Forget the Westbourne by-election: prepare for the next Battle of Hastings

While the Eurozone is in meltdown and International Capitalism is in crisis, the goldfish bowl of Brighton and Hove politics sees little further than the Green’s budget. The trenches of this battleground are concentrated in a few streets in Hove in Westbourne Ward. This first test of the Green administration is fascinating, with activists cheering on their own champions: Louisa Greenbaum (Green), Graham Cox (Conservative) and Nigel Jenner (Labour).

The UKIP candidate in the Westbourne by-election is being cheered on very loudly by Paul Perrin who is, by coincidence, the UKIP candidate in the Westbourne by-election. The candidates of the other parties have no cheerleaders, no one to defend their honour, and they make a sad sight as they trudged the streets, looking for a sympathy vote. How they would love a Christopher Hawtree, a Momma Grizzly, a Caroline Penn. At this time of peace and goodwill to all please take pity on the candidates for the Lib Dems, TUSC and the European Movement for the Annex of Schleswig-Holstein (I suspect I might have got that last one wrong – bloody predictive text).

But while the pavements of Westbourne are being pounded by the usual suspects, east of the centre of the Universe, in Hastings and Rye, a fascinating local skirmish is developing. It is a fascinating area where at the general election the constituency went from Labour to Conservative while on the same day the town council went from Conservative to Labour control.

The highly popular and well-respected Labour MP, Michael Foster, was defeated by the formidable Blue Tory Lady, Amber Rudd. Her cause was helped by the addition of Tory-stronghold of Rye to the constituency. Since polling day she has carefully nurtured the constituency, making friends and influencing people. As a constituency MP she will be hard to shift, although the backlash against the Tories and their Lib Dem poodles will keep this as a marginal seat. One fears for the future of the decent Stephen Lloyd in Eastbourne while Lord Baker of Lewes is set for higher things (the House of Lords) where he won’t have to renege on written pledges to his constituents.

But hark (a Christmas reference) who is that emerging from stage left, to challenge the incumbent? Who is this apprentice politician hoping to say to Ms. Rudd, “You’re fired!”. (And why this ever-so feeble attempt to mimic Lord Sugar?). For it is Sarah Owen, the newly selected Labour candidate.

Sarah is currently political advisor to Lord Sugar and is helping to develop Labour’s national small business policy. Previously she worked in the emergency planning department of the London Fire Brigade. And just in case My Pal Paul is worried that she might have worked in a genuine small business, thereby ruining his belief that all Labour, Tory and Green politicians have never worked in the ‘real world’, she did work as a ‘political assistant’ at … Brighton and Hove City Council!

And how did Ms Rudd react to Ms Owen’s selection? A little back-handed compliment: “It will be nice to have a new voice in Hastings and Rye for people on behalf of Labour.”

There’s more to this election that just Brighton Pavilion. Tactical voting remains so important

I am in danger of presenting the general election as being about just one campaign – that in Brighton Pavilion.  In fact Roy Greenslade, a titan of the newspaper industry (and I do mean that sincerely) almost suggested that when he said on the Guardian’s Greenslade Blog, that this was “a lively blog where the left-of-centre author appears to be enthused by the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas.

In Hove, it is looking increasingly likely that there will be a Tory win, although Celia Barlow pulled off one of the most amazing results last time by holding the seat.  Greens are suggesting that it is a lost cause for Labour so anti-Tories can vote according to their preference.   Don’t vote Green in Hove, not in this election.  Wait until the Greens have developed their base beyond the solitary but high profile and impressive Alex Phillips.

In Brighton Kemptown Green Ben Duncan is putting up a bit of a show, but he will come nowhere near ousing the anti-Tory challenge of Simon Burgess.  Again, don’t vote Green this time around in Kemptown.  Vote tactically for Simon Burgess.

So in Brighton and Hove, I am advocating tactical voting for Labour in Brighton Kemptown and in Hove, and definitely a tactical vote and a principled vote for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion.

In Hastings in Rye I have always been impressed by the work ethic of Michael Foster who is defending the seat against the Tory, Amber Rudd.  Please give a tactical vote for Labour in Hastings.  Michael may not set the world on fire, but he has been an excellent MP.

In Lewes it has to be the Liberal Democrat, Stormin’ Norman Baker.  If Mandelson is to New Labour what Portillo was to the last Tory Government, then the re-election of Norman Baker will be the worst thing possible for Mandelson.

Finally, the election in Eastbourne is turning nasty where sitting Tory MP Nigel Watersons in real danger of losing to the Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd.  All Labour and Green supporters must vote Lib Dem in Eastbourne.  If Stephen wins, it won’t be the last we will hear of Waterson – he has already threatened to see Lloyd in Court over an election leaflet.  Who would have thought it, nasty politics in Eastbourne.

