Labour’s prospects in Brighton Kemptown 2015

My dear readers (Grizzly, Warren, councillor Christopher and Doris), I apologise for my radio silence. Internet connectivity at my French country retreat leaves much to be desired. I have been catching up with the news and have discovered Brighton and Hove has a Green Council. What a turn up. I am grateful to those readers who expressed concern about my well being. GrapevineBandH asks: “Where are those enjoyable blogs lately? Are you unwell friend?” Momma Grizzly wrote: “Why so quiet on the blog, Baps? I’m missing out on B&H’s political goss!” while Alex Craven responded “No, please spare us of all that crypto-Green nonsense.” Bless.

My thoughts have turned to the next general election. The three Brighton and Hove membersof parliament will all be defending their seats. The two Conservative MP’s have interesting challenges.

But first of all a word about Norman Baker (Lib Dem, Lewes). Norman, you may recall, signed a pledge before the general election that he wold NOT vote for an increase in university tuition fees. So at the first opportunity to stand by this pledge, Stormin’ Norman does the exact opposite and votes FOR an increase in tuition fees. Norman can expect to be beaten at the next general election as the Lib Dems are wiped out across the country (as they were in the locals in Brighton and Hove). It will be a shame if the Lib Dem for Eastbourne, Stephen Lloyd was to lose. He is a man of integrity, who voted against an increase in tuition fees, and deserves to be re-elected.

As a result of Norman’s inability to keep his word, the Lib Dems lost out in the Lewes District council elections, and one of the beneficiaries was the Tory Party in those seats in Simon Kirby’s Brighton Kemptown constituency. If Labour and the Greens wish to challenge Simon Kirby in 2015, both will need to build support in Lewes District.

Those parts of Brighton Kemptown that fall within the boundary of the City Council, there are now 6 Labour councillors (up one), 5 Tories (down one) with the Greens static on three. Labour’s failure to win in Queens Park is a set back for Labour. The campaign run by Labour in Queens Park shows that a short term campaign focused largely around one very energetic candidate is not enough. The Greens had been building support over several years and that party was able to sustain support even with two councillors standing down. For Labour to recover in this area they need a good strategist (not the candidate!) and local residents buildig, building, building support. The East Brighton Three (Morgan, Mitchell and Turton) understand this – just follow @warrenmorgan on Twitter to gain a good understanding of what it takes.

In 2015 it is Labour that has the better chance of challenging the Conservatives in Brighton Kemptown. Labour would be wrong to follow the line it began promoting last year about an “invisible member of parliament”. Simon Kirby may not have the highest profile in Queens Park, but he is here, there and everywhere in Rottingdean Coastal and that part of his constituency that falls in Lewes district.

If the Greens want to challenge then it has a long way to go. Three Green councillors does not provide the platform needed but, should the Greens begin building in Lewes District (which it should do given the availability of former Lib Dem votes that are more likely to go Green than Labour), then the Greens could begin looking towards 2020 …

In future posts I will review prospects in the Brighton Pavilion and Hove constituencies.

The Good, the Bad and the Also Rans

Pete Gillman, one of Labour’s candidates in St Peters and North Laine, writes: “Anyone else got canvassing injuries ? Sunburn, sore heels , repetitive Q and A syndrome ? I have loved campaigning and the Queens Park blitz for Labour on Monday was fun and effective. It will feel strange when all this is over.”

Pete is a great example of a hardworking candidate who has little (although not no) chance of winning next Thursday. For Pete it will be strange when it is all over. For the rest of us it is a shame that he (and many like him) will no longer be active on the doorstep after next week. One of the down sides of our system of government is that there is no place for defeated candidates. For Pete is a man of integrity who is willing to work hard, but who gets little thanks and almost no recognition.

There are many Pete Gillmans in all parties, working their socks off but won’t be amongst the 54 elected ones next Friday. Amongst their numbers I include Christopher Hawtree, Anthea Ballam, Rob Buckwell, Mohammed Asaduzzaman, Rebecca Taylor, Lis Telcs, Tracey Hill, and Momma Grizzly herself, Rachael Emma Bates. I realise that this is damning with faint praise, and will not be well received by the names Good ‘uns who will be fighting all the way hoping to pull off surprise victories next week.

Then there are the Bad. There are at least two candidates – I cannot say which party or which ward – who are on the unpleasant side of dodgy. Fortunately these two are unlikely to be elected, although their party holds out that they could yet be triumphant. If they were to be elected they would, in a short period of time, bring not just their party, but the City Council, into disrepute. All parties should look at the private business activities and vested interests of their potential candidates and councillors.

And finally, the Also Rans who count amongst their numbers David Watkins, the veteran Gerald O’Brien, and Harris Fitch (red rag to this bull – how long will it be before he comments that it’s still all to play for in Rottingdean Coastal?).

Other than ‘the Bad’, best wishes to all candidates. Even if you are a paper candidate, or someone who will be disappointed at the count, our collective thanks to all of you who are putting themselves out to make democracy work.

