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.

Westbourne by-election: update after the first weekend of campaigning

I think I have just seen the first flower of spring, one usually hears in late February. Today’s version is who has seen the first poster of the Westbourne by-election. Both Greens and Labour make the claim, but I am yet to see evidence in the form of a photo on Twitter or one emailed to brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com.

But the troops have been out, both Labour and the Greens, and did I see a Grizzly?

Caroline Penn reported Labour posters up in Westbourne at lunchtime today, but the first report of a poster going up came at 14:29 yesterday (Saturday) from Green councillor Christopher Hawtree, who wrote: “Former Peace Messenger Brian Fitch looked daggers when he saw me giving a resident a poster which went straight up at noon.”

Any advances of 12 noon on 19th November?

The Tories recognise that the “by-election looks like a three way marginal… Bring it on and keep it blue!” says The Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell) on Twitter. Is this an indication that he might be the Tory Party candidate?

Both Labour and the Greens have been out on the knocker and delivering leaflets. The Greens, according to Luke Walter, have put a Greenleaf through every door in the Ward. Tim Sewell reports that there has been a good “doorknocking and delivery session” with Caroline Penn, Warren Morgan, Lis Telcs and “many others in Westbourne. Will be hard one to call.”

I assume he means that it is a genuine 3-way marginal. Labour’s Spiritual Leader in Brighton, Lord Steve Bassam, does not think the same. On Twitter he wrote: “Feel a bit guilty as I think I ought to go canvassing in local council by-election. We all need to get out there it’s a R Tory/Labour fight.” I don’t think so, and nor do I imagine that Lord Bassam thinks so either. The Greens are the ones to beat but I admire the old campaigner’s instinct in talking down the Greens so to consolidate the anti-Tory vote with Labour.

Steampunk draws attention to an omission in my posts and comments by others: “Is Paul Elgood planning a come-back? I was going to say, nobody’s commented on the Lib Dems’ chances yet.” I have no knowledge about Mr Elgood but I think that the Lib Dems’ chances of winning are as likely as two of my regular readers, Biker Dave and Doris, eloping to Gretna Green.

Harris Fitch is full of bravado, the same bravado that led him to predict a win in Rottingdean Coastal in May: “It won’t be a futile course, we shot off the starting line months ago. We have so many keen members there compared to the Greens that we probably could man the election campaign with locals. Of course outside help is always welcomed though!” That is a remarkable claim, that Labour “shot off the starting line months ago”. I doubt it, but if that is the case (and I have seen no evidence of it in Westbourne Ward) it should make it a more even fight.

One welcome entry to the fight is the report from The Pepperpot Post that the shy and retiring Paul Perrin will be standing for UKIP.

Dr Faust has said that the issue of school places will be a key issue in the by-election. All parties will claim that they are the one who are most keen on a new school. The reality is that this by-election will not ultimately influence such provision.

Daniel Yates agrees that education is an important, but not the sole, issue: “the Labour and Co-operative vision for first class education with true community engagement really does appeal across a very wide political spectrum. Of course, there are also many other issues where this is true and we wont be sucked into believing that everyone is Westbourne is going to vote purely on schools.” If that is the case, how come education is in such a poor state after 13 years of a Labour government. Education is one reason why voters in Brighton and Hove have lost faith in Labour.

Keep reports flooding in. Either email me on DM @BrightonPolitic.

The Great, the Good and the Ghost of Nobby Clarke predict a Green victory in the Westbourne by-election

And they’re off in the 12.22 Christmas Stakes, with the Greens perhaps going off too quickly, taking an early lead. Well, that’s the view of the Ghost of Nobby Clarke who reports: “Greens supposedly seen out in Westbourne yesterday, bit soon by my thinking but the 22nd might hold some ground then, if the Green Machine wasn’t in full effect last May and they polled the votes they did they’ll be a tough nut to crack on this one- De Ja Vu Goldsmid By Election.”

