Both Greens and Labour should avoid internal divisions if they wish to win Hollingdan and Stanmer

At the last local elections Hollingdean and Stanmer was keenly fought between Labour and the Greens. I predicted, quite correctly, that two Greens, Sven Rufus and Christina Summers, would win, and that Jeane Lepper would hold her seat for Labour.
The Greens underestimated the personal popularity of Jeane Lepper who, in the ‘Kings House Bubble’, is something of a figure of hate for the Greens. Similarly, Labour overestimated the popularity of the former councillors, Pat Hawkes and Christine Simpson.
Most of my sympathy last year was with Luke Walter, the Green candidate who lost out to Jeane Lepper purely on the grounds that he appeared lower on the ballot paper than the names Rufus and Summers. He wold have made a first rate councillor and I hope that he will consider standing in the future.
The loss of Hollingdean and Stanmer hurt Labour. It was their last remaining stronghold in Brighton Pavilion and the base of the former Labour MP, David Lepper, husband of Jeane Lepper.
It is no wonder that Labour has it as its number one target seat. There are regular campaign mornings targeting the ward and Labour is to select its candidates for the 2015 elections this coming September, a full 30 months before the poll.
And while Labour has got its act together, the Greens have decided to carry out its ‘enquiry’ into the actions of Christina Summers at the Council meeting  on July 19h when she spoke and voted against equal marriage.
In my last post I said that the Greens would be judged by its handling of Summersgate. Depressingly, it is emulating Labour in the 1980’s and 1990’s by taking divisive action against one of its members, action that will have just one winner, Labour.
But Labour is a funny old party. It could yet allow its deep sectarian divisions to scupper its prospects. While the old right calls for tolerance towards Labour’s party-in-a-party, Progress, there is hostility towards the soft left LRC. Labour would be well-advised to put aside its divisions and focus on winning elections. For that matter, so too would the Greens.

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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 faces meltdown on Thursday as it intends to put most eggs in few baskets

When the Labour Party was the dominant force in Brighton politics, it was able to sustain election campaigns in most, if not all, wards. Hove Labour Party was never as strong but it could put up a reasonable showing across the old Hove Borough.

But, ten years of steady decline has resulted in Labour resembling the Lib Dems – competing seriously in just a handful of wards. Here we are, two days out from polling, the Party hierarchy has already decided which wards to give up on and to which it will direct its limited resource of activists.

The good news for the Tories is that several seats in central Hove are being written off, with a focus on Hangleton and Knoll (where Labour are handing out window posters printed on green day-glo paper) and the two Portslades. In Brighton, there is some good news for the Greens as theformer safe seat of Hollingdean and Stanmer is being left to it’s own devices. Moulsecoomb and Bevendean, also, is not being prioritised. The powers that be a determined to devote a disproportionate amount of people on polling day to the one Brighton seat that Labour believes it can pick up seats from the Greens – Queens Park.

In H&S and M&B Labour currently has five councillors – all women. In Queens Park it has no councillors and Labour is fielding three young(ish) men. So obsessed is Labour that it appears to be willing to sacrifice councillors Jeane Lepper, Christine Simpson, Pat Hawkes, Ann Meadows and Mo Marsh just so that it can record that single victory over the Greens.

A few days ago I suggested that Labour should not have focused so much on Queens Park and should have had one of it’s action days in Hollingdean and Stanmer. The Tories seem to have devoted more time and effort into H&S than Labour, with Mary Mears, Simon Kirby and others turning out to support Rachael Bates who most observers will agree (though not Momma Grizzly herself) has little chance of success.

Hanover and Elm Grove has secured some additional attention frrom Labour, but it is being openly discussed in the Napier and elsewhere on Muesli Hill that ‘the call’ will come from Labour supremo, Keith Day, probably around 6pm, for activists in Hanover and Elm Grove to move into Queens Park.

It looks as though St Peters and North Laine, and Preston Park are regarded as already lost by Labour. That would see two Labour seats in Preston Park going Green. In Goldsmid, Labour will fight to defend its single seat.

But it is Queens Park that is the obsession of the Labour High Command. If Labour picks up a seat, even two, possibly all three seats in Queens Park, much will be made of it by the Labour Party. But if it is achieved it will be at the cost of other seats.

Labour will win in East Brighton. The is no suggestion that activists move out of that area, and quite right too. But it could find itself as influential in Brighton politics as the Lib Dems currently are in Brighton and Hove politics. Labour needs a good clear out and should start again, building from the bottom, and not from Party HQ which has presided over defeat, decline and now further defeat. These people have no idea how to organise a political party, no idea how to win, and Brighton and Hove politics is the worse for it.

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.

Labour to win May’s local elections or a 3-way split or even a Tory victory. 2 exciting months to go!

