Who are the 100 most influential Brightonians?

Open data guru and all-round geek good guy, Greg Hadfield, has come up with the idea of compiling a list of the top 100 most influential people in Brighton. The idea is based on a similar list of the top 1,000 most influential people in London.

Immediately someone suggested that Greg himself should be on the list. “In my dreams; in my nightmares :-)” was his almost immediate response. Putting modesty aside, Greg is increasingly influential, not least for the drive he gives to the open data initiative and most things digital. He should be on the list.

But such a list needs some qualification. Is it a list of those who are currently the most influential? If that is the case (false modesty put aside) your humble blogger will not doubt be in the top 3. If it is the most influential in the last 25 years, then (being serious for once) Steve Bassam and David Lepper would be up there as they dominated local politics and helped shape the City we live in.

Dick Knight, former Chairman and now Life President of the Albion, was instrumental in saving the local football team and creating the reality that is the Amex Community Stadium. Mushtaq Ahmed, no longer a Brightonian, helped the local cricket team win the Championship and other honours.

So far all men. Here are a few great women. Selma Montford has been the conscience of the City’s architectural heritage. Mary Mears brought about a new style of leadership to the Council, and ranks amongst the most influential politicians in local politics. Caroline Lucas has changed the face of Brighton politics, and has provided inspiration nationwide to a new style of parliamentarian. Jean Calder helped slow the slide in the Argus with her original and challenging column. The Sage of Sussex (not a woman) Adam Trimingham, has for more than 100 years graced the pages of the Argus.

Please post your suggestions here or tweet the using the hashtag #btn100

Chuck Vere is not an invisible woman in politics

The Tory Party began their conference in Manchester today.  And one of the themes for the week will be the role of women in the Tory Party.  In fact, in today’s Sunday Times, David Cameron apologised to women for his behaviour in the past which had been misunderstood.  New Man Cam admitted making a ‘terrible mistake’ in parliament by using words that could have been interpreted as being sexist – the “Calm down, dear” slight to Maria Eagle and the “frustrated” innuendo towards Nadine Dorries.  (If you want to line Murdoch’s pocket, you can read the article behind this paywall).

Invisible Women

Invisible Women in Politics

I saw this cartoon recently and it made me think that this is how it has been for several generations in all major parties.  Hopefully, though, this is now changing.  Labour in Brighton and Hove has had Gill Mitchell as its leader for almost 5 years, the former Conservative Leader of the Council was Mary Mears, and all four candidates from the major parties at the last general election in Brighton Pavilion were women.

Which brings me on to one of my favourite Tory women of all time, the universally popular Charlotte Vere.  Chuck managed to find a way to upset so many of her opponents in Brighton Pavilion, but she was nevertheless an awesome candidate.  I am sorry she moved onwards and upwards following her defeat.  Brighton is a poorer place without her.  After her defeat she was a leading light in the very successful “No” campaign against the pathetic Lib Dem proposals for voting reform. No doubt she will get a safe(r) seat at the next general election and will prove to be a very effective Member of Parliament (regardless of what you think of her politics).

Chuck is part of a new breed of  Tory Ladies, feisty and independent.  And we should recognise that the Conservative Party has changed.  Gone are the days when (as quoted yesterday in the Guardian profile of another feisty, independent Tory woman, Louise Mensch) an aspiring Tory candidate was asked what her husband would do for sex if she was away in London for 3 nights each week.

Chuck’s latest recognition comes in a profile in the Huffington Postwhich begins “Charlotte Vere is not a feminist, thank you very much. The former Conservative candidate and mother-of-two last shaved her armpits “this morning” and she’s definitely wearing a bra.”  Too much information already, but this profile, which has the serious intent of exploring the Conservative Party’s (and specifically David Cameron’s) approach to women. Chuck is quoted as saying: “The Prime Minister needs to change policy urgently and apologise for what he has been doing not just what he’s been saying.”

