The Greens are yet to reach their peak – next stop Hove and Portslade

I thought that the Greens would do well in Thursday’s elections, and they did. But I had doubts where that Party goes next. I felt that there were certain limitations to their reach. I was sure that the Geens would extend their reach to the maximum at this election, and then the challenge would be to hold that position at the next general election (no difficulty there) but defending their council seats might be a challenge. I have changed my mind because of the results on Thursday.

In Brighon Pavilion, the Greens are now challenging in the Tory heartlands. The Normans, Anne and Ken, will not stand again in Withdene and the Greens, having won one seat and having come close in a second, will have high hopes of winning all 3 seats in May 2015. In Hollingdean and Stanmer, Jeane Lepper, now the sole Labour councillor in Brighton Pavilion, will not stand again, leaving the way open for Luke Walter to join Sven Rufus and Christina Summers on the Council.

And there is the final frontier, Pacham. The Theobald Machine held firm once more, but with a local council election being held on the same day as a probable general election, everything is up for grabs. And will any of the current three councillors stand again? Brian Pidgeon will retire, and Carol and Geoffrey Theobald must be considering when it will be the right time to call time.

Three years and 363 days out I am making this prediction – the Greens will win EVERY seat in Brighton Pavilion in 2015.

I will comment on Brighton Kemptown at a later date, but I think that, for the Greens, Hove and Portslade is where their future lies. After Thursday, the Greens have 6 seats, Labour have 6, and the Tories 8 seats. The Greens have consolidated its first and only seat in Goldsmid where Alex Phillips led a strong campaign to win a seat off the Tories and to defeat Melanie Davis who was a strong candidate and respected councillor.

But it is Christopher Hawtree’s breakthrough in Central Hove that changes everything. That single gain shows what is possible, and the Greens must already have begun to eye Westbourne, Wish, and the other seat in Central Hove. The Portslades, North and South, have similar demographics to Hollingdean and Stanmer, and both will become vulnerable should (as is likely) both Bob Carden and Les Hamilton stand down in 2015.

And then there is Hangleton and Knoll, a large ward which, again, like Hollingdean and Stanmer, is an area where the Greens could thrive. Dawn Barnett and Brian Fitch are no longer spring chickens, and won’t go on and on and on. Does Brian have another campaign in him (probably) but will he want to be a councillor, should he be re-elected in 2015, will be approaching 80 at the end of that term in office.

So why all this speculation about 2015? If the Greens begin building in Hove, establishing a local organisation in each of these wards (don’t fall for Labour’s mistake and run everything from a High Command), and get a dynamic parliamentary candidate in place sooner rather than later, who can support, motivate, encourage, nurture the party in Hove, then there will be a further Caroline Effect, although it could come to be known as the Alex Effect …..

Congratulations to the Greens for making history in Brighton and Hove

I must first of all start by congratulating the Greens on a result that exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. It exceeded mine. I thought the Greens would end up with 21 or 22 seats. I didn’t expect the two amazing results in Withdene where Sue Shanks topped the poll, nor Christopher Hawtree’s sensational efforts in Central Hove. I suspect that Green High Command had some doubts, but one man did not share them – Chris Hawtree himself.

The Greens have emerged from this election with 23 councillors (including 6 in Hove, up from 1), the Tories are down to 18 and Labour have remained static with 13. The Lib Dems have been wiped out as predicted, hoped for and encouraged by this Blogger. Labour now has just one councillor in Brighton Pavilion where the Greens are now winning in Tory strongholds.

Before touching on other results, can I mention those sitting councillors who have lost their seats. Politics can be cruel, and election losses for sitting politicians offers no hiding place. Focus is on those who have been victorious, but this evening we should pause to thank the following for their service to the City, often at a cost that ordinary citizens, even party activists, don’t see and can’t always appreciate: Paul Elgood, David Watkins, Jan Young, Melanie Davis, Ayas Fallon-Khan, Pat Hawkes, Christine Simpson, Maria Caulfield, Trevor Alford, Kevin Allen, Juliet McCaffery, Steve Harmer-Strange, Ted Kemble.