90 days to go until the General Election – Tactical Voting Campaign needed more than ever

If, as expected, the general election takes place on 6th May, there are just 90 days to go until polling day.  It has been said that a general election is decided by less than 100,000 voters, those ‘swing’ voters in key marginals whose votes decide which party gets a majority.  In some constituencies, like Arundel, a monkey with a blue rosette would gain a majority – and in the past it seems that this has happened!

But tactical voting can change that.  Perviously this blog has called for tactical voting in eight of the sixteen Sussex seats.  There is a danger that all sixteen seats could go Conservative, but with tactical voting Sussex could yet return eight non-Conservatives.

The key seats are: Lewes (Tactical vote for the Lib Dem Norman Baker); Eastbourne (again Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd); Hastings and Rye (Labour Michael Foster); Hove (Labour’s Celia Barlow); Brighton Kemptown (tight call between Labour’s Simon Burgess and the Green’s Ben Duncan); Brighton Pavilion (the Green’s Caroline Lucas); Crawley (Labour’s Laura Moffatt); and Worthing East and Shoreham (Labour’s Emily Benn).

This blog previously called for tactical voting in Worthing East and Shoreham for the Lib Dems, but such is the disorganisation and incompetence of that party in West Sussex that it has yet to select a candidate!  The website for the Worthing Lib Dems is one of the most inadequate websites I have ever seen.  The campaigns tag takes you to an empty page! It demonstrates that the Lib Dems cannot be taken seriously as the third party of British politics and should really stand aside in key seats such as Brighton Pavilion and Worthing East and Shoreham.  Therefore, this blog is changing its recommendation and is calling for tactical voting for Labour’s Emily Benn, granddaughter of Tony Benn and niece of Hilary Benn.  Alas, she does not share their politics.

By contrast, the website of the Lib Dem candidate in Worthing West and Arun, Hazel Thorpe, is lively and impressive.  Unfortunately, Hazel (who I personally admire) has little chance of success but nevertheless, this blog urges all Labour and Green supporters to vote tactically for Hazel Thorpe.

My next blog will review the two Brighton seats.

A Tactical Vote in Hastings and Rye is a Labour Vote

Until 1992, the Lib Dems seemed best placed to challenge the Tories in Hastings and Rye, but swept up in the Labour landslide, it went Labour in 1997.  Michael Jabez Foster, a local employment law solicitor and former councillor has been the Labour MP ever since.  Much respected by supporters of all parties, Foster has a large personal vote that could just save him at the General Election. That and tactical voting by Lib Dems and Greens.

Against Foster are Amber Rudd (Conservative) and Nick Perry (Lib Dem).  Amber is working hard and is gaining some local respect. She is the managing director of a recruitment and consultancy firm and contested Liverpool Garston in 2005. Nick Perry is a social worker and a graduate of Cambridge University.

The 2005 result:

Conservative: 16081 (37.4%)
Labour: 18107 (42.1%)
Liberal Democrat: 6479 (15.1%)
Green: 1032 (2.4%)
UKIP: 1098 (2.6%)
Other: 207 (0.5%)
Majority: 2026 (4.7%)

Boundary changes give a slight advantage to the Conservatives.  The UK Polling Report  has adjusted the 2005 result to reflect the boundary changes and reports a notional 2005 result as follows:
Labour: 18528 (40.7%)
Conservative: 17323 (38.1%)
Liberal Democrat: 7229 (15.9%)
Other: 2418 (5.3%)
Majority: 1205 (2.6%)

This is definitely a seat that can return a non-Conservative IF Lib Dems and Greens do the sensible thing.

Tactical Voting in Sussex

Following on from my call for tactical voting in Brighton Pavilion at the next General Election, here are my recommendations for tactical voting elsewhere in Sussex:

Crawley: Labour (Laura Moffatt – sitting MP, well-regarded locally, hard working, good record on expenses!)

Lewes: Lib Dem (Norman Baker – Stormin’ Norman, the sitting MP and persecutor of Mandleson. The most exceptional opposition MP)

Eastbourne: Lib Dem (Stephen Lloyd – a typically hard working Lib Dem, taking up grass routes issues and making a good name for himself))

Hastings & Rye: Labour (Michael Foster -sitting MP who has earned good reputation locally and can expect strong personal vote)

Brighton Kemp Town: Labour (Simon Burgess – hoping to replace Des Turner. Respected former leader of the City Council. A decent man)

Brighton Pavilion: Green (Carolline Lucas – Leader of the Green Party, MEP for the South East. Likely to become the Greens first ever MP)

Hove: Labour (Celia Barlow – sitting MP, surprise winner in 2005. Works hard but has expensive taste in bathroom furniture ….)

Shoreham and Worthing East: Lib Dem (no candidate selected yet, which is a weakness, but in Emily Benn Labour doesn’t have a particularly strong candidate)

There you have it. 4 recommendations for Labour, 3 for the Lib Dems, and 1 for the Greens. If the supporters of each of the non-recommended parties voted for the recommendations above, then 8 non-Conservatives could be returned from Sussex.

I will comment more on each constituency in the weeks to come. Please let me have your comments and views on the various campaigns – their strengths and weaknesses.