Councillors, young and Older, and candidates, young and younger

A number of councillors are standing down from Brighton and Hove City Council. All bar two are Green councillors. That’s not to say that other councillors won’t be around after May 5th. Councillor Pat Drake stands down after several decades as a County and more recently City Councillor. She is much respected, and generous, yet deserved, tributes were paid to her at the last Council meeting (just about the only civil exchange of the evening).

Councillor Averil Older stands down from her Central Hove seat. Unlike some councillors, she has remained a very normal human being, someone who is easy to talk to and to get along with. I wish both Pat and Averil happy retirements.

The Green councillors who are standing down are not retiring. Several are young and, understandably, are having to concentrate on their careers. All are very talented and the City will be all the poorer for the decision of Rachel Fryer, Paul Steedman, Vicky Wakefield-Jarret and Georgia Wrighton to stand down. I hope, like Councillor Pete West, that they will consider standing again at some point in the future.

There are other councillors who are standing but may not survive the decision of the electorate. I predict that up to six Labour councillors are at risk of losing their seats. Up to four Tories may lose their seats along with one Lib Dem and one Independent.

Hoping to win seats on the City Council are several young and very young candidates. For the Tories, Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates, aged 22) is standing in Hollingdean and Stanmer, and the Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell, also 22) is standing in Goldsmid. For Labour, Harris Fitch (20) is standing in Rottingdean Coastal, and Clare Calder (18) is standing in St Peters and North Laine. The disappointing reality for these Young Turks, is that none have a realistic chance of being elected.

Of these four, the Estate Agent has the best chance of winning a seat although I suspect that in Goldsmid Labour’s Melanie Davis, Green Alex Phillips and another Green will be elected. Alex is currently the Baby of the Chamber having been elected less than two years ago at the age of 24. Alex has what it takes to make it big in politics, probably in Europe and in due course joining Caroline Lucas in Westminster.

Second time candidate at 25, Tom French (who fought a very strong campaign in the St Peters and North Laine by-election last year) has an outside chance of winning Queens Park for Labour, but needs to see off a strong Green presence in that ward.

The young candidate most likely to be elected is Luke Walter (22) who is standing in Hollingdean and Stanmer, although having a surname starting with ‘W’ he may be the Green to lose out should H&S return Jeane Lepper and two Greens (Sven Rufus and Christina Summers).

But the emergence of young candidates is encouraging although it is very regretable when young councillors find it necessary to stand down in order to pursue their careers.

The final word goes to Hanover and Elm Grove councillor, Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett, who has captured a tone that I would like to see between Labour and Green activists. In a tweet earlier today she wrote: “@ClareCalder I’m supporting Greens, but wanted to say i think it’s great you’re standing – I hope it’s a positive experience for you.”. I echo the sentiment, I hope that it is a positive experience for Luke, Rachael, Rob, Harris, and Clare.

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.

The campaign in Queens Park is getting lively and turning nasty!

Labour’s Tom French alleges that Green Queens Park councillor Ben Duncan was “slated by member of public for not attending 6 Police Authority meetings”.  Really?  The public no less.  Everyone of them?  Tom French then says that the Tories  “refuse to protect local bus services in Queen’s Park”.  The infamous, number 81 no less, the one with ‘Brian Fitch’ on the front.  He calls on another Green councillor, Jason Kitcat, to support the campaign to save the number 81.  Councillor Kitcat replies “if valued bus services are being actually cut then I’d be very very worried. But no firm signs of that yet”.  Then councillor Kitcat says “AFAIK”. What could he possibly mean?

The Queens Park campaign is likely to be one of the liveliest in the city.  The three Labour candidates, media-savvy Tom French, local community activist-extraordinaire Chris Cooke, and the other one (the lovely Dan Chapman) are hard workers, part of the new breed of Labour activists who lack electoral experience (which is a good thing given the tired out hacks on the council radiate doom and defeat). 

But up against them is the Green Dream Team, sitting councillor Ben Duncan (who cares if he misses the occasional meeting – focus on your own campaign, Tom French.  Attacking a popular and hardworking councillor like Ben Duncan makes you look shallow).  Steph Powell, a youth worker, is energetic and personable, and offers an alternative to voters because it is rumoured she is not a gay man!  Again it is rumoured that Labour tried to recruit her as recently as November.  Geoffrey Bowden, the Sussex Square, matches Tom French in his use of new media.  He is a communications consultant, no less. 

Queens Park was the outstanding result last time for the Greens.  Ben Duncan, the very popular Rachel Fryer and the much respected Paul Steedman ousted Labour’s leadership on the Council, Simon Burgess, Ken Bodfish and Delia Forrester.  Ben beat Delia by a mere 15 votes, but it would be wrong to think that a small swing to Labour nationally will even things up and allow Labour back in.  Rachel, Paul and Ben have consolidated the Greens position and the Greens could be on the verge of being the natural party to represent Queens Park.

But one shouldn’t forget Chris Cooke who has been everywhere in Queens Park over the last few years, with a profile as high as that of an active councillor.  We could get a split decision here.  My prediction is that Queens Park will return 3 Greens or 2 Greens and one Labour councillor.  No wonder it is a lively battle, and no wonder it is getting dirty!

Queens Park: One of three key seats that will decide the Council in May 2011

Queens Park provided a complete body blow to Labour at the last local elections when three of its most senior members were beaten by the Greens.  Green Rachel Fryer topped the poll with a massive 1,826 votes, followed by Paul Steedman (1,549) and Ben Duncan (1,473).  The top Labour candidate was Delia Forrester just 15 votes behind Ben Duncan on 1,458 votes.  Former leader of the Council, Ken Bodfish was fifth (1,455) and the then Leader of the Council and Labour’s prospective candidate in Brighton Kemp Town, Simon Burgess (1,418).  The introduction of the School Place Lottery cost Labour dear.  The nice folk on East and West Drive didn’t want their darlings mixing with the ruffians from the Council estates.

This result was the low point for Labour at this election, and symbolised the unpopularity of the Labour Council.  The Greens had hoped to win one of the three seats, but won all three.  The three new councillors have worked very hard, are widely respected, and would expect to win all three again next May.  But there is a potential problem.  At one point it looked as though all three would be standing down in May, but they are reconsidering their positions.  Ben Duncan is definitely standing. He is probably the most high profile of the three, although both Rachel and Paul are highly respected within the ward and beyond.  I personally hope that at least one, if not both, will be on the ballot paper with Ben in May.

The Greens must hold all three seats in Queens Park if they are to become the largest party on the Council.  Even if Rachel and Paul don’t stand, the reputation of the Green Party in this ward should see them home.

For Labour, the three young men selected (Dan Chapman, Chris Cook and Tom French) will no doubt put in a strong performance, but their appeal will be limited. All three would hope to poll well in the gay community, but  Ben Duncan has a strong track record on campaigning on LGBT issues in the ward and beyond.  The Queens Park mafia broke the local party, and there is little enthusiasm or campaigning experience within the local Labour Party.  The unpopularity of Bodfish Forrester and Burgess might continue to be reflected in May’s poll.

Queens Park will be one of the key seats in May, and the result here will provide an indication whether Labour has turned the corner or whether its decline is still terminal.

I would like to see the Greens become the largest Party, not because I am a Green but because I think the Greens have the most energy and ideas locally.  Labour has had its opportunity and don’t deserve to get back in, not yet, anyway.