Westbourne by-election: comments that open up the sluices at both ends

Apologies for my silence. I’ve not been well. Three days with, as Monty Python said in regard to some Australian table wine, the sluices were opened up at both ends! That’s already too much detail for my three regular readers (Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave. So Cool Soosie seems to have abandoned me).

I have just reviewed a few dozen comments on this blog and the overwhelming majority seem to be attacking the Green candidate, Louisa Greenbaum. It is quite obvious that Labour and Tory activists seem to think that Louisa is the front runner. And they are probably right.

Caroline Penn is one whose comments are normally positive about her candidate, Nigel Jenner, and lists his qualities. She makes a reasonable attack on the Tories for the closure of Hove Police Station.

Another Labour supporter, Gloria Van de Lay (who has teased me mercilessly in DM’s) describes Nigel as “locally resident” living, as he does, just outside the ward. She also sees the Tory record on policing as a weakness of the Tory campaign. I wouldn’t write Graham Cox’s chances off. He is an extremely strong candidate, is well known in the area, and is one of the most single-minded individuals I have ever met, judging from his record as the Top Cop in Hove some years back.

Having listed Louisa’s various interests from her Facebook page, Gloria announces that, on balance, she advocates a vote for Nigel. Fancy that. She is also beastly to the Lib Dem candidate, Gareth Jones. For me to defend a Lib Dem, well that how OTT she has been. I agree with Simon Williams, the former Green councillor, who suggests she lies down in a darkened room for a while.

Steampunk claims most of the Green councillors are over 70 but look younger due to healthy green lifestyles. He says that Alex Phillips is the youngest at 43. A brave man to take on Lady Everton. Careful crossing the road, Punk. You don’t want to be run over by a Big Lemon.

My Pal Paul (Perrin), the UKIP candidate, bemoans another party employee running for office. I understand Louisa works just 10 hours a week for the Greens. But why should it matter anyway? He also notes that Louisa was the Green’s ‘first’ candidate last time. A strong point in her favour, I would imagine, given that three of the other candidates stood elsewhere as recently as May. Her track record strengthens her position.

Paul also says that I have “really lost it” – I got his age wrong (he seems to have taken offence at giving his age as 14 and three quarters!) and guessing that my “beloved Louisa” was in her 30’s when she is, in fact, a male in her 50’s. Actually, she is 41. Paul says that I am “squandering whatever good will (I) have had in the past…”. Well, thank goodness for that. As long as Doris, Biker Dave and Grizzly still love me, I’m happy.

Linda F (a Young Tory, me thinks, under 50 anyway) joins the ranks of the Green bashers, mentioning the schools attended by Louisa (Leeds Girls’ High School) and a couple other Greens, as well as putting the boot into Nigel Jenner for attending Brighton College. I heard a rumour that the Tory Party leader, Dave Cameron, his mate Boy George, and several others in his Cabinet went to Eton, while his fag (not a derogatory term but indicates a junior boy who does the bidding of a prefect at a private school) Nick Clegg went to the inferior Westminster School.

My spiritual friend, Ghost, identifies some of Louisa’s advantages in this by-election, second on the ballot, the only woman, and an established profile in the ward.

Pete Gillman, like Caroline Penn, makes a characteristically positive intervention by focusing on issues, although he might be being a bit melodramatic by suggesting the Greens wanted “easy access to hard drugs and legalised brothels if they had their way.”

Mike Weatherley has gone out to show a united front with Graham Cox, promoting him on Twitter and canvassing for him. But the cause of unity is not helped by Valerie Paynter, the biggest fan of The People’s Mike in Hove. She challenges Graham: “You say you agree with Mike Weatherley ‘on most issues’. I wonder, could you tell us, on what named issues you disagree?”. Not helpful Ms Paynter, well not for the Tory cause.

My Pal Paul says this by-election will make no difference unless, of course, he is elected. I think he may beat the Lib Dems into 4th place, but not more. But RobS (who graces us with his presence, says that “the election of a Green is the one result that DOES make a difference to the running of the council. True it doesn’t change overall control, of course, but when a minority administration is running a council, an extra voice and an extra presence for committees etc. can improve the quality of council management and decision making.”

Apologies for the length of this post, but needed to catch up with you all. In your comments, please keep them fair and reasonable.

Exploring the Green breakthrough in Preston Park and Labour’s successful defence

Councillor Warren Morgan has pointed out a basic error I made in a recent post when I talked of the election of Green councillor Amy Kennedy as a ‘breakthrough’ result. He asks “Why was Amy Kennedy’s result in Preston Park in 2007 ‘unexpected’? The Green’s had won a seat in 2003 with Richard Mallender, who I think then went off to be a councillor elsewhere.”

You are right, as usual, Warren, and I apologise for this error. However, I don’t agree with his next comment that “the unexpected thing at that point was that unlike in other wards previously where they had established a foothold, the Greens did not go on to win all three seats. In fact the other two Green candidates (including the then serving councillor Simon Williams who moved a la Sven Rufus) finished a good four to five hundred votes behind.”

My recollection was that the Greens, rightly at that time, felt that the prospects of winning more than one seat in that election were remote. They therefore concentrated their efforts on getting Green Amy elected. Warren points out that the two sitting Labour councillors, Juliet McCaffery and Kevin Allen had gained popularity over the school admissions debacle. That is no longer a live issue.

Allie Cannell points out that 4 years is a long time in electoral terms. Yes, Warren, the Greens success has largely been achieved at a time of an unpopular Labour government, but locally there’s the Caroline Effect which off-sets any reclaiming by Labour of lost ground. A line that Labour has spun in the past is a vote fornthe Greens could see a Tory elected. That line will no longer wash.