The Ghost recognises the clever tactical nature of the Green’s being quickest out of the starting gate by ensuring the by-election will be held on 22 December: “Of course strategically clever of The Green Machine as the tories and Labour will no doubt take another few days to get their house in order whilst you tread the cobbles picking up votes and delivering your first leaflet- plus as you well know most Tory voters will have their eye on Christmas but most Green voters will have their eye on the polling station You had paper candidates in May so imagine how you’ll fight without both hands tied behind your backs?, if thats twinned with Louisa Greenbaum as candidate (if she is) it looks rock solid.”

Given the demographic changes in the area, and the possibility that the Greens did not work the area in May’s elections, Zombie predicts a Green walkover: “Poets Corner…full of creative, arty, media and educated types; youngish and relatively well-heeled. Very reminiscent of the area around Blaker’s Park in social make-up. Once heavily Tory but now full of ‘progressives’. Add in an unwanted by-election, probable very low turnout and no obvious anti-Tory frontrunner-you probably have ingredients for a Green walkover if they work it hard. If it was true the Greens in May were only a nominal force their prospects must be very bright indeed. You would need to be very brave or charismatic to be the Tory or Labour candidates unless you like egg on the face.”

There has been an interesting comment from Luke Walter who, one suspects, is the strategic and organisational genius behind the Greens successes in Brighton. He says that the Greens have not worked Westbourne before, yet they came within a couple of hundred votes of winning the seat in May: “I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of Green resources went into neighbouring wards, namely Goldsmid, Central Hove and Brunswick and Adelaide.”

No doubt this is an understatement from Mr Walter. What he doesn’t say is that, even as I write this over my Sugar Puffs (good morning, Warren), the full might of the Green Machine is being mobilised to blitz the ward this weekend with Greenleaf papers.

The fact that Luke is not going to be the Green candidate, and that he is likely to organise the campaign, is another reason for concern for the Tories and Labour. He is, by some way, the best election organiser in the City.

But spare a thought, have some sympathy, for the dedicated activists in the Labour ranks. Take Labour activist, Pete Gillman, for example. He worked tirelessly in St Peters & North Laine in May, is now facing 4 weeks on the stump, in what could well be a futile cause: “Back on the campaign trail then. Me and my feet have only just got over the Council elections.  I would have preferred another few months before this was called but up for the fight as part of Labours resurgence.”

A final point about the Tory candidate. I suggested it could be one of the Young Turks who surround Mike Weatherley. Steampunk was first in with the predictable “Young turks don’t get voted-in for Christmas.” nice one Punky.

Labour talking a good fight and paying respect to Pat Hawkes

The Honey Monster (Craig Turton) has reacted to my comment that “So disorganised are they (Labour) in some seats that members have complained about not being given posters for their windows”. Craig says that could be because “like in East Brighton ward – where doorstep enthusiasm for Labour far exceeeds 2003 and 2007 – demand for posters is outsripping supply. Same in Hangleton and elsewhere.” Nice try, Craig, but the empty windows suggests otherwise. There is still no enthusiasm for Labour. Brighton and Hove is not like the rest of the country – the Caroline Effects will still make a difference.

As for enthusiasm for Labour in the future, Blue Labour isn’t going to play at all well in Brighton and Hove. I wanted Red Ed Milliband to win. What on earth is he doing? He is proving to be a disaster, while Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper are, at least, putting some clear water between Labour and the Tories.

Steampunk suggests that Labour has given up on Central Hove: “A Labour party member told me ruefully last weekend, ‘no matter what you do, the Tories will always win in Central Hove’. So I suspect that having come fourth last time round, this year they have been focussing on the more winnable wards further out such as Wish, Hangleton and the two in Portslade. Or perhaps everyone has gone to Queens Park?”.

