Labour and the Greens must call a truce in Brighton and Hove

I know it is difficult, I know that in the heat of a keenly contested by-election it is natural to attack ones opponents, but Labour and the Greens must call a truce in Brighton and Hove.

Tomorrow we are likely to see unprecedented attacks on benefits, local government, essential services.  But in the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election the candidates are making claim and counter claim that is so very off-putting for those of us who might be sympathetic to both parties. 

Take the Greens.  Lizzie Deane in one of her leaflets says “Only a Green vote will stop the Tories from re-gaining a City Council majority”.  Nonsense.  In St Peter’s and North Laine a vote for either the Greens or Labour will prevent a Tory gain.  It was this kind of nonsense that I criticised after the general election, except on that occasion it was Labour making false claims.  Lizzie Deane should clarify this point if she is to be taken seriously as an ethical politician.

Tom French, who I must say is growing on me every time I have contact with him, is in danger of getting above and beyond himself with some of his statements. Today he dismisses the role of the Greens in the Lewes Road Community Garden.  Again, this is nonsense.  The Greens have been involved in this project from the outset.

Those of us not engaged in sectarian politics would want to wish both Labour and the Greens well.  Attacking each other – as if there ConDemNation coaltion was a mere sideshow – is a complete turnoff at this time.  To both Tom and Lizzie, please tell us about your plans and policies, and please refrain from commenting about each other, or their prospects in this by-election.  Do so, and I will wish you both well.

Are the Greens losing it in St Peter’s and North Laine?

The old St Peter’s Ward was the area where the Green Party made its first breakthrough in the City with the election of Pete West.  The party has dominated the seat ever since while the Greens have spread their influence into traditional Labour areas, ousting Labour’s leaders in Queens Park last time out.  The challenge for the Greens is to make in-roads into traditional Tory areas if it wishes to be the largest party after next year’s local elections.

Other than the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster, the greatest achievement of the Greens since the last locals was Alex Phillips’s stunning win in the Goldsmid by-election.  She is an impressive young woman, hard-working and very likeable.  Her campaign in that by-election had all the ingredients for a successful bye-election, and that is the approach that the Greens need next May.

So why on earth are the Greens running such a lacklustre, uninspiring campaign in the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election.  The qualities shown by Alex Phillips’s campaign are being replicated by Labour.  In Tom French they have an impressive young man, hard working and very likeable.  He seems to be everywhere and he is winning support from those who vote Green in local elections and who voted for Caroline Lucas.

In a recent exchange with the Green candidate, Lizzie Deane, I described myself as a critical friend of the Green Party.  I am not a Green, more tribal Labour.  In the general election I called for tactical voting throughout Sussex.  In only contest did I advocate a Green vote, and that is because I thought the Greens had a better chance of beating the Tories.  I will be taking the same approach next May, although I anticipate calling more seats for the Greens than for Labour.

The risk for the Greens is that the wholly inadequate campaign in St Peter’s and North Laine will give a huge boost for Labour, even if Tom French comes a close second.  This will give Labour the ‘Big Mo’ – momentum.  I hear that the Labour Party in St Peter’s and North Laine has a lively bunch of young activists who believe that they can win the seat, if not on July 8th but certainly next May.

St Peters and North Laine By-election: Where are the Greens?

Fresh from the success of Caroline Lucas in the general election, one would have expected the Greens to be all over St Peters and North Laine defending the seat vacated by Keith Taylor’s ‘elevation’ to the European Parliament.

But Green candidate, Lizzie Dean, has been noticeable by her absence.  She hasn’t updated her blog for a couple of weeks, and to date there have been no leaflets from her.

By contrast, the Labour candidate, Tom French, a likable young man, has been out and about, knocking on doors and getting himself known.  So too has the Tory candidate, Rob Buckwell.

St Peters and North Laine is the home of the Greens in Brighton, the ward where they gained their first seat over a decade ago.  The chances of them losing is remote, but a poor Green campaign and a strong showing by Labour could give that party the momentum it needs going into next year’s council elections.

Being criticised for my constructive criticism of Green councillors in Brighton Pavilion

Local thespian, Ralph Brown, has taken issue with my blogging style.  In a Tweet earlier this evening Ralph twittered: “@BrightonPolitic I’m afraid your blog is losing it’s grip. Innaccurate, attention-seeking and shit-stirring speculation. Must do better”.  There’s nothing more satisfying than being recognised by one’s peers!

What Ralph has taken issue with is my criticism of local Green councillors. Ralph’s reaction was just what I was hoping to avoid.  It is fine to take issue with what I say, but he offers no evidence to support his view that what I have written is inaccurate.  In fact, I was quoting an assertion he had made about Brighton’s Open Market and Green councillor Keith Taylor’s failure to campaign to save it. 

