Bits and pieces from the local election campaign

Luke Walter has observed UKIP delivering leaflets in Hollingdean and Stanmer. He says that he suspects that they will take a few votes from the Conservatives and Labour on the estates. I suspect he is probably right, with a few more from the Tories than from Labour. I can’t see UKIP taking any votes from the Greens.

This raises an interesting question: who will the independent candidates harm most? And will the Lib Dems influence the outcome at all?

I think that the most significant independent this election is Jo Heard who will split the Tory vote in Hangleton and Knoll, as well as taking a few votes from Labour. Michael Ireland is likely to lose out amongst the Tories, while Alum Jones, due to alphabet voting, will suffer, but not by much. Jo’s candidature is not likely to be decisive. A stunning result would be if she was elected along with the Terrible Twins, Dawn Barnett and Brian Fitch. Not impossible but unlikely. I doubt an independent will win this May. The most likely result remains the election of Banett, Tony Janio and Brian Fitch.

Ben Codfish (what a clever play on words) asks whether we should rule out a Blue / Red Coalition. Gasps of indignation can be heard in this far corner of Hove as Warren Morgan splutters over a late night bowl of Sugar Puffs. “Never! Never! Never!” goes the cry in his best Ian Paisley voice.

If people vote according to their age, Steph Holder makes the following observation regarding this demographic: “The 2001 Census noted that 42% of people in Brighton and Hove are aged 20-44 – above the England and Wales average of 35% and the 34.6% average for the South East. 21% are aged 60+. A bit of quick research shows that about 70% of Tory councillors fall into the 60+ category – so the Party is very, very far from being representative of local people. Labour seems to be similar. Greens seem to most closely reflect the population, demographically speaking.”

Linda says that we shouldn’t knock the more mature councillor. “With age comes wisdom and I think a council with a wide age range and views is sometimes healthier. Remember, the outlying areas of B&H have a much older (perhaps more Tory?) electorate. We also have many residential & warden assisted homes in Hove.. Not everyone here is a right-on, cool, cycling, Green, Liberal.”

I think there is an issue here – which has allowed the Tories too easy a ride in the outlying areas. Christopher Hawtree identified this several weeks ago, as did Luke Walter. The Green tide is spreading far and wide, even in Withdean and Patcham. Earlier today Christopher wrote: “Nobody should regard the “suburbs” as a block vote.” I do agree, but I still don’t think the Greens will come within 1,000 votes of the Tories in Rottingdean Coastal.

Meanwhile, in Goldsmid ward (a ward that warrants close attention, along with Central Hove) I sense a gap is opening up between the Greens and Labour. I have previously predicted that Melanie Davis would top the poll for Labour and that the Greens would have Alex Phillips and another of it’s candidates elected, probably Ruth Buckley (not to be confused with the Estate Agent, Rob Buckwell). Given the strength of the Green campaign, and the popularity of Alex Phillips, I would not be surprised if Alex Phillips topped the poll with Melanie Davis and Ruth scrapping it out for second and third places.

I really don’t have a feel for Central Hove – too close, perhaps. The Tories are strong here, Celia Barlow is a very well known name, and Rebecca Taylor is running a great campaign as a Lib Dem candidate. (Please note, this praise of a Lib Dem is personal and should in no way be regarded as a softening of my totally unreasonable attitude to the Lib Dems. I do rate Rebecca Taylor).

There are just over 2 weeks to go before polling day. Do let me know how it’s going in your neck of the woods.

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.

The mysteries of the campaign to save the Number 2 bus, Labour’s “great guy” candidate in St Peters, and the UKIP announcement

“Switch to Fitch” has been ringing out in Rottingdean and Hangleton as the Fantastic Fitches aim to change the face of Brighton politics.  Young Harris has wasted no time in describing his priorities for Rottingdean Coastal although he has been reticent regarding his vote winning campaign to save the Number 2 bus. He writes: “You will have to stay tuned on the bus situation!  I can tell you that our campaign will be very community based, hoping to draw on where the Labour party has helped out before, and intend to help out in the future.  A personal point of mine would be to support the veterans of St Dunstan’s, having been in the Army myself.”