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.

UKIP set to take the local elections by storm (actually a light breeze rustling the leaves)

So there we have it.  It is not the Switch to Fitch movement, nor Christopher Hawtree standing in several seats simultaneously, but UKIP that is set to take Brighton and Hove by storm.  Well, maybe a gentle breeze.  The party is rumoured to have seven candidates (so far ….) to stand in May’s local elections, a candidate in Patcham, St Peter’s and North Laine (I am reliably informed that Labour’s Adrian Morris “a great guy and a real supporter of your community” isn’t standing for UKIP), and Wish.  There will be three UKIP candidates in Rottingdean Coastal including Paul Perrin (the UKIP candidate in Hove at the general election).

Nigel Carter, the UKIP candidate in Brighton Pavilion last May, is standing in Withdene, or is it Hollingbury (sic), or maybe Woodingdean.  Perhaps somewhere else.  They haven’t yet decided.

Paul Perrin told me: “We are in the process of setting up a local branch/association, our only resource is goodwill of local supporters so we are spread a bit thin and rushed …but ….  I think it is safe to say that we are really just local people who think the UK should be putting UK citizens first, and think the local council should be putting its residents first.”  I think I am quite safe in saying that, on that platform, UKIP will not be forming an administration in May or even holding the balance of power.  But their arrival (if it can be called that) adds a bit of colour, especially in Rottingdean Coastal which is fast becoming a four-way marginal – Labour’s Harris Fitch, UKIP’s Paul Perrin, Christopher Hawtree of the Greens are all confident of unseating Mary Mears.  Be afraid Mary Mears, be …. well …. a tad amused. 

But have I got it wrong? ‘rottingdean’ says I should check my sources: “The Lido mob, UKIP or Mr Pickwick might not be the only surprises in Rottingdean, something far bigger is being rumoured to unseat Ms Mears.”  I’ve heard nothing.  I think Mary is safe as houses.

Celia Barlow’s candidature in Central Hove makes this seat a three way marginal

When David Miliband was defeated by his brother Ed for the Labour Leadership, he announced that he would be withdrawing from front-line politics. He did not mean he would be resigning his seat in the Commons, withdrawing to become an academic at an Oxford college, or joining the lucrative lecture circuit in the United States (he may well be doing so for all I know). No, he meant that he would no longer be on the front bench. This description of ‘front line politics’ shows just how arrogant he has become, that it was his birthright to be leader of the party of his choice.

Does David Miliband have any idea what the real front line is like – those candidates going from door to door in wet and windy February and March, hoping to persuade the electorate to support them or, more than likely, someone else in the local elections. This is the real front line. David Miliband, and Ed as well, see knocking on a few doors when making a whistle-stop tour to Brighton, Hull or Swindon, as a photo opportunity that might secure them a few votes in an upcoming leadership election.

Is it any wonder that Labour in government became so detached from ordinary people when they see the cosy gentleman’s club of the Westminster Bubble as ‘the front line’.

Why do I mention this now? I wish to pay tribute to the decision of Celia Barlow, the former Labour MP for Hove and Portslade, who is standing for election to Brighton and Hove City Council on May 5th in Central Hove. I say good luck to Celia. Many former MPs see local government well beneath them after the have scaled the lofty heights of Westminster. I do not include David Lepper or Des Turner in this criticism. Both had given a lifetime of service as local councillors and had they not been elected to Parliament they would probably be thinking about hanging up their canvassing cards and Council gowns (oh, those were the days) about now anyway.

Celia said: “Politics is in my blood. I have been a member of the Labour Party since I was 16 and even served as a parish councillor in my time. I do not think it’s that unusual. I know of people in Parliament who have gone back to being councillors”. The last one I can think of locally, Celia, was Dennis Hobden when he lost his Kemptown seat to Andrew Bowden in 1970. But Dennis was not, I am told, your usual politician. Nor, in this respect is Celia.

Celia has a huge mountain to climb, and again this is to her credit that she has chosen a tough seat to fight. The two Labour candidates came seventh and eighth in Central Hove behind the Conservatives, Lib Dems and the Greens. Celia’s candidature should boost Labour because of name recognition (which is second only to Mr Pickwick himself, Christopher Hawtree, rumoured to have made the ultimate sacrifice by switching from the safe Green target of Rottingdean Coastal to Central Hove). Celia can certainly beat the Lib Dems. Let’s face it, anyone can beat the Lib Dems these days, even Leo Artreides who polled just 19 votes at the general election in Brighton Pavilion. We could have a situation where there is a split result. I think that Jan Young will hold on. Andrew Wealls, a decent Conservative (most at local government are), may yet again be a Tory candidate fighting the wrong seat at the wrong election. He was beaten by the unstoppable Alex Phillips in the Goldsmid by-election a couple of years ago. The Greens will have hopes of making a breakthrough here, especially if the Lib Dem vote does collapse as spectacularly as the polls suggest. And then there is Celia.

