The division within the Greens over Christina Summers’ expulsion

The Argus’s Tim Ridgway is fast establishing himself as an outstanding local government correspondent, and the Argus is the better paper for his reporting.

Not that the Greens will be thinking so this morning as Tim reveals the list of those Green councillors who signed the letter resulting in Christina Summers being expelled from the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

According to Tim, those who signed the letter were: Liz Wakefield, Rob Jarrett, Leo Littman, Phelim MacCafferty, Lizzie Deane, Sue Shanks, Christopher Hawtree, Ben Duncan, Sven Rufus, Mike Jones, Stephanie Powell, Amy Kennedy, and Ruth Buckley.

Those who did not sign were: Matt Follett, Bill Randall, Geoffrey Bowden, Ian Davey, Ollie Sykes, Alex Phillips, Pete West, Jason Kitcat, and Ania Kitcat.

I am personally disappointed with some who signed and pleasantly surprised by one or two who did not.

When histories are written of political administrations, the moment that an under-fire group turns on its own members is the moment that defeat becomes likely. The Greens still have time to reflect on what got them elected in 2011 and return to the campaigning political operation that so inspired many voters.

(Note: the original posting had Tim Ridgway as a “loyal government correspondent” now corrected to “local government correspondent” and the names of Geoffrey Bowden and Bill Randall had become fused as Geoffrey Randall. What a thought!)

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.

The Blair Generation aim to take over the Tory Party locally

A member of the local Conservative Party has contacted me, writing “I am not keen on ‘leaks’ but as the foremost political commentator in the city …” (I like a bit of flattery – it impresses my four regular readers) “… I think it is important that you know that the young Conservative modernisers are cringing just like any rational observer does when Tory activists post comments on your blog claiming that the Greens’ are ‘Communists’ and the like. Such behaviour is in conflict with the ethos of the modernisers, who place the needs of our City and the need to make our city even greater for future generations above the temptations of divisive Party politics.”

It appears that the Conservatives are beginning a stage of renewal locally.  Conservative councillors from the Thatcher generation are, according to my correspondent, “finally yielding to the One Nationist Conservatives of the younger generation.  It might also surprise you to know that newly-elected leader Geoffrey Theobald is very aligned with the modernisers, in conflict to Mary Mears who in an enduring fit of hubris actively sough to obstruct the entrance of fresh new talent into Party affairs locally and thus became the main architect of the downfall of the previous administration, though there are also other reasons of course.”

Harsh words. I wouldn’t agree that Mary was the main architect – there are many, many reasons, not least government policy, EMA, student fees, etc. And then there is the continuing decline of Labour and the Caroline Effects and the impressive organisation of the Green Party. I understand that the organisation of the Green Party machine (with Pete West and Alex Phillips two of the main organisers) was as impressive as anything Labour was capable of in its heyday. And I wouldn’t blame Mary Mears for the Enigma that Is Christopher Hawtree who, singlehandedly, put the Tories in Central Hove to the sword.

One Nation Conservatives, perhaps. The Blair generation, even? I recall that Momma Grizzly (and she is not my informant) describing Blair as one of her political heroes.

But, my Conservative friend, your insight is fascinating, and I look forward to further such observations. (And I invite other party activists – even those in what remains of the Lib Dems – to email me their observations. I do respect anonymity). I would be particularly interested in the mood within the Lib Dems at this moment.

Reasons to be Cheerful … for 39 candidates in Thursday’s elections

‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3’ by Ian Dury and the Blockheads was released in July 1979, shortly after Margaret Thatcher had been elected Prime Minister. Cut, cut, and more cuts was the order of the day. On that occasions the Tories were able to make cuts to their hearts content. They didn’t have to rely on those disgraceful, turncoats, the Lib Dems, to help them. (I have gone for more than a week without a cheap comment about the Lib Dems – is this a record?).

But there are a number of people, 39 to be precise, who have reasons to be cheerful – those who I am confident will be elected (whatever the weather and their positions on the ballot papers). Some campaigns are too close to call, and in some wards I am only predicting one or two winners. The figures in brackets are the number of seatsup for election.