A greater mystery than Harris Fitch’s secret campaign to save the Number 2 is the situation in St Peters and North Laine.  I have asked several prominent Labour activists (including councillors) about the party’s SP&NL candidate Adrian Morris “a great guy and a real supporter of your community” as it says on the Labour website.  I have previously mentioned that ‘sources’ close to Adrian are whispering some interesting things about his candidature.  In fact it is not whispering.  Can someone in Labour come clean and confirm whether he has, in fact resigned just 50 days before the election.  He may be a great guy and a real supporter of your community, but is he a great guy in the eyes of his Labour colleagues and is he a real supporter of your Labour Party? Please will someone come clean.  If my ‘sources’ are wrong, I will gladly retract.

On the question of personal votes and the suggestion that a personal vote never exceeds 300 or so, ‘Clive’ writes: “300 votes out of 900-odd is the kind of personal vote that many councillors would give their eye teeth for, surely?  Picking up on Charlie’s point – it is noticeable that all the women councillors you mention with good personal votes have surnames that come from the early(ish) part of the alphabet. I think it is fairly well accepted that candidates do better the higher up the ballot paper they are.  So the key to the election is nothing to do with Billy Wilder, and everything to do with having a name like Amelia Aardvark.”

And finally, for this evening, tomorrow a big announcement is due from UKIP. On Twitter I asked what this news might be.  One or two people have been very unkind.  Someone said that Carol Vordeman had been chosen as their new leader. Not likely, you don’t need someone who is so good with numbers to count the UKIP vote.  Another suggestion was that they were forming a coalition with the BNP.  Even I don’t find that amusing. Calling for a Yes vote for further European integration? I like that one. “They are going to hell???!!!”  Maybe, but not because of their politics.

Watch out for the announcement due tomorrow.  My ‘source’ within UKIP has provided me with details of the announcement.  All I will say is “Watch out, Harris Fitch.  You may just be outflanked on the campaign to save the No 2.”

The highlight of the election to date: the emergence of another Fitch saving the No 2 bus to Rottingdean

Warren Morgan has brought news that will cause celebrations in every street in the City of Brighton and Hove: another Fitch is to make his political debut in this May’s local elections. Harris Fitch, a relation of the Legend that is Brian, is standing as the Labour candidate in the Socialist Republic of Rottingdean Coastal. I am absolutely thrilled since it gives me more opportunity to recall the heroic and largely successful election campaigns of the said Brian. The Political Life of Brian is the stuff of legend. He may not be the Messiah, but he has been known, on occasions, to be a very naughty boy. I think I may have met Harris Fitch and, if my memory serves me correctly, was impressed by his enthusiasm and red-blooded socialism. I await sight of his election address which will no doubt feature large his intention to save the Number 2 bus to Rottingdean which, I am reliably informed, is in imminent threat of being cut.

Labour’s full list of candidates in Rottingdean Coastal is: Harris Fitch, Tony Frisby and Mike Adams (not the Mickey Adams, surely?). Frisby? Next we will have a couple of candidates called Kitcat! Warren also advises that Labour’s candidates in Woodingdean are Julian Hayes and Sue Burns. He says that Labour will update the website with their details soon.

Warren also says that if you want to know more about Labour’s candidates in St Peters and North Laine you should look at their Facebook page. Problem is, Warren, you have to sign up to Facebook to view the page, and Facebook is so …. yesterday! Does Labour have a cunning plan in St Peters and North Laine? Are they creating a sense of intrigue, believing less is more by limiting information about its candidates, creating a sense of mystery? Or is there a problem with one or more of its candidates ….? Surely not. As the website says: “Adrian Morris is a great guy and a real supporter of your community.” Sources close to Adrian are whispering (perhaps whispering is not the right term) some interesting things….

