Labour is no closer than ever to understanding how to respond to the Greens

The Labour Party in Brighton and Hove is in an unenviable position. Its group of councillors (now officially the Labour and Co-operative Group) has made a decision not to approach the Greens about a formal coalition.

Already some party activists and councillors are already making unrealistic predictions about 2015. Rob Macey has written: “we need to set a high bar for the greens. they have got what they have always wanted but I predict that this will lance the boil and give us the opportunity, if we sort ourselves out, to take full control back next time around.”

There is no way that Labour will come anywhere near taking control next time. The next locals are likely to take place on the same day as the general election in 2015. Caroline Lucas will be re-elected with a thumping majority, with Labour coming in a distant third. (It is not just me who thinks this, but one leading member of the local Laour Party has written “With the win in Withdean as well as those in Preston Park and Hollingdean & Stanmer Caroline Lucas is now well placed to achieve a five-figure majority in 2015.”)

Labour has misled the electorate in two elections running (that only Labour could beat the Tories in Brighton Pavilion in 2010, and that only Labour could form an administration in 2011 – has Laour sacked the genius who insisted on this tosh?).

Yet Labour activists are blinded to reality. Christine Simpson has asked: “I am still not sure why their (the Greens) message was more believable than ours to many people in different parts of the city, except that they can put themselves forward as the non political party with clean green hands.” It might be the freshness of the Greens but Labour’s obsessive attacks on Caroline Lucas make the party look like bad losers, and many people are delighted that the City has produced the first Green MP. Caroline Lucas certainly hasn’t betrayed the faith people had in her and her reputation goes from strength to strength.

Labour on the other hand remains tainted by the last government. I have posted recently about the Labour Party welcoming David Milliband to Brighton – a very big mistake which no one in Labour has yet defended. Compared to the Greens, Labour appears tainted by Iraq, privatisation, university fees, etc. And now Labour activists are getting excited about Blue Labour. The Greens in Brighton and Hove will be laughing all the way to the next elections and beyond.

Labour needs to wipe the slate clean. Perhaps Gill Mitchell could apologise for Labour’s misleading statements on its election material. That would be a start. At least Labour should say now it won’t mislead the electorate in future elections. Craig Turton is one of the few Labour politicians with the necessary understanding of the situation: “I’ve said before that criticising the Greens is the political equivalent of clubbing seals and our experience on the doorstep has proved this has been the case so far as voters simply don’t believe us.”

But the immediate dilemma for Labour is how it responds to the Green administration. In private one former Labour councillor pleaded with her former colleagues regarding a coalition: “don’t take the LibDems’ role to the Green Party. Let them mess it up!” Now that sentiment is not something most people in Brighton want to hear. It is in the best interests of the City and its residents that the new administration is successful. And Labour needs to support the Greens to be successful.

This is the unenviable position for Labour councillors. If they vote against the administration (ie. with the Tories), their reputation will plunge further and they will rightly be criticised by many, including this Blogger. If they abstain on crucial votes the question will be asked “what is the point of Labour councillors” (abstaining on the budget did not help an already wounded party). And if they vote with the Greens, the Greens will get the credit because they and nor Labour are the administration.

The polls have closed: the Greens to get better result than expected

The polls have closed and it looks as though the next 24 hours will be more fascinating than all the speculation that has gone before. The count will start tomorrow morning (although the verification of the number of votes cast is happening this evening).

The warm weather and the very high turnout for a local election leads me to conclude that there will be some extraordinary results tomorrow.

For all their bluster, the Tory campaign in East Brighton faded before it got going, with party members being redirected to Moulsecoomb and Bevendean where, contrary to Craig Turton’s suggestion earlier in the day, the Tories scent victory – one of their few hopes of gains. M&B is definitely one to watch tomorrow at the count.

The Greens are very confident in Preston Park, and are quietly confident of a very good result in Goldsmid. Brunswick and Adelaide could be a split result. Paul Elgood may just hold on but his running mate won’t be making a victory speech tomorrow. Central Hove is fascinating, and I just don’t know what will happen there. But Withdene and even Patcham will produce good results for the Greens, but probably no actual seats although Withdene may just …..

North Portslade and South Portslade are looking good for Labour, and Brian Fitch could be looking at a dramatic return to the Council chamber, representing Hangleton and Knoll, along with Dawn Barnett and Tony Janio for the Tories.