I think that it will be a split result, Jan Young and either Celia or a Green. But the Greens better get their skates on and decide who will be their ‘lead’ candidate is to be in Central Hove.

The final word goes to Jan Young, and she pays a huge compliment to Celia: “Of all the wards in all the city she had to choose mine”. Perhaps, if Celia is successful, along with Jan, it could be the start of a very beautiful friendship ….

Brighton and Hove Labour’ website – no poll dancing clubs (thank goodness) but still frightening the children

A few weeks ago I blogged about the Labour Party’s new website. General I thought it was an impressive site even though it was clearly still under construction. I looked a it again this evening and can see a number of improvements since I last looked. But I offer the following observations.

I was pleased to see that Caroline Penn (with Celia Barlow) the Labour candidate in Central Hove, no longer appears to be posing in a poll dancing club. On the matter of photos, several candidates don’t have photographs. Do they think they might frighten the electorate? Actually, some of the photos that are there may well frighten the voters, children and family pets.

Back to Caroline, she has a decent write up of what she believes in and comments on what’s happening on the Council.

That’s a bit better than the write up of the three candidates in St Peter’s and North Laine. This is a seat where Labour is hoping to do a ‘Green’ by persuading the good voters of the ward to give them one vote with the other two votes going to the Greens. That way they might pinch a seat here or there.

I understand that Adrian Morris is the ‘lead candidate in St Peters and North Laine. Yet all it says about him is that “Adrian Morris is a great guy and a real supporter of your community.” It is hardly going to say “Adrian Morris is a miserable git and couldn’t care a stuff about your community.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.

The other two candidates fare equally poorly: “Pete Gillman lives and loves the St. Peter’s & North Laine ward of Brighton & Hove” – that’s it – while candidate number three, James Hallwood “has a great affinity with the St. Peter’s & North Laine ward of Brighton & Hove.”

But the St Peters and North Laine coverage is better than the Hove Park ward where all we are told about Bernie Katz and John Cooper is that their names are Bernie Katz and John Cooper – hardly a winning formula to inspire the electorate.

But at least Labour has candidates in place in every ward, well not quite every ward – no candidates yet in Rottingdean Coastal or Woodingdean (a surprising situation in a ward which had a Labour councillor – Joan Moorhouse – as recently as the 1990’s). If Labour is to challenge again in Brighton Kemptown, it needs to get it’s act together.

And finally, I am pleased that Brian Fitch is still campaigning on buses. He has not been put off by the totally unfair aspersions regarding him having saved, singlehandedly, the number 81 bus and is due to save the number 5 to Hangleton in time for the eve of poll leaflet.

Results in Brighton Kemptown that will have Nobby Clarke and Dennis Hobden spinning in their graves

This evening I take a look at the Council seats up for election in the Brighton Kemptown constituency. This is far less exciting than several of the seats in Brighton Pavilion.  The Conservatives will retain all three seats in Rottingdean Coastal.  Even with the Green Tide of Progress described by Luke Walter, where Green voters move from town centre wards such as Queens Park, Regency and St Peters & North Laine to outlying, the Greens (and Labour) will fail to win this seat by a country mile.

Neighbouring East Brighton will remain solid Labour.  Even in a bad year for Labour (and this is not one of them) East Brighton should remain Labour. With Warren Morgan, Gill Mitchell and Craig Turton, Labour has a strong and active team.

Woodingdean’s two seats will be retained by Conservatives Dee Simpson and Geoff Wells.  Dee is a hard-working champion of the ward while Geoff Wells is a likeable if somewhat ‘unconventional’ Mayor. 

That leaves Queens Park and Moulsecoomb & Bevendean.  Labour faces tough battles in both, in Queens Park from the Greens who hold all three seats, in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean from the Tories who will be seeking to increase their single seat (that of the highly respected Maria Caulfield).  Queens Park is probably too close to call at present, with an energetic campaign being run by the Labour team.  Chris Cooke is most likely to take a seat from the Greens, but the Green councillors (two of whom are standing down) have gained a huge reputation for hard work and community focus.  If I had to make a prediction (and you know how I shy away from saying anything definitive …. ) I would predict two Greens and one Labour councillors returned from Queens Park.  But then again, it could be three Greens, or perhaps two Labour and a Green, and there again it could be three Labour …  What an interesting contest!

But it is Moulsecoomb and Bevendean that will be a headline result in May.  I predict that the reputation of Maria Caulfield, one of the most popular ward councillors that I have ever observed, will bring through her two Tory running mates, seeing two gains for the Conservatives with Maria holding her seat with a substantial majority.  What a state of affairs for Labour!  Nobby Clarke and Dennis Hobden will be spinning in their graves (or in Dennis’ case, whatever afterlife he has moved on to!).

So, from Brighton Kemptown there will be 8 Conservatives, between 3 and 6 Labour councillors, and up to three Greens.