Blue Lady Linda says that “There is a hive of activity going on in most of the wards from our activists: telephone canvassing, envelope stuffing, literature deliveries, knocking up and general cross ward support. There is much that goes on ‘under the radar’”. Lady Linda is right that traditionally the work of the Tories is not that obvious but they have been able to get out its vote.

She says that she thinks that all parties other than the Tories have given up on Hove Park. “I come to this conclusion, because I have yet to see any literature or sighting of a candidate, other than Tory, in Hove Park Ward.”

MJ must be a Labour hack because who else would come out with the following tosh: “Word is that the Greens are under pressure in Regency and are stalling in Queens Park and Brunswick. They may also drop one seat in Hanover, Preston Park and Goldsmith. The Labour vote is too high to see Green or Tory gains.” There’s no such ‘word’, there is no such pressure, they are not stalling, and the Greens are not going to drop seats. Luke Walter’s reaction is right when he simply responded “LOL”.

The love within Labour is overwhelming. Baron Pepperpot writes: “As a paid up member of the Labour Party who fully supports our Queens Park campaign, I would like to say how happy I would be to see us get completely stuffed in Hollingdean and Stanmer…”. Wow! I’m intrigued as to why you feel this strongly. Do say more. And if this is the mood with Labour ten days out from an election, what levels of fratricide can we expect if my predictions are correct and Labour is left with a smaller rump than they currently have?

Christina Summers, one of the Green candidates has responded to my praise of Luke Walter and his campaigning zeal: “Don’t worry BPB, Luke is most definitely not a lone Green campaigner in Hollingdean & Stanmer…and our opponents are most definitely not complimentary nor do they resemble any sort of firework…apart from the occasional banger…usually when we’ve leafleted their homes.”

As regular readers will know, I have been predicting two Greens and one Labour (Jeane Lepper) being returned in Hollingdean and Stanmer. This would see the end of the long and illustrious council career of Pat Hawkes who has represented the area for many decades. She has also been an active trade unionist, rising to be President of the NUT. Consistency in service (although not always in views) means that she deserves respect, and she certainly has mine.

Naming names and ‘outing’ people

I’m sitting in Pavilion Gardens reflecting on a comment left on this blog yesterday. Tom Matthews wrote of ‘greenpartymember’: “If you’re going to pretend to be a Green Party member, don’t make your username ‘greenpartymember’”.

This has forced me to think about the number of people who engage with this blog but who hide behind made up names, such as Baron Pepperpot, Steampunk, Hove Lawn, Dr Faust, The Ghost of Nobby Clarke, the Tory Tipster, and Christopher Hawtree.

Others have been masquerading with names such as The Estate Agent, Momma Grizzly, le Toothbrush, Bishop Brian, and The Buddha. Rumour has it that these people are, in reality, Rob Buckwell, Rachael Bates, Mike Macfarlane, Brian Oxley and Bill Randall.

What is it about these people who make comments but not in their own names? I think it is nothing short of a disgrace!

Doorstep Brighton 13: Ghosts, Spectres and the Grudges of Christopher Hawtree

Christopher Hawtree has raised the spectre of the ‘Simon Fanshawe Problem’, as he describes it. He asks what happens if there is a hung Council after the local elections. Would Simon become the King, or Queen, Maker?

‘Steampunk’ asks whether the “trepidation of Fanshawe’s ‘domineering approach’ imply that, given a close result in May, there will need to be some rough and tumble between the sheets (besides behind smoke filled doors) to determine who comes out on top? How much slack does Mr Big need exactly? I can’t speak for Simon Fanshawe but I can’t imagine Bill Randall will be thrilled at this prospect.”

If this was to happen there are many elder statesmen and women locally who could be an honest broker if talks were collapsing, although I think that Mary Mears and Bill Randall could work it out together. It wouldn’t be pretty, but they both have the best interest of Brighton at heart in spite of their obvious political differences.