Overall, though, the winners are going to be the Greens. Several Labour activists have told me that the Green vote has been firm, and whe they might have hoped to have picked up votes in a split household, the votes a going Green. The prospect of the first Green council in the UK has inspired people to vote Green. It seems as though the people of Brighton Pavilion like being the first constituency to have elected a Green MP. So now it seems as though more widely in Brighhton and Hove the electorate is wanting to see the election of the first Green Council. Neither the Tories or Labour have been able to offer anything as aspirational.

Whether the Greens make it across the winning line and achieve 27 councillors is another matter. While today will produce better than expected results for the Greens, whether they can secure five more than the 22 I have predicted is another matter.

If they do achieve 27 seats, then the opposition parties must not block the election of a Green mayor who would give the Greens the casting vote in the Council Chamber. The people of Brighton and Hove will have spoken.

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.

How Baron Pepperpot has fallen out of love with Labour, and now Valerie has fallen out of love with Donny Osmond

Baron Pepperpot’s hopes for a Labour wipeout in Hollingdean and Stanmer has attracted some response, forcing the Baron to explain himself: “I wouldn’t say there are divisions within Labour, but the party needs renewal if it is to survive locally-lest the Greens wipe it off the map. There you go, honesty about a real threat. The old order must go. Now to curtail speculation, I am not a sitting councillor or a candidate. Just a Labour member.”

Later he came back to say: “I must add that i have nothing against the sitting H&S councillors, I just feel that a heavy defeat in this ward would be a catalyst for change that Labour needs locally.”

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke takes up the story: “The Barons comments are interesting and I think his wish might just come true with 2 of the candidates being ousted, I also agree Labour is looking at national trends a little too much and not allowing for the Brighton Left Wing Trendy voters who like opting for supposed cuddly Greens (wolves and sheep’s clothing spring to mind), they’re also putting a tad too much effort in Queens Park where they will come unstuck once again, no mention of the collapse of the Green vote in the general election in Kemptown yet from Mr Morgan as another pointer to taking QP.”

As for predictions, Sugar Puff Eater, Warren Morgan, writes: “Well, 12 days to go and we will see who is right in Hollingdean & Stanmer, Regency, QP, Hanover & EG, PP, Brunswick and Goldsmid. Those wards will determine how many seats the Greens hold against the Labour challenge and win from the Lib Dems or Labour. I think at best they will have a net loss or gain of one.” A brave prediction, Warren, but one with red-tinted specs. I think it will be a net gain of eight. This is the core of the Green offensive and where most resources are being targeted.

Warren goes on: “Labour will certainly gains seats from the Tories in some or all the following wards: Hangleton, Wish, M&B, North Portslade and South Portslade.”

I have this picture – each morning Warren lines up his Sugar Puffs, grouping them into wards, candidates and likely victors, before gobbling them all up. How he loves his Sugar Puffs!

Marina72 helpfully provides an insight into Labour and the campaign in St Peters and North Laine: “I got a PDF of the Labour poster via email. Not quite the same, but nonetheless I’ve seen several in windows around 7 Dials/Prestonville (more than Greens, to my surprise.)”

And Momma Grizzly is annoyed with me for suggesting narrow campaign in Hollingdean and Stanmer: “The Conservative campaign in H&S is certainly not just focused on Coldean. We’re campaigning hard all over the ward, Baps! Tsk tsk.”. I apologise, Grizzly One, I know you’ve been to the Bates Estate (did you see me wave?) but I don’t think that Belushi’s Below is in the ward!

But on this slow day for electioneering, I bring you some news from two of our esteemed Returning Officers. Brighton and Hove City Council Chief Executive, John Barradell, has been identified as the 17th most influential person in local government. The citation reads: “John Barradell is one of a growing band of chiefs who are using technology to drive the redesign of services. For example, he held a ‘city camp’ at which citizens could design smartphone applications to measure local congestion or air quality, or show how to access services.”

John, however, is 941st most influential Tweeter in Brighton and Hove, according to updood.com’s 1,000 top twitter users in Brighton and Hove. He is just one place above Eternal Tattoo, but well ahead of Tom French who is at 964. Sadly this Blogger fails to make the top 1,000, leaving him …. or her …. feeling neglected and unloved.

And on the subject of love …. Valerie Pearce at Brighton and Hove City Council says she is not in love with Donny Osmond …. “any more”. When did this end, and does Donny know? Clearly upset, all Valerie is eating is comfort food: chocolate and sausages. Updates on this developing situation as we receive 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.