I got one result hopelessly wrong – Moulsecoomb and Bevendean – where I felt that Maria Caulfield would win and, on her coat tails, Ayas Fallon-Khan (moving from Goldsmid) and Cath Slater (well known locally) would cause an upset in Labour’s back yard. I was wrong. And so I eat Humble Pie (though I do prefer Sugar Puffs). And congratulations to Labour’s team in M&B, Leigh Farrow, Mo Marsh and mayor-elect, Anne Meadows. This result, along with the return of the Legend that is Brian Fitch in Hangleton and Knoll, the anticipated gains by Penny Gilbey in North Portslade and Alan Robins in South Portslade, and the unexpected election of Anne Pissaridou in Wish, were the few positives on a day when it seemed the Greens were conquering everything before it.

A bitter-sweet result, and one predicted in this blog, was Jeane Lepper successfully defending her seat in Hollingdean and Stanmer. A combination of the Lepper name and Jeane’s own reputation as a hard-working and effective caseworker saw her survive. One of the few errors the Greens made this year was to underestimate Jeane Lepper.

A quick word on the one Green who was not successful in H&S, Luke Walter. Luke must be incredibly disappointed tonight, but he should be proud of his achievements. He probably worked harder than any candidate in H&S, but electoral politics can be unfair, especially when your surname begins with a W or a Y (ask Jan Young). Luke has the advantage of age on his side, and his time will come before long. (I will be blogging on the fortunes of all the young candidates in the near future. None of them, other than sitting councillor, Alex Phillips, who I heard described as the “Baby of the Chamber” today, was elected.

But the day belonged to the Greens who, I understand, were in celebratory mood when they retired to the Cricketers Pub for an orange juice after the count. Never before in the United Kingdom have the Greens become the largest group on a Council, and this is the largest group of Greens ever elected (what do you think of that, Norwich?). So congratulations to all newly and re-elected Greens throughout Brighton AND HOVE. I will blog more on the Greens remarkable achievements and the challenges that lie ahead in the next few days. But for now, enjoy the night, encourage Bill Randall to go wild and have another lemonade, return to your constituencies and prepare for ….. I’m not sure. A coalition? A minority administration? Definitely Christopher Hawtree to be Lead Councillor for Libraries! Congratulations, All.

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.

We’ll weather the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not

A heavy storm descended over Brighton and Hove earlier this evening. I was returning home from a dinner at the Lodge in honour of the Royal Couple when I was soaked through to the skin by a terrible down pour. We can all be grateful that the Fairy Tale marriage was blessed by wonderful sunshine.

But it made me think of Thursday and the impact the weather might have on the result. Rain all day will produce a very low turnout, and all bets are off as to who will win overall. In areas such as Patcham, with the organisation and resources of the Theobalds, any Green challenge will fail hopelessly. In a ward such as Regency, with all polling stations in close proximity to where voters live, the weather will have less of an impact and would impact equally on Labour and Green turnout.

But rain during the day, clearing up and becoming sunny around 6pm will favour Labour and the Greens. The Tories, traditionally, get their core vote out during the day. Heavy rain will frustrate their efforts and would make some of the secondary challenges by Labour and the Greens more effective. It could make Hove as a whole very unpredictable. Take Westbourne, Wish, Central Hove, North Portslade, South Portslade, and Hangleton and Knoll wards, all Tory candidates will be hoping (and in the case of Bishop Brian Oxley, praying) that it won’t rain on Thursday.

By contrast, rain in the early evening could well see the return of a Tory controlled Council. Labour and the Greens will struggle to get its vote out and the Tories will retain all its seats in Hove, and pick up a couple in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. It could also make gains in the west of Hove.

Glorious sunshine should help ensure that turnout is not embarrassingly low in an election that has, in all truth, failed to capture the imagination.

My hope is for rain in the day, giving way to a fresh, warm late afternoon and evening. That will most benefit the Greens and Labour, ensuring that a Green/Red coalition becomes a real prospect.