Chuck has always been something of an Action Woman and has now set up Women On, a new think tank, an “independent, non-partisan think tank that aims to transform the debate around women. Women On … researches the issues facing women today, and promotes ideas and policies which enable all women to reach their full potential – economically, socially, culturally and politically.”

I wish her well (although I think it is a shame she treats the word ‘feminism’ as a dirty word).  I hope that she can link with other women who are interested in seeing an end to the “Miss Triggs syndrome” which, after all, is as relevant today even if it is done far more subtly!

Mary Mears and Caroline Lucas win national awards

Former Tory leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Mary Mears, and Brighton Pavilion member of parliament, Caroline Lucas, have won prestigious national awards. It would have been something had it been a joint award for co-operation across the party divide, but that was not the case.

Mary Mears is the ‘Local Government Personality of the Year’ at the Scottish Widows and Dods Women in Public Life Awards.

Caroline Lucas was voted MP of the Year. She was up against Labour’s Kate Hoey and Tory Treasury Minister Justine Greening.

Congratulations to both. Both awards are well deserved. As you know, I am an admirer of both Mary and Caroline. Sadly, your humble Blogger’s efforts were not recognised at yet another awards ceremony. I will just have to comfort myself with the love and affection from my four readers, including the Grizzly One.

State of the City 2 – The Tories

I like Mary Mears, and I like Geoffrey Theobald. They are two of the great servants of the city, both proud leaders, past and present, of the Conservative Group on the City Council. The problem is, and here I let you into a tiny secret, they are not great fans of each other.

For several years there has been a fault running through the local Conservative Party, or should that be Conservative Parties? The Brighton Pavilion and Hove Associations are as one, sharing a single website, but the Brighton Kemptown Association is cast out into deepest outer space.

The exception to this rift is the relationship between the two Conservative MPs, Mike Weatherley (Hove) and Simon Kirby (Brighton Kemptown). The two obviously like each other and often are seen together at events. It is, perhaps, their friendship that might build the bridge between the two sides.

One would have thought that there was more to unite them than to divide them, not least the threat posed by the Greens across Brighton and Hove, although this threat is posed primarily in Brighton Pavlion and in Hove.

So apart from the divisions between the Conservative Associations themselves, where are the dividing lines? Clearly Mary Mears and Geoffrey Theobald have deleted each other from their respective Christmas Card lists. Several supporters of Mary Mears were unsuccessful in May’s local elections, thereby paving the way for Geoffrey Theobald’s successful challenge for the Leadership.

Simon Kirby is close to Mike Weatherley, and Mike appears to be close to Geoffrey, Mary remains close to Simon, perhaps through The Bishop, Brian Oxley, who works for Simon and who was Mary’s loyal Deputy Leader. Brian is a councillor in Hove, a fellow ward councillor in Westbourne with Denise Cobb, now one of Geoffrey’s deputies.

I am advised by one of my sources within the Tory ranks that there is a debate about the right kind of candidate to stand in future elections. Mike Weatherley and Simon Kirby both had hugely successful private sector businesses successes before entering politics. Historically private non-political achievement seemed to be a prerequisite for progressing in Tory Party politics. Now with the bright young things working for Mike (Momma Grizzly, Mike Ireland and Robert Nemeth) it seems to be easier to progress as a political employee than someone with a non-political career. Don’t get me wrong, all three are very talented with strongly held and passionate views, and each one will make a formidable councillor or, as is more likely in the long term (especially with the Grizzly One) member of parliament.

(It is worth noting that a few former Green councillors did not stand again at the recent elections because they found being a councillor was not compatible with progressing their professional careers).

One person who tends to be highly spoken of by all factions (I hope my endorsement does not harm him), and who has even struck up a positive working relationship with fellow ward councillor, the Green Christopher Hawtree, is Andrew Wealls, who is much liked and admired by councillors from both Tory factions and by his political opponents alike.