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke suggests that Celia Barlow might be standing in Central Hove. Chris Hawtree says that this “must surely stem from her being seen by the Brighton Political Satellite’s cameras as she waited on Church Road to go into the selection meeting the other Saturday.”

Chris Hawtree suggests that “the LibDems are so desperate that Paul Elgood is trying to lead Argus readers into thinking that Brian Stone is already a Councillor. Beneath the letter in which he tries to get in on the great border/North Dakota debate, he puts ‘Couns Paul Elgood and Brian Stone’.” He says that the campaign in Brunswick and Adelaide is “getting dirty”, but ‘Andy’ says that “if politics is getting dirty it is only because Hawtree makes it so. His grudges are legendary – Sue John, Ken Bodfish, Mary Mears and most famously his duel with the clown David Smith.” Not so, says Hawtree: “I do not have grudges. Life is too short to waste on such things. Banter is another matter. Sue John and Ken Bodfish came to dinner, and it was a jolly time.”

Luke Walter says that the Green slate was completed in January, “probably the first and only party in the city to do so”. I have been quite critical of Labour for not having candidates in all seats in place months ago. I reserve the same judgement for the Greens. This election has been known about for ever. Candidates should have been identified months and months ago. Immediately after the general election the Greens should have selected all it’s candidates as well as having a recruitment drive on an unprecedented proportion. I realise everyone must have ben exhausted after getting Caroline elected, but a superhuman effort continues to be required if the Greens are to make the breakthrough elsewhere.

Warren Morgan says that “most Labour candidates in our target seats have been in place for over six months – many were selected before the General Election. What’s the point of the Greens selecting candidates but keeping them under wraps? Surely the whole point is for them to be out there campaigning and making themselves known? If I don’t know the Green candidates running in my ward, the public are hardly likely to have registered them.” Luke responds, jokingly, that the Greens “just like to keep the opposition in suspense.”

As for the Greens and the 2015 general election (assuming the Coalition lasts that long), I think that the Green candidates for Brighton Kemptown and for Hove should be selected by the autumn. There are one or two individual who would make outstanding candidates. I will return to this theme after May.

Rob Buckwell, leader of the Estate Agents Tendency of the Tory Party, and candidate in Goldsmid, says that I am “right to point out that bringing council tax down is important to us. However, you are wrong to say that I “cannot think beyond council tax cuts”. We have many other important issues which we are campaigning on. If you are lucky enough to live in Goldsmid, you will have received or soon receive our leaflet outling some of these. Of course, if you don’t…”

Showing more imagination in Goldsmid is councillor Alex Phillips who with St Peters and North Laine Green councillor Ian Davey organised a very effective demonstration on Saturday in The Drive against the ludicrous decision of the Tories to remove the cycle lane. If you haven’t watched the video, do so by clicking this link.

A word of apology to Ms Phillips. The title in a post yesterday referred to ‘Ice Cold is Alex’, a feeble play on words referring to that great movie ‘Ice Cold in Alex’, trying to reflect it was very cold on Saturday morning.  A resident of Goldsmid ward questioned me about this. I apologise to councillor Phillips who is anything but cold. She is one of the most able politicians locally, hard-working and who the Greens should consider for to be a candidate in a national election in the not too distant future. Perhaps I will return to this theme after May….

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!

The Mears Master Plan: More reaction

Jason Kitcat is not a happy bunny.  He is unhappy about the BBC coverage of the announcement of the Tory budget: He writes on Twitter “Couldn’t BBC News even get a single opposition quote? Weak reporting”.  He is, of course, right on that. 

But of more importance is his reaction to the draft budget itself: “Cynical, irresponsible, gimmicky – take your pick!”. He describes the budget as “breathtaking. It slices HUGE chunks of budgets for children’s services and social care. Almost £5.5m from Children’s & Families services, about £6.1m from Adult Social Care as well as smaller but harmful cuts from planning, licensing and central services including, for example, health & safety support work. Additionally the Tories propose to spend £1.1m capital funds removing cycle lanes from Grand Avenue & The Drove. Yes, that’s right, removing cycle lanes. They also wish to borrow just over £4.5m to refurbish car parks.”