Warren also reports that Bernie Katz is unwell, possibly in hospital. For all who know Bernie, we wish him the very best for a full and speedy recovery.

Finally, Warren makes a fair point regarding the Tories and the Greens: “Can you point me to the comprehensive online lists of the Green and Tory candidates? The Tory website was taken offline after it was pointed ou that most of it was in Latin, and Google can’t find their site. A list of candidates is not readily apparent on the local Green website.” Come on Greens, publish a list of all your candidates.

You think Moulsecoomb and Bevendean could go Tory, or Labour, even Green, in May’s local elections

Last night’s prediction that the Conservatives may win all three seats in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean has prompted an interesting response. No surprise that Peter Booth, Tory candidate in East Brighton agrees with my prediction: “Completely agree with your assessment in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean. Maria is a hard-working and popular Councillor and is joined in this campaign by Ayas Fallon-Khan who has gained a solid reputation on Council – and predict all 3 Conservatives will win through.”  Baron Pepperpot (flattery will get you nowhere with me!) couldn’t disagree more: “three Tories in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean? At a time when the cuts will start to bite?”

Allie Cannell makes a prediction that I don’t see as likely: “I’m predicting the Greens will get a seat in M&S. There are over 2,000 students just living in University residences there.   Thats not even counting all the students living in private accomodation.”  The problem with that view is that students are not that likely to turn out in large volumes in a Kemptown seat, even for Green candidates in a local election.  If I am wrong, then all bets are off regarding the final make-up of the Council.  3 Green candidates in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean would suggest major gains by the Greens across the city.  Allie is not alone, Christopher Hawtree is predicting that “the Greens could do well in Moulescoomb.”

Kelvin Poplett, another East Brighton Conservative, says: “Surprisingly- I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Booth. From our time spent knocking on the doors in traditional Labour areas, we are finding Conservatives everywhere. Through sheer hard work we may just surprise you.”  You would surprise me if you found enough Tory votes to unseat Mitchell, Turton and Morgan. Peter Booth says that the Tories in East Brighton “are David against Goliath – Yes we oppose your particular favourite (and that favouritism does shine through in your blog) but do not under-estimate the campaign of East Brighton Conservatives – who are all in this campaign – fighting for every vote until 10pm on 5th May, and who may just surprise you and your friend Mr Morgan. There are no no-go areas in East Brighton for EB Conservatives!”  I have no favourites (other than Green Amy but she never writes, never calls – thanks to Dan Wilson for that line).

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke asks: “Is Mr Morgan rattled I wonder!, This ward has never been worked by the tories has it Peter?”.  Actually, that’s not true and it did go Tory in the early 1990s when it was Marine Ward.

My “favourite” Warren Morgan, draws attention to the fall-out in 2007 from the stock transfer issue that so damaged Labour: “Woodingdean looks pretty safe for the Tories based on the 2007 results, but interestingly the ward was split three ways at the GE count with the Lib Dem matching Simons Burgess and Kirby.  The traditionally strong Labour vote in Woodingdean (we did win a seat there in the 90s) was artificially depressed there in 2007 by the stock transfer vote fallout, as it was in Portslade, Moulsecoomb and Queens Park. Geoff is busy being mayor and Dee is busy with Cabinet duties which may explain DAPs comment above. We’ve selected some keen, new candidates both there and in Rottingdean Coastal, all hopeful of putting up a good campaign and earning safer seats next time (as BPB said in an earlier post). And complacency is a stealthy enemy in politics, as some of my colleagues found out last time.  Don’t forget in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean that the Respect candidate Dave Bangs scored over 300 votes last time (equivalent to a constituency wide Respect/Socialist vote at a GE) capitalising on the stock transfer issue, and with what he portrayed as the endorsement of two retiring councillors. And yes, the students will be a factor, particularly if they vote tactically for Labour rather than the Greens who are not in contention in M&B.”