A great night out with young Conservative candidates

I must say I had a great time today. I never knew I would enjoy the company of a group of young Conservative candidates SO much. Talk of a 1p Council Tax cut, the removal of ALL cycle lanes, and how estate agents are doing in this testing economic climate. What fun we had. And to top it all off, we had a group photo taken. From left to right, Kerry Underhill (North Portslade), Adam Love (Goldsmid), Robert Nemeth (Withdene), Michael Ireland (Hangleton and Knoll), Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates, Hollingdean and Stanmer), the Blogger, George Dore (Preston Park), le Toothbrush (Mike Macfarlane, Regency), and the Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell, Goldsmid). And now we are off to Belushi’s Below for their fantastic rock and metal night, Abandoned, to listen to a couple of rythym and beat combos, Slayer and Megadeath.

Young Tories

Young Tories

Greens and Labour should prioritise its candidates in key marginals to maximise representation

In this local elections, which is likely to be decided by the smallest majorities, it is not too late for the Greens and Labour to prioritise some of its candidates to increase the chances of having councillors elected. The Greens have prioritised candidates in the seats where they have little or no chance of being elected, but inexplicably in some marginals they have not. I have said before that this decision demonstrates a fundamental lack of judgement and political instinct.

Take Preston Park and Goldsmid wards. The Greens have one sitting councillor in each ward, and they have a reasonable chance of winning all three seats in both wards. Nevertheless, the result will be close and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that both Amy Kennedy and Alex Phillips could be defeated. Both are excellent councillors and their experience will be necessary for the Greens should they be the largest party on May 6th.

Alex Phillips, in particular, could be vulnerable as she is second from the bottom, eleventh of twelve, on the ballot paper. Her Green colleagues are second and fifth. It would be a major set back for the Greens in the City, and for the City itself, if councillor Phillips was to lose. While there are a large number of young and very young candidates standing for the first time in May, none other than Robert Nemeth has much hope of winning. As someone who is well past my ‘sell by’ date, I am all for a wide range of ages of councillors on the Council. Alex and Robert are likely to be the only two councillors below the age of 30. (A little aside regarding the lovely Luke Walter – should Jeane Lepper retain her seat, as I think she will, Luke will be the one most likely to lose out purely because he is bottom of the ballot paper).

That is one reason I hope that Alex Phillips will be re-elected. Another reason is she is more likely than most to be able to work with Labour, a quality that will be needed post May. The Greens should have prioritised (and still could) its candidates in Goldsmid, with Alex Phillips as the First Choice Green Candidate. It is foolish to jeopardise he prospects of one of your key assets. If you live in Goldsmid and are not a Green supporter, I would encourage that you loan one of your votes to Alex Phillips.

Similarly in Preston Park, Amy Kennedy should be the First Choice Green Candidate. It is less of an issue in Preston Park as the three Green candidates are grouped sixth, seventh and eight, with Stassi Amy at seventh. Like Alex, Amy is a formidable councillor, and a strong feminist. If she was to lose her seat it too would be a great loss to the Greens and the City.

There are few obvious Labour seats where prioritisation should take place, but that shouldn’t stop the party. In Goldsmid, sitting councillor Melanie Davies is the highest Labour candidate on the ballot paper, as is Brian Fitch in Hangleton and Knoll. Other areas where Labour is defending a seat, the sitting councillors is the highest Labour candidate on the ballot paper. That leaves longshot seats for Labour, such as Queens Park, Hanover and Elm Grove, and even St Peters and North Laine. Targeting, say, the top candidate on the ballot paper could see some interesting developments. Just a thought.

The fringe candidates in this May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove

In the last couple of days I have commented on the independent candidates standing in Wish (Mr and Mrs Jenny Barnard-Langston), Hangleton and Knoll (Jo Heard) and North Portslade (Theo Child). But there are other fringe candidates standing,and I don’t mean the LibDems or UKIP. If you read between the lines of what I have written about those parties you may have gained the impression, I can’t think why, that they are not my cup of team (forexample, “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than vote for UKIP”).

The most spoken about Independent this May is former mayor, former Lib Dem and sitting councillor David Wakins who is hoping to defend his seat in Brunswick and Adelaide. His candidature could be characterised as the Mr Angry Candidate, not that David is the angry sort, but his treatment by the Lib Dems has not been kind and his is a spoiling campaign designed to undermine support for the Lib Dems in their last remaining area of representation.