“Attention-seeking and shit-stirring speculation”?  On the contrary, I have written from the perspective of supporting Caroline Lucas, the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion.  I have called for tactical voting by Labour and Lib Dems.  I did the same in the Goldsmid by-election that saw the election of energetic and impressive Green, Alex Phillips.  But a blog must be allowed to make constructive criticism, and I do so because, as I said earlier, Caroline’s campaign is being let down by Green councillors in certain Brighton Pavilion wards, and specifically in St Peter’s and North Laine ward.

A far more constructive criticism comes from Luke Walter.  I am happy to reproduce the full text of his comment, and would urge you to read his excellent blog:

“I think there’s strong evidence to suggest that the Greens message, particularly in this campaign, is reaching other parts of Brighton, beyond traditional Green areas.  You can read my analysis of the ward breakdown from December’s ICM poll here: http://bit.ly/aCBboK. Whilst the poll has it’s flaws, it suggests that the Greens are performing well in Patcham and Withdean (actually out-performing the Tories in Withdean). Whilst there is work to be done in Hollingbury and Stamner, and the Greens need to shore up the vote in Regency, the message is getting through. In Hollingbury and Stamner, the Greens need to continue to make the case to Labour-supporting residents that their best bet to beating the Tories is to vote Green, as this blog has advised and rightly so. There is no doubt that the Greens can get their literature through the letterbox faster than any other party, and can certainly rely on a kind of national support the Vere and Platts campaign could only dream of. They just need those extra voters to trust the Greens, which we hope they will.”

Thanks, Luke, very constructive.  And Ralph, I will try better!  But perhaps you could encourage those hardworking but bureaucratic Green councillors to get out campaigning for Caroline!

83 days to go, and Caroline Lucas continues to be let down by local Green Councillors

There are just 83 days until the expected general election and the campaign in Brighton Pavilion is getting into full swing, whereas there is an eery silence in the campaigns in neighbouring constituencies.  It is as if candidates are too scared to do anything.

But in Brighton Pavilion all three candidates are ensuring that residents cannot forget the election, or them.

Today Nancy Platts has blitzed Regency Ward, and from those I saw out and about, all were local party members.  She has put out another of her questionnaire-type leaflets throughout the constituency (although it is a shame that the return address in the event of non-delivery is Northumberland!). Where Nancy excels is in her ability to react to local issues within a few days, even hours.  Her campaign to save the Preston Circus Fire Station is playing very well, and securing for her a very positive reaction. She has leapt on the plans to fell trees in Clyde Road, meeting with residents immediately that the plans were unveiled. And this in the heart of the ‘Green belt’.

Caroline Lucas, as a member of the European Parliament, and therefore often away from Brighton, needs others to help her maintain a local face, but she continues to be failed by Green members locally.  Apart from the likes of Bill Randall, Jason Kitcat, Ben Duncan and Alex Philips, local Green councillors, particularly those in St Peters and North Laine, are noticeable by their invisibility.  The plan to fell trees in a street such as Clyde Road should have been a campaigning gift for councillors for St Peters and North Laine, but as this blog has said on many occasions, many Green councillors lack the ability to campaign. A well-organised party would have had a leaflet out within 24 hours, in the name of Caroline Lucas and the local Green councillors.  (I offer this criticism as one who is calling for a tactical vote for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion.  Caroline Lucas is favourite to be elected, and if she is it will be in spite of the majority of Green councillors, not because of them!).

Charlotte Vere continues to be a one-woman tornado, sweeping her way around the constituency, tirelessly meeting meeting people and making a very favourable impression. When I met her recently, the impression I was left with is that she would make an excellent member of parliament, but what a shame about her Party.  (I say the same thing about Nancy Platts, great candidate, wrong party).  Charlotte is probably the most impressive of all three when relating to ordinary people, followed closely by Nancy.  She lets herself down by her constant digs at her opponents on her website.  She could learn from Caroline and Nancy who totally ignore, at least in public, the other candidates!

Even though she is the ‘superstar’ of the Green Party, Caroline’s ‘bed-side manner’ isn’t great, which is why she so needs her local councillors.  Yet she continues to be let down by them.  It is as if, apart from the tireless Alex Phillips, most Green councillors don’t want Caroline to win …..

The Greens don’t do genuine community politics

In previous posts I have been critical of the Green Party and its apparent lack of campaigning ability.  Give it a climate camp, and it does fine; Pride and it is there. But when it comes to issues that impact on ordinary people, like post office closures, it hardly has the finest record in town (notwithstanding what Green Amy tells me).

Today I took a stroll through the Open Market, in the heart of St Peters and North Laine, the area represented by two former Green Leaders, Pete West and Keith Taylor, an a third Green councillor whose name always escapes me and must have the lowest profile of all his colleagues (although Alex Phillips seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth since her election).

The Open Market is dying on its knees. Stall after stall is closing.  Even Open Market Matriarch and Tory Leader of the Council, Mary Mears, has closed her stall.

But where on earth are the Greens? Why is there no campaign? Where is the petition, the march, even an occupation? It is because the Greens don’t do genuine community politics. In St Peters and North Laine they have office, but don’t know how to use it.