A good weekend for Labour, but what is it with Warren and the Sugar Puffs?

It’s been a good weekend for Labour, particularly in Hanover and Elm Grove and in Queens Park. Activists by the dozen descended on these wards in a major push for Labour. Baron Pepperpot writes: “Loads of Labour supporters out in Queens Park today, and if I’m not mistaken, I thought I saw Cllr Morgan at the monument that bares my name… No sugar puffs in hand though, although he does look like a big cuddly honey monster…… Queens Park is going red…”. Another Baron, this one Herkonnen, says of the numbers who turned out, “over 60 in fact, met at pepperpot and split between QP and H + EG”.

Yes, it was a good turnout, but will it make the difference? In Queens Park it might just, but I think that Labour is deceiving itself if it thinks it can unseat the Buddha (Bill Randall).

Labour would have been better advised to have directed it’s resources to seats at risk, such as Hollingdean and Stanmer. Labour remains deluded about its prospects, believing it can win in wards such as Brunswick and Adelaide.

Where Labour is heading for an absolutely thumping result is East Brighton. Warren Morgan, whose account of the campaign can largely be relied on, writes: “On Saturday in my ward alone we spoke to 100 people, 70 of them uncontacted since 2007 or earlier, or never contacted at all. 65 voters were Labour, and just three admitted to being Tory. We’ve been doorknocking every week for a year. You do the maths. And in terms of voter contact we are nowhere near the top of the Labour held/target wards.”

Actually, Waren’s last comment is one that I take issue with. Unlike East Brighton, few other wards have the Labour activists to carry out a complete canvass. Queens Park, thanks to Tom French’s singleminded determination, is an exception.

In Hove, Labour is running quiet yet effective campaignsin South Portslade and North Portslade, nothing exciting but enough to challenge for both seats in each ward. The Labour campaign in Hangleton and Knoll isn’t great, but the Brian Fitch Machine should see The Legend elected.

It is being suggested that Celia Barlow has disappeared from the fight in Central Hove, even that she isn’t registered to vote in the election. Can anyone shed light on this.

And finally, Harris Fitch, showing wisdom beyond his years, asks the question that needs answering. He asks: “What is this Sugar Puff thing?”. Yes, Warren, come clean, please tell all….

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!

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).

Greens announce that 83.4% of its candidates are NOT gay

In a shock statement by the Green Party, it announced that 45 of its 54 candidates in May’s local elections are not from the LGBT community.  Actually, what the Greens announced was that nine of its candidates are gay.  That’s just 16.6% of its candidates, a lower ratio than the LGBT population in Brighton as a whole.

Political parties should be careful about making proud statements without thinking through the unexpected consequences.  On this occasion, the Green Party is making much of a modest boast.

Having said that, the Greens do have a strong track record on LGBT issues, on issues around domestic violence and community safety.  But then, so does the Labour Party which (from my knowledge of various candidates) might just be fielding more LGBT candidates than the Greens (although I am not about to out them).

I look forward to a time when Brighton and Hove has matured to the point where it no longer is necessary to mention the sexual orientation of candidates.

However, here is what Phelim Mac Cafferty, Chair of National LGBT Greens and Green candidate in Brunswick and Adelaide, had to say: “I’m delighted that the Green Party has selected nine LGBT candidates to fight for the Green Party at the council elections.  It speaks volumes about Green values that we are standing so many LGBT council candidates for the elections in the LGBT ‘capital’ of the United Kingdom.  The Green Party in Brighton and Hove has a proud history of standing up for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people.”

For the record, the LGBT Green candiates are Anthea Ballam, Central Hove; Dave Walsh, North Portslade; Stephen Watson, South Portslade; Martin Ashby, Hangleton and Knoll; Stuart Hay, Rottingdean Coastal; Geoffrey Bowden and Steph Powell, Queens Park; Mike Jones, Preston Park; and Phelim McCafferty, Brunswick and Adelaide.