Trade Unionists and Socialists Against the Cuts may have worthy intentions, but they are likely to mobilise no more than a few dozen votes. Standing for TUSAC are an uninspiring bunch who have failed to rally the working classes time and time again. There was a song, can’t member who by, that went “As soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, the revolution starts”. The chorus was sung by an increasingly drunk singer. The final chorus went “As soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, ……… I think ….. I’m gonna ….. be sick”.

Now I’m not suggesting that any of the TUSAC candidates are partial to a drink or two, but they are a mixture of uninspiring individuals (Bill North standing in East Brighton) and more enthusiastic, less cynical types such as Jon Redford (Hanover and Elm Grove). He is active in the Stop the Cuts Coalition and, at least, has some get up and go about him. At just 23 Jon is one of the younger breed of candidates and he has been part of the campaign against cuts in Education Maintenance Allowances.

Also standing for TUSAC in Hollingdean and Stanmer are Phil Clarke, Tony Greenstein (how is it that he hasn’t yet been expelled from TUSAC – he has been expelled from evey other fringe group on the left) and the Peter Stringfellow of Brighton politics, Professor Dave Hill. Dave Bangs is standing for TUSAC in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.

What is touching, yet quite sad about this bunch, is that unlike Don Quixote who charged at imaginary enemies, this lot have real enemies yet they tend to focus on others on the left and fail to mobilise real opposition against the Tories. They just don’t know how to organise an effective coalition. Their handful of votes could just let the Tories in in very close contests. One wonders if this is what they hope for …..

Gerald O’Brien is standing in St Peters and North Laine. He has stood in more elections than the number of comments left on this blog by the Legend that is Christopher Hawtree. He is yet to top 100 votes and even being most generous, is unlikely to win in this seat, the safest Green seat in the country.

Mohammed Asaduzzaman is standing as an Independent in Queens Park. A respected local businessman, concerned with crime, he has stood before but has little chance of making more than a ripple on the result in Queens Park.

And finally we have Yuri Borgmann-Prebil (Preston Park) and Susan Collard (St Peters and North Laine) standing for the European Citizens Party. Now for many weeks I have been collating comprehensive files on both Yuri and the European Citizens Party. In fact I have focused on little else …. zzzzzzzzz

Greens electoral tactic may just take them over the winning line

The description that the Greens are using to describe themselves gives a fascinating insight into that party’s ambitions for Brighton and Hove City Council. It is employing a tried and tested method of ‘borrowing’ a vote for one of its candidates from the other parties. In certain wards it has described its candidates as “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, “Green Party Second Choice Candidate” and, where there are three seats up for election, “Green Party Third Choice Candidate”.

This tactic is being used in seats where the Greens have concluded that they can’t win outright. Where they believe they can win all the seats, they describe their candidates simply as being from “The Green Party”.

From this we can assume that the Greens are confident of winning St Peters and North Laine, Hanover and Elm Grove, Queens Park, and Regency. If the Greens were to hold all the seats in these wards they would return 11 councillors. In Preston Park and Goldsmid wards, the Greens are not prioritising any candidates. In Preston Park the Geens are grouped in the middle of the ballot paper with very popular sitting councillor, Amy Noelle Kennedy (Noelle? You’ve kept that quiet, Green Amy!) listed alphabetically just beneath one her fellow Green candidates.

More surprising is the Green’s decision not to prioritise their candidates in Goldsmid. Up against the Greens is another popular sitting councillor, Labour’s Melanie Davies. I have predicting a split result here with Melanie topping the poll with two Greens elected in second and third place. What concerns me is that sitting Green councillor, Alex Phillips, is one from the bottom of the ballot paper, and listed well below her fellow Green candidates who are near the top of the ballot paper. I think that the decision not to prioritise Green candidates in Goldsmid is a mistake and whoever was behind this decision shows a fundamental lack of political and campaigning judgement.

Having said that, I believe that Alex Phillips will be one of the two successful Geens. Her breakthrough in the Goldsmid by-election, when she became the first-ever Green to be elected in Hove, was key to giving the Big Mo to the Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion. Alex Phillips is currently the Baby of the Council Chamber, but she is cut from the same cloth as Caroline Lucas and will, in years to come, be as significant a politicians as her mentor.