Brunswick & Adelaide (2) – too close to call

Central Hove (2) – too close to call

East Brighton (3) – a Labour 1, 2, 3: Gill Mitchell, Warren Morgan, Craig Turton

Goldsmid (3) – Melanie Davis, Alex Phillips (Labour, Green)

Hangleton & Knoll (3) – Dawn Barnett, Brian Fitch (Tory, Labour)

Hanover & Elm Grove (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Matt Follett, Bill Randall, Liz Wakefield

Hollingdean & Stanmer (3) – Jeane Lepper, Sven Rufus, Christina Summers (Labour, Green, Green)

Hove Park (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Jayne Bennett, Vanessa Brown

Moulsecoomb & Bevendean (3) – Maria Caulfield, Ayas Fallon-Khan (Tory, Tory)

North Portslade (2) – Bob Carden (Labour)

Patcham (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Brian Pidgeon, Carol Theobald, Geoffrey Theobald

Preston Park (3) – Amy Kennedy (Green)

Queen’s Park (3) – Ben Duncan (Green)

Regency (2) – a Green 1, 2: Ania Kitcat, Jason Kitcat

Rottingdean Coastal (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Lynda Hyde, Mary Mears, David Smith

South Portslade (2) – Les Hamilton (Labour)

St Peter’s & North Laine (3) – a Green 1, 2, 3: Ian Davey, Lizzie Deane, Pete West

Westbourne (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Denise Cobb, Brian Oxley

Wish (2) – too close to call

Withdean (3) – a Tory 1, 2, 3: Robert Nemeth, Ann Norman, Ken Norman,

Woodingdean (2) – a Tory 1, 2: Dee Simpson, Geoff Wells

In summary, the above predictions will see elected 8 Labour councillors, 13 Green, and 18 Tories. That leaves 15 seats that are too close to call. Privately, just between me and you, my four regular readers, I predict 8 of these will go Green, 3 to the Tories, and 4 Labour. A hung council made up of 21 Greens, 21 Tories, and 12 Labour councillors. A nightmare scenario for many ….!

Is it time to consider tactical voting for May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove?

Can Brighton and Hove afford another four years with a minority administration? It might come as something of a surprise to many that I think the Tories have not done too badly as the administration for the last few years. Much of what they have done I can applaud, other things not. I have found all the Tories with whom I have engaged open and friendly. They have been prepared to listen. On the other hand, they seem to have two obsessions – with the motor car and with a minuscule cut in the Coucil Tax.

It is the young Tory candidates (in particular Momma Grizzly and The Estate Agent) who believe that the insignificant Council Tax cut is likely to put fire in the bellies of ordinary folk in Hollingdean and Stanmer and in Goldsmid wards. There seems to be collective denial that the savage cuts being imposed by the Coalition government might provoke a more negative reaction for them. They are fortunate that much of the anger has been channelled into two related issues – university fees and Education Maintenance Allowance – and that most of the anger is focused on the spineless Nick Clegg and his Yellow Band of Traitors. (Do you really think that I, on occasions, allow my feelings for the Lib Dems to show – damn them all to hell?).

Central government cuts are yet to bite fully, but when they do, the Tories will experience their own special pain. The Lib Dems will experience pain all too soon as they line up on May 5th with a request to voters: “Please punish me, and please make it hurt …. a lot”. (I believe that there have been Tory MP’s, no one current, who have paid good money for such services).

So, from a tactical voting perspective, who should be supported? Labour has little chance of forming an administration in May. If they stand still they will have done very well. They will pick up the odd seat here and there, but are likely to lose the same number, if not more, seats.

I’m therefore advocating a mass tactical vote in favour of the LIB DEMS. I’m sorry, I’ll type that again. I’m advocating a mass tactical vote AGAINST the Lib Dems. I don’t know what came over me there.

The Greens, for several years, the party in the ascendency, should end up with at least 20 seats, but with some tactical voting they could edge up to the magic 27. I am not advocating votes for Greens in seats where they don’t have a monkey’s chance of winning. No, I would still encourage Labour votes in those wards.