I did ask, and you responded, but I honestly did not expect anyone to suggest that Labour would win May’s local elections.  But then I did not allow for Warren Morgan who predicts Labour winning 26 seats, just one short of a majority (with the Mayor’s casting vote).  He says he did a “3 minute, a literally back of the envelope job (and I’m not saying who I think will win what and where). Unsurprisingly I think Labour will do much better than BPB does:

Conservatives 19
Labour 26
Greens 9”

He says that there is a “margin of error of 2/3 or maybe 4 seats either way for all 3 main parties. And maybe 1 for the Lib Dems.  I think incumbency will help – all 13 Labour cllrs are seeking re-election in the same wards, at least 5 Greens are standing down or moving wards, and at least 3 Tories are standing down or moving wards. Half the Green group stood down at the last two elections and they did well, but that was against a Labour council and govt.” 

I can’t see this happening.  It requires a highly motivated party, a strong mood in favour of Labour and against all others.  It ain’t going to happen.

Jason Bull predicts something quite different: “My prediction is Conservative 24, Green 16, Labour 14. This includes the Greens taking both Brunswick & Adelaide seats, Labour, Conservative and Greens getting 1 each in Goldsmid. I predict that the Greens will pick up just 1 seat in Hollingbury & Stanmer with Labour holding 2 of the seats. I think Labour will take all 3 seats from the Greens in Queens Park. I believe Mr & Mrs Kitcat will win by massive majorities in Regency, which will cease to be a marginal ward and become a rock solid Green ward. These are not the results I would wish for but I think they may be close the actual result.”

I think you are well off the mark, Jason.  Jason and Ania will romp to victory in Regency (sorry Dan and James, this won’t be your year although you would both make good councillors). Regency was once safe Tory, then it became a marginal Labour seat, then safe Labour, a Labour/Lib Dem marginal, and now safe Green.  I just hope the Estate Agents don’t target it.

I don’t see a three way split in Goldsmid.  Possibly 2 Labour and 1 Green, or two Green and one Labour.  With the stagnation in the housing market, the Estate Agents won’t make it this time.

Allie Cannell would be “very surprised if the Greens lost all of the seats in Queens Park (definately one of the most interesting wards). Although councillors standing down can be a disadvantage it can also be an advantage. It means there are more people committed to working very hard for the campaign.  The current Green councillors there are great at elections. Paul Steadman was target constituency coordinator (or something like that) for the general election. And they are all still working hard to make sure that Greens get re-elected, the new candidates have access to loads of experience. Personally I’m pretty hopeful that we’ll keep all three seats. Worst case scenario would be losing 1 or 2.”  He predicts that the Greens will get between 16 and 18 seats.

MJ has the most intriguing prediction: “The council will be split evenly three ways almost exactly. Tories, Labour, Green on 16-18 each, 2 Lib Dems, and 3 Saltdean Lido in Rottingdean.”  No way, MJ! No Lib Dems, no Saltdean Lido types, and no way 16 – 18 Labour.

A prediction that might be quite close to the final result comes from the Ghost of Nobby Clarke, but then he has an advantage being in a different realm (a bit being at a full council meeting but with the Angelic Host rather than a rowdy public gallery). He predicts the Conservatives 21, Labour 14, Greens 19.  I might be persuaded that this could be the result, but I think the Greens will be slightly up form this, Labour down and the Tories there or there abouts. 

But the Ghost explains: “people will turn out to vote Labour and some tories will stay at home or vote UKIP if they have that choice, but can you get the people on the ground to get out your vote like The Green Machine?  Barlow will possibly pinch a seat and you may grab a couple elsewhere maybe Portslade or Queens Park but expect to drop some along the way with Turton edged out and the Goldsmid seat taken by the machine and Simpson possibly losing Hollingdean and Stanmer.  Those were the day’s ‘Backwell, Simpson,Sweeting’.”  Wow, Ghost, you go back to a by-gone age.  Celia Barlow winning Central Hove could be a headline grabbing result. I really doubt that Craig Turton will be unseated.  The East Brighton Labour team is particularly strong and working hard.  (Even today Warren Morgan reported over 50% Labour support in a Tory area of the ward).  Christine Simpson, and to a lesser degree, Pat Hawkes, are vulnerable in Hollingdean and Stanmer.

Baron Pepperpot has a word of caution: “It is, after all, prediction. And how many of us can honestly say we are totally objective. I think we are all looking forward to the drama, (although for those of us who are not standing, perhaps without the added nervous edge).  I think there is much water to go under the bridge nationally, even in the next two months. For me there are two main questions that need to be asked to determine how the vote will go at the time. One is national, one is local: How much more unpopular can the coalition become? (Mr Elgood may be taking note of this nervously). Do people see the Greens as a serious coalition leader in Brighton? (Now they are getting close to real power).”

The Baron concludes: “Two exciting months to go chaps!”  Indeed, Baron. I look forward  to the publication of the manifestos.

