’.”

I don’t know Mark, or how experienced he is at electoral campaigning (I do sound patronising on occasions), but the hall marks are all there for a disastrous result. People may not be opening the door “because of the weather”, but to think that those voters who describe themselves as ‘undecided’ are very, very unlikely to vote for you.  They are either being polite, embarrassed, or don’t want you to know that they are (most likely) Tories.  Very, very few will genuinely be undecided.  When canvassing, I was always told by my olders and betters that you only describe someone as ‘undecided’ if they say they will be voting for you but you remain undecided that they will actually do so.

From Mark’s own account, we can assume that the Lib Dems are dead and buried in Central Hove.

A Doorstep Brighton report has come in from Woodingdean.  ‘David Weeble’ writes: “Unfortunately the election here in Woodingdean will result in neither excitement nor anyone (elected from the) Left”.  David may well be right, but Woodingdean (and its predecessor Warren Ward) has had a history of returning Labour councillors.  The most recent Labour councillor elected in Woodingdean was the hard-working and well-respected Joan Moorhouse.

James Asser reports on “another productive Saturday for the Regency Labour team” and that he is “very pleased with the amount of Labour support”.  At least Labour in Regency measures it support in terms of Labour supporters, unlike the Lib Dems in Central Hove who do so by measuring those who are undecided!

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.

Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats having a bust-up in a telephone box

What on earth is happening to the local Liberal Democrats?  They have deselect David Watkins, one of just two councillors they have on the City Council.  It is not that the Lib Dems are top of the popularity stakes just now and can afford to dispense with the service of David who is well liked and respected in Brunswick and Adelaide.

The other Lib Dem councillor, Paul Elgood, seems to be doing everything possible to attack Labour.  Could it be that he is looking to jump ship in order to join the Tories while David is looking towards Labour?  In the Argus on Tuesday, Elgood praises the Coalition Government for plans to improve post offices.  Funny, he makes no mention of proposed cuts across the public sector.  In his blog he praises Mark Collins, the Liberal Democrat Candidate for Central Hove ward in next May’s city elections, who “has re-affirmed our commitment to oppose any increase in the tuition fees”.  This leaves me a bit confused.  Does Cllr Elgood not know that his Leader, Nick Clegg, is justifying an increase in tuition fees as “progressive”?  Is he not aware that public anger is focused well and truly at the Lib Dems for betraying the commitment to vote against any increase in tuition fees?

Roll on May 2011.  It will be “farewell, Liberal Democrats in Brighton and Hove” (and in many places across the country).

No hiding place for Lib Dems in Brighton and Hove

Mark Collins from the Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats has a letter in todays Argus saying that Brighton Lib Dems oppose higher tuition fees. He rightly points out that every Lib Dem MP signed the pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees.

“Being in government doesn’t change those views, and it does not change a pledge”, he writes.

He says that he will march proudly against the rise and for “the future of higher education” in the nationwide demo on November 10th.

But what he can’t get away with is that it is his MPs and his Party that is making it possible for the Coalition Government to make these cuts.

There is no way back for the Lib Dems in Brighton and Hove, not as long as they are betraying every principle that they once claimed to have had. And decent activists, like Mark Collins, do themselves no help whatsoever by pretending that there is a difference between activists and what their MPs are doing on their behalf. It is the activists who helped Norman Baker and Stephen Lloyd get elected in Lewes and Eastbourne.

If Mark wants to make a real difference, and wants to put real pressure on his coalition MPs is to resign from the Lib Dems and join Labour or the Greens.