Should the Greens fail to reach 27, I hope that a coalition between the Greens and Labour might be achievable. Being the junior partner in such a coalition administration might be exactly what Labour needs – a reminder that they have lost the confidence of the people of Brighton and Hove. Labour councillors and activists should begin building for 2015, showing humility and respect, not least for Caroline Lucas and what she represents. Labour hopefuls could do a lot worse that listening to and learning from her. (I now await the predictable tirade from Labour activists that follows whenever I make such observations).

Does this make me a Green? Absolutely not. I remain torn between both parties and I expect to be voting for at least one Labour candidate in May. But I am impressed by my dealings with several Green councillors and activists and, of course, by Caroline Lucas herself. But the Greens have huge challenges ahead, not least how to respond to cuts being imposed from central government. Their talent ranges from the inner serenity and wisdom of the Buddha himself (Bill Randall), the experience of Pete West, the talent and discipline of Green Amy (not to mention her tasteful range of Stassi tabards), and the youthful potential, passion and energy of Lady Everton (Alex Phillips).

The election campaign is fascinating, but so too will be what emerges after May 6th.

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.

The legend that is Brian Fitch, and the case of the Phantom Post Office closure

“Brian Fitch is a legend and much loved by Labour people” says Dan Wilson.  Legend? True. Much loved? Not that sure. Deselected in Hanover, deselected in Hollingbury, defeated in Hangleton. But a survivor and a true character. The Council is the poorer without him. The tale of ‘saving’ the number 81 bus is true legend.

I promised a tale about ‘saving’ a post office. Back in the 1980’s (and I’m not sure if this story is 100% true, that ex-Labour councillor Andy Winter ran a campaign to ‘save’ the Hampton Place post office in Western Road. The campaign worked a treat and he was re-elected! Shame that a few years later, after he was ‘bumped’ off the Council by the Labour Party, the post office was closed and now is food outlet Cook.

But to end on a positive not, it appears that the Green’s Pete West may have had a victory regarding the Co-op Post Office in London Road. The Post Office is having talks with Pete West and others about relocating the service to somewhere on London Road and not towards Preston Park. Will this make a difference in St Peters and North Laine. It might just add a few dozen votes to his predicted huge majority.

St Peters and North Laine – vote with your conscience

St Peters and North Laine was the birthplace of the Greens in Brighton and Hove when Pete West won their first-ever seat in the city.  This once Tory seat (there have been some boundary changes), became safe Labour in the 1980s and early 1990s.  But Blair’s New Labour saw to that with members of the left and right leaving in droves.

Now it is the safest Green seat.  In May 2007 Pete West, Keith Taylor and Ian Davey all polled over 2,000 votes with the best placed Labour candidate, Sarah Ogden, polling just 979 votes. 

In a recent by-election, caused by Keith Taylor succeeding to the European Parliament seat vacated by Caroline Lucas on her election to Westminster, the Green Lizzie Dean was the comfortable winner. The energetic campaign run by Labour’s Tom French, hardly dented the Green majority.

St Peters and North Laine will return 3 Green councillors in May.  It is an area where there is no danger of the Tories benefiting from a split Labour / Green vote.  Therefore, I don’t need to advocate tactical voting and suggest anti-Tory (and former Lib Dem voters) to vote according to their conscience.

The Greens don’t do genuine community politics

In previous posts I have been critical of the Green Party and its apparent lack of campaigning ability.  Give it a climate camp, and it does fine; Pride and it is there. But when it comes to issues that impact on ordinary people, like post office closures, it hardly has the finest record in town (notwithstanding what Green Amy tells me).

Today I took a stroll through the Open Market, in the heart of St Peters and North Laine, the area represented by two former Green Leaders, Pete West and Keith Taylor, an a third Green councillor whose name always escapes me and must have the lowest profile of all his colleagues (although Alex Phillips seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth since her election).

The Open Market is dying on its knees. Stall after stall is closing.  Even Open Market Matriarch and Tory Leader of the Council, Mary Mears, has closed her stall.

But where on earth are the Greens? Why is there no campaign? Where is the petition, the march, even an occupation? It is because the Greens don’t do genuine community politics. In St Peters and North Laine they have office, but don’t know how to use it.