In fact, I have spoken to people who voted Labour at the general election because they believed the Labour line that a vote for Lucas would result in the election of Charlotte ‘Chuck’ Vere. When Caroline was elected, they felt cheated and several people have said to me that, even though they would normally vote Labour, this election they will be voting Green to make up for not having voted Green last time.

In Preston Park it is a fight between Labour and the Greens, and I believe that the Greens will make a gain here. Similarly, the Greens will also make a breakthrough in Hollingdean and Stanmer for this and other reasons.

Doorstep Brighton 9: A Round Up of Campaigning for May’s Local Elections

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke has an interesting take on Hollingdean and Stanmer which will bring joy to the heart of Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates).  The Ghost believes that the Green’s Sven Rufus will do well enough in Hollingdean and Stanmer to take enough votes away from the Labour candidates (Jeane Lepper, Pat Hawkes and Christine Simpson) to allow one Tory through the middle.  If this was to be the case, then it would be Christine Simpson who would lose out (little known and disadvantaged by the order on the ballot paper) and Momma Grizzly would emerge victorious given that she would be the Tory at the top of the ballot paper (the other Tories being Robert Labs and Patrick Loewe).  However, I really don’t think that scenario will be played out.  If there is to be a split result, it will be Sven Rufus and Jeane Lepper elected, and choose one other from several.

Dan Wilson is convinced that the electorate won’t be fooled by the 1% cut in Council Tax.  They are, he says, smarter than Mary Mears or I give them credit for.  However, he thinks that the cost of parking permits may be more successful: “I think if you want to compare the Mearcon to a masterplan, looking at her move on resident parking is more persuasive. That’s clever, attractive to many and also brassy in its cynicism. Straw poll today and last evening is that a 1% decrease is of little interest. Plenty of people, however, are concerned about libraries, BrightStart and all manner of things.”  Christopher Hawtree agrees with Dan: “I have never heard anybody voice a particular objection to the Council tax.”  I think you are both probably right, but the 1% cut will have the effect of galvanizing Tory activists who seem excited by this measure.  I guess they need to be excited about something as the Big Society doesn’t quite seem to have motivated the troops.

Steampunk accuses me of attempting to “stir things ups amongst the opposition” which he says “are a distraction just now.”  Regarding the cuts he says “As you well know, the Conservative led council are implementing an ‘intelligent decomissioning’ process (conveniently timetabled to start after the election!) to decide which services to stop providing entirely and which ones to outsource to the lowest bidder. The budget proposal explains that these upcoming cuts won’t take full effect until the next financial year 2012/13 so the 250 jobs about to go are just the tip of the iceberg. The ‘intelligent’ part is the device by which every council service comes to be commissioned, either from the public sector, profit-motivated private sector or the voluntary sector (crippled by grant cuts despite warm words about the ‘big society’, and the empty invitation just a smoke screen for privatisation) – meaning that future job cuts will be dissembled.”  I agree with much of what Punky has said.  As for stirring things up in the opposition, that is not my intention, but I see little evidence of Labour being willing and able to work with the Greens.

Clive applauds Steampunks analysis, but has no kind work for your humble Blogger: “Remarkable that the BPB regards all this with chuckling indulgence, while still finding space to heap more abuse on Paul Elgood. If he isn’t Roy Pennington he might be Reg Prentice.”  Well, Clive, sometimes you have to laugh or else you’d cry.  I don’t mean to belittle what is happening to local government, the voluntary sector, the NHS, education, etc. etc.  Reg Prentice? Ouch!  As for Paul Elgood, can’t a boy/girl just have a little bit of fun.  What do others think?  Should I lay off Paul Elgood and the Lib Dems?  Your choice.  I could either ignore them completely for the relevance they are, or should I continue to make reference to their slow, well deserved demise?

On the Reg Prentice front, I have attracted support from an East Brighton Tory candidate, Peter Booth, who is determined to ruin my street credibility!  He writes that he fully agrees with my view that it will be great when it is no longer necessary to mention the sexual orientation of candidates. He writes: “The combined ‘left’ just do not see that this is not an issue anymore (well not in our party). Try NOT to live in the past. After all there are more openly gay Conservative MP’s than all other parties put together. For the record and before the criticisms start – 100% of the Conservative candidates standing in East Brighton are openly gay.”

Simon Williams, a very fine former Green councillor in Brighton and Hove, and someone for whom I have great respect, offers a very sensible response to my comment regarding the announcement by the Greens of their LGBT candidates: You need to remember they are talking to people in those groups probably more than to the wider ‘world’. Were we to enter some kind of prejudice free paradise where minority groups could feel safe and valued (we haven’t quite yet in the case of LGBT people despite many legal advances), it would still be important for progressive political parties to engage with and showcase their commitment to them. Announcing candidates who identify from these communities is a big part of that. Rather than see it as a defensive reaction against prejudice, progressive commentators should take pride in the fact that all the local main parties are courting these groups – it’s what makes local democratic politics tick. You suggest that LGBT population is more than 16% in Brighton & Hove. There’s no verifiable demographic measurement, obviously, but if you challenged me to a wager, I think 16%, as a finger in the air take, is about right.”  As expected, a thoughtful, insightful comment from Simon.  I would not wish to take issue with what he has said.
And finally, the innocent Christopher Hawtree is in a state of shock after being received by a naked lady.  I’m not sure who was the most excited by this encounter.  Certainly not excited by their encounter with this blog are those who are Googling ‘sex photo’ or ‘explicit sex photo’ and are being directed to the rather revealing picture of me posing in the shadows of Big Ben, wearing just a sheet and a rather alluring smile ….  Reg Prentice would certainly not approve!