Doorstep Brighton 9: A Round Up of Campaigning for May’s Local Elections

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke has an interesting take on Hollingdean and Stanmer which will bring joy to the heart of Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates).  The Ghost believes that the Green’s Sven Rufus will do well enough in Hollingdean and Stanmer to take enough votes away from the Labour candidates (Jeane Lepper, Pat Hawkes and Christine Simpson) to allow one Tory through the middle.  If this was to be the case, then it would be Christine Simpson who would lose out (little known and disadvantaged by the order on the ballot paper) and Momma Grizzly would emerge victorious given that she would be the Tory at the top of the ballot paper (the other Tories being Robert Labs and Patrick Loewe).  However, I really don’t think that scenario will be played out.  If there is to be a split result, it will be Sven Rufus and Jeane Lepper elected, and choose one other from several.

Dan Wilson is convinced that the electorate won’t be fooled by the 1% cut in Council Tax.  They are, he says, smarter than Mary Mears or I give them credit for.  However, he thinks that the cost of parking permits may be more successful: “I think if you want to compare the Mearcon to a masterplan, looking at her move on resident parking is more persuasive. That’s clever, attractive to many and also brassy in its cynicism. Straw poll today and last evening is that a 1% decrease is of little interest. Plenty of people, however, are concerned about libraries, BrightStart and all manner of things.”  Christopher Hawtree agrees with Dan: “I have never heard anybody voice a particular objection to the Council tax.”  I think you are both probably right, but the 1% cut will have the effect of galvanizing Tory activists who seem excited by this measure.  I guess they need to be excited about something as the Big Society doesn’t quite seem to have motivated the troops.

Steampunk accuses me of attempting to “stir things ups amongst the opposition” which he says “are a distraction just now.”  Regarding the cuts he says “As you well know, the Conservative led council are implementing an ‘intelligent decomissioning’ process (conveniently timetabled to start after the election!) to decide which services to stop providing entirely and which ones to outsource to the lowest bidder. The budget proposal explains that these upcoming cuts won’t take full effect until the next financial year 2012/13 so the 250 jobs about to go are just the tip of the iceberg. The ‘intelligent’ part is the device by which every council service comes to be commissioned, either from the public sector, profit-motivated private sector or the voluntary sector (crippled by grant cuts despite warm words about the ‘big society’, and the empty invitation just a smoke screen for privatisation) – meaning that future job cuts will be dissembled.”  I agree with much of what Punky has said.  As for stirring things up in the opposition, that is not my intention, but I see little evidence of Labour being willing and able to work with the Greens.

Clive applauds Steampunks analysis, but has no kind work for your humble Blogger: “Remarkable that the BPB regards all this with chuckling indulgence, while still finding space to heap more abuse on Paul Elgood. If he isn’t Roy Pennington he might be Reg Prentice.”  Well, Clive, sometimes you have to laugh or else you’d cry.  I don’t mean to belittle what is happening to local government, the voluntary sector, the NHS, education, etc. etc.  Reg Prentice? Ouch!  As for Paul Elgood, can’t a boy/girl just have a little bit of fun.  What do others think?  Should I lay off Paul Elgood and the Lib Dems?  Your choice.  I could either ignore them completely for the relevance they are, or should I continue to make reference to their slow, well deserved demise?

On the Reg Prentice front, I have attracted support from an East Brighton Tory candidate, Peter Booth, who is determined to ruin my street credibility!  He writes that he fully agrees with my view that it will be great when it is no longer necessary to mention the sexual orientation of candidates. He writes: “The combined ‘left’ just do not see that this is not an issue anymore (well not in our party). Try NOT to live in the past. After all there are more openly gay Conservative MP’s than all other parties put together. For the record and before the criticisms start – 100% of the Conservative candidates standing in East Brighton are openly gay.”

Simon Williams, a very fine former Green councillor in Brighton and Hove, and someone for whom I have great respect, offers a very sensible response to my comment regarding the announcement by the Greens of their LGBT candidates: You need to remember they are talking to people in those groups probably more than to the wider ‘world’. Were we to enter some kind of prejudice free paradise where minority groups could feel safe and valued (we haven’t quite yet in the case of LGBT people despite many legal advances), it would still be important for progressive political parties to engage with and showcase their commitment to them. Announcing candidates who identify from these communities is a big part of that. Rather than see it as a defensive reaction against prejudice, progressive commentators should take pride in the fact that all the local main parties are courting these groups – it’s what makes local democratic politics tick. You suggest that LGBT population is more than 16% in Brighton & Hove. There’s no verifiable demographic measurement, obviously, but if you challenged me to a wager, I think 16%, as a finger in the air take, is about right.”  As expected, a thoughtful, insightful comment from Simon.  I would not wish to take issue with what he has said.
And finally, the innocent Christopher Hawtree is in a state of shock after being received by a naked lady.  I’m not sure who was the most excited by this encounter.  Certainly not excited by their encounter with this blog are those who are Googling ‘sex photo’ or ‘explicit sex photo’ and are being directed to the rather revealing picture of me posing in the shadows of Big Ben, wearing just a sheet and a rather alluring smile ….  Reg Prentice would certainly not approve!

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.