Assuming three and two Greens are elected from Preston Park and Goldsmid respectively, that would take the Green total to 16.

Then there is Hollingdean and Stanmer. The Greens have not prioritised candidates in this ward, suggesting it is confident of winning all three seats. I have always said that I expect Jeane Lepper will hold her seat. If the Greens do win two seats here, it would take the Green total to 18.

The Green’s number 1 target is Brunswick and Adelaide. Once again, the Greens are not prioritising its candidates for the two seats up for election in this ward. Success here would take the Greens to 20. Just where the next 7 seats might come from is a matter of guess work. Central Hove could just provide a shock and Chris Hawtree, as the “Green Party First Choice Candidate”, could be elected.

The Greens could pick up the odd seat here and there. Allie Cannell and Chris Hawtree are confident about Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. Rottingdean Coastal and Patcham have been mentioned in dispatches. I don’t see it, but the Caroline Effects may yet prove to be the decisive factor on May 5th.

Finally, the romantic in me wishes George and le Toothbrush a long and happy life together. But their chances of success in May? No chance.

George Dore and le Toothbrush, and the continuing decline of the Lib Dems

Intrigue surrounds George Dore’s move from Moulsecoomb and Bevendean to Preston Park, and that of her beloved, le Toothbrush (Mike Mafarlane) from Queens Park to Regency Ward. Dan Wilson asks: “Why change wards now? Totally bizarre.” Dan’s twin brother, Warren Morgan, observes: “Tories seem to be abandoning Kemptown wards as fast as they are selected. Does not bode well for Mr Kirby.”

The Tory Tipster thinks that the problem lies in the heart of the Kemptown Conservative Association: “And another one bites the dust!!! First Mike Mac then George Dore – something is very wrong in Brighton Kemptown when their most talented candidates are jumping ship! I take on board your comments about Maria Caulfield but at the risk of sounding ungentlemanly, she is now very much past her best and now looks rather tired and sagging. Thank goodness the Hove Association has the good sense to have so many bright young candidates on the ballot paper!”

Linda F asks “Why would Ms Dore finish lower in Preston Park than M&B, if she appeals more to the PP middle class voter? I think she is just the right candidate for the aspirational younger families living in PP. She just needs to make sure her voters come out on the day. This switch is an interesting development anyway.” Well, Linda, Preston Park is a Green / Labour marginal and disillusioned Lib Dems are hardly going to move rightwards but will split their votes between the Greens and Labour. The share of the votes of the left parties will definitely increase in Preston Park. The question that I cannot answer is who will benefit most from the collapse of the Lib Dem vote.

But the Ghost of Nobby Clarke thinks that the Tories should not be written off in Preston Park: “Don’t underestimate the very impressive George Dore in Preston Park. She might just surprise a few people. After all some of us still remember excellent former Tory councillors there such as Doreen Radford and Vic Marchant.”

But what is emerging tonight is how low the Lib Dems have sunk. I wrote yesterday that “It appears that (the Lib Dem) 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.” Not for a moment did I suspect that the LibDems could only field 8 (yes that was EIGHT) candidates across Brighton and Hove. According to the Lib Dem website, otherwise known as The Life and Times of Paul Elgood, the Lib Dems are fielding candidates in Regency, Brunswick and Adelaide, Central Hove and South Portslade wards.

I have been criticised in the past for being too harsh on the Lib Dems and that my prediction of their imminent demise was premature. I had never anticipated that they would field just 8 (yes, I repeat, just EIGHT) candidates! With the deadline for nominations closing at 12 noon tomorrow (Monday 4th April), there is still time for the Lib Dems to find a further 46 candidates. But they could, at this late stage, be no more than paper candidates, unwilling and unable to mount a city-wide campaign.

Finally, I was thumbing through some back editions of the Midhurst and Petworth Observer, as one does on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In the edition for Friday, 5 June 2009, I came across the election result for the Billingshurst division of West Sussex County Council. Trailing in third place, behind David Duke of UKIP and the Conservative Amanda Jupp who won the seat, was Larissa Rowe standing for Liberal Democrats. Could this be the same Larissa Rowe who is standing for the Lib Dems in Regency (where le Toothbrush is standing for the Tories)? And could this be an omen that will see the Lib Dems beaten into 5th place by UKIP in a seat that, until recently, returned a Lib Dem councillor? Watch this space for a positive response from UKIP’s own Mr Cumugeon (Paul Perrin).