Like Labour, the Tories need their own ‘Big Idea’ so that at a local level the Tories have something positive to promote.  The standing of the Tory Party nationally will struggle during the lifetime of this parliament.  Further civil unrest will cause further damage.  Cameron, Boris, and the others have hardly covered themselves in glory first time round, not coming home from foreign holidays at the earliest opportunity as London burned.  The Tories are being successful in turning key constituencies against them – the police and the army,  to mention just two.

Mike and Simon continue to work hard, pumping out regular press releases to key media outlets (thanks for all of them, boys).  Bolundary changes might help them, but both have challenging times ahead, particularly Mike with a determined Green Party likely to run him close in 2015.  It’s great to form a government, but it’s not much fun when your party becomes increasingly unpopular.

As Dawn becomes a traveller, Mary & Geoffrey kiss and make up, I’m off on my summer holidays

It’s been a great six months in Brighton politics with the local elections resulting in a seismic shift in the political landscape. The next couple of months is likely to be a quieter period as people go on their summer holidays and the business of the Council and of Parliament eases off.

I have realised I should have been an MP. I am so attracted to the length of the summer recess. In order to experience part of the life of an MP I have decided to go off on my travels for a couple of months. What will I find when I return?

Will Dawn Barnett have resigned her seat and gone off with a convoy of Travellers? Will there be cannabis cafes on every street corner in Brighton Pavilion? Will Labour activists have learned to love Caroline Lucas? Will Momma Grizzly have discovered she is in the wrong party and have joined the SWP? Will Mary and Geoffrey have kissed and made up? Will Meat-free Monday have given way to Sizziling Steak Saturday? And most importantly, will John Barradell’s Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse get in touch with their feminine sides?

Enjoy your summer and see you in September.

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.

Are headlines about the Old Steine protest camp what the Greens need right now?

An unholy row is brewing in Brighton regarding protests in the City. Green councillor Ben Duncan, Cabinet Member for Commnities, has said that peaceful protests are welcome in the Ity. Of the Spanish protest camp that has been set up in the Old Steine, he has described it as “the model of the kind of engaged peaceful protest the Council and the Police are committed to facilitating.” Former council leader Mary Mears has said that she is ”astonished” by the statement and that she fears that Ben Duncan’s comments would encourage more protesters.

Now Simon Kirby, the Conservative member of paliament for Brighton Kemptown has said that the Green administration should not to use the city as a “laboratory for Green experiments.”

Mr Kirby has written a letter to Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive John Barradell in which he has said: “Whilst it is right that local authorities undertake their duties so that they comply with the law, I am very concerned at the impression being given to residents and visitors alike. I believe that business confidence will be eroded, in my opinion the rule of law is being challenged and unnecessary tensions are being created in the city. The Green Administration rests on minority support. It should recognise that. I am very concerned at the turn of events in the last few weeks and there needs to be a rapid change of direction. Brighton is a city where people want to go about their business in peace, not be part of a laboratory for Green experiments.”

My views are as follows:

Protests are part of our political life. The police have been unnecessarily heavy handed in dealing with, for example, the recent anti-EDL protests. By their tactics a generation of activists are being politicised (which is a good thng) but will have developed an anti-police attitude (which is a shame).

The statement by Ben Duncan was ill-judged. So early into the life of the new administration, the Green Admnistration has attracted unwelcome headlines. Being in opposition and being a campaigner is one thing, being a Cabinet member another. I am not suggesting that Ben compromises his views and policies, but having gained elected office, use your new position to influence, persuade and enforce your policies. Start by talking to the police about their tactics on demonstrations, agree a code of acceptable behaviour in the policing of demonstrations, insist that kettling plays no part in police tactics. You are the local government. Use the priviledged position you are in.

Finally, careful what you wish for. The camp in the Old Steine should have been given to remain for a nit or two. Now the Council will find it difficult to move. And what if similar camps begin appearing throughout the summer in the squares and parks throughout Brighton and Hove. I believe in protests and extra-parliamentary action, but there is a danger that such camps might proliferate masquerading as ‘protest camps’.

The Green Council has my blessing (I sound like Bishop Brian) but it needs some discipline within it’s ranks before something more significant causes the Group to implode.