Clive points to another issue that damaged Labour in 2007: “Another elephant that is no longer in the room is the King Alfred. Last time, this surely helped the Tories in Westbourne, Central Hove and (to a lesser extent) Goldsmid.”  He also points out the state of the parties in national polls: “the national opinion polls in April 2007 – just before the last local elections – were, taking a rough average of all taken: Conservative 37, Labour 31, LD 19. Therefore it’s hard not to conceive of Labour enjoying some kind of general uplift given that they are now polling around ten points ahead of that.”  The counter argument to that, Clive, at least in Brighton Pavilion, is the Caroline Effect and how that constituency should be seen apart from the national position.

The good Baron agrees with my assessment for Queens Park where he lives, that “it’s too close to call, but I’m not sure you’re right about which Labour candidate would be returned in the event of a split vote.”

Finally, a couple of comments have been left on this blog earlier today which are not in the spirit of debate and friendly provocation.  I haven’t approved one as it may contain a libel or two, and I have removed another offending reference in another.  Please keep to the spirit of the blog.  I really don’t want to have to moderate comments left.

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.

Predicting Green gains in Preston Park and Hollingdean & Stanmer in May’s local elections

Yesterday Luke Walter made some really interesting observations about changing demographics in areas outside the town centre (see yesterday’s post).  He noted that Green supporters from the town centre wards are moving to more outlying areas which could result in electoral gains for the Greens in areas such as Hollingdean and Stanmer.  (For the record, Luke is standing in Hollingdean and Stanmer for the Greens). 

As you would expect, Labour activists have responded.  Dan Wilson, the thoughtful Labour candidate in Regency ward has written: “I don’t disagree with Luke’s view of how Brighton and Hove is changing. But I would note that his critique of change relies on Labour being in govt. I think a coalition at Westminster combined with a Tory council locally is a salient difference on the doorstep in 2011. It’s a precarious situation out there. Clear anti-Tory sentiment, I sense a lack of clarity of where the Liberal support will land, massive numbers of Green/Labour switchers. And who knows what they will do. Good canvassing for us lately but proving hard to crystallise the Labour vote as ever but it is so different from a year ago and the run up to the General Election. I am quite surprised the Greens aren’t doing more to protect their flank.”

My prediction is that the Green vote in Brighton Pavilion will harden, resulting in comfortable Green wins in St Peters and North Laine, Hanover and Elm Grove, and Regency.  I also think that the Greens will pick up at least one extra seat in Preston Park in addition to the one already held by Amy Kennedy.

Hollingdean and Stanmer is harder to predict, but in each election where a party has momentum unexpected results are achieved (as with Amy Kennedy in Preston Park last time). I suspect that H&S will be the ‘breakthrough ward’ for the Greens this time, defeating established Labour councillors.  I have previously said that ousting Labour’s Jeane Lepper is the big ask, and I doubt whether all the factors are there for this to happen.  She will survive because of Labour’s relative strengthening in the polls but more importantly (and this is why I single her out) her reputation in the ward which others underestimate. I think H&S result will go 2 Green and Jeane Lepper.

The Greens may well strengthen their position in Patcham and even Westdene, but I doubt whether they will run the sitting Tories even close.

So in Brighton Pavilion, my prediction is the Greens returning 12 councillors, the Tories 6 and Labour 2.

  • Hanover and Elm Grove: 3 Greens
  • Hollingean and Stanmer: 2 Greens and 1 Labour
  • Patcham: 3 Conservatives
  • Preston Park: 2 Greens and 1 Labour
  • Regency: 2 Greens
  • St Peters and North Laine: 3 Greens
  • Westdene: 3 Conservatives

In the next couple of days I will share my predictions for Hove and Brighton Kemptown (including a sensational prediction for Rottingdean Coastal!).