Interestingly, Jason says that “My colleague Bill Randall and I have asked to meet Labour councillors to discuss any joint amendments we might be able to agree on.”  This could be the first real test of whyether Labour and the Greens can work together.  Some how, it is something I doubt.  The anamosity between Labour and Green hacks runs deep, particularly amongst Labour activists and several councillors.  Some long standing Labour councillors still believe that it is their right to control the Council and have the City’s MPs, and they cannot stand these Green upstarts!  Come the first Friday of May, there will remain just a small rump of Labour councillors.  The Greens, I believe, are willing to work with Labour.  They, of course have everything to gain, nothing to lose.

How do others see Mary Mears’ ‘Master Plan’?  Dr Faust doesn’t think its will wash with the public: “I would have thought it likely that any proposed cut from the Council could be more than wiped out by a rise in the police precept – so people might see an overall rise anyway. However the move does present a challange to other parties – how much will they propose to raise Council Tax in order to save jobs and services? The reduction from the Tories just makes the gap larger, and a harder sell. Arguing for a 1% difference is far easier than a 10% one.”

‘Clive’  thinks that the council tax cut is the equivalent of an irresponsible giveaway budget – “it is the kind of behaviour that the coalitionistas are trying to pin on the last government, with very little basis in fact.  It only has to be hoped that enough people see through it – fortunately B&H voters are pretty clued up, in my experience. One percent is not much, either, and it won’t be enough if the opposition parties remember that the Tories are in power here (barely) and it is their seats (the winnable ones) that ought to be targeted.”

Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates) as you would expect, thinks the Tory plan is just grand: “I am indeed extremely pleased with the plans to reduce council tax. I join Rob Buckwell in saying that I hope that those in opposition don’t block this sensible plan which will help hard-working people to retain more of their own money.”

But ‘Steampunk’ disagrees with Grizzly and is united with Dan Wilson’s comment reported in my last post: “Dan exposes the cynicism of the 1% tax cut succinctly with the concrete example that for most ‘hard-working people’ this amounts to around £10 cash back per year (admittedly more for the better-off). To pretend that this is going to help families – or in more abstract terms help the local economy – when the reality is that you would be shutting services and making hundreds of people redundant is totally dishonest.”

More to follow …..

Doorstep Brighton 8: Bits and Pieces, Dan Wilson at home with Caroline Lucas, and the ‘outing’ of the Brighton Politics Blogger

Bits and pieces from around Brighton and Hove.  Firstly, Preston Park ward where Scrapper Duncan writes of the Green candidates: “I hope Preston backs the Green Party by electing three councillors this May. The candidates are: Amy Kennedy (contrary to recently propagated rumours that she wasn’t going to stand), Leo Littman (lecturer) and Mike Jones (an NHS health adviser). I’ve been friends with Leo for several years. He is a very capable fellow and a real Brightonian – one of the precious few!”.  I am the guilty party who “propogated rumours” regarding the future candidature of Amy Kennedy.  I am delighted that Amy will be defending her seat.  Mark Sheppard reminds us “the Labour candidates for Preston Park are Kevin Allen, Juliet McCaffery and Tim Lunnon”.

 ‘Clive’ comments on the priorities of Labour activists: “With a divided opposition more interested in discussing Caroline Lucas’s house than a post-Tory future in B&H, she (he refers to Mary Mears) could well end up back in charge regardless. Truly depressing”.  I agree about the obsession about Caroline Lucas amongst Labour activists, Dan Wilson in particular.  Get over it, Dan, she won, Labour lost.  Constant nonsense about her abode, when time and again assurances are given that SHE LIVES IN BRIGHTON, does you no credit and makes several people I have spoken to get turned off by Labour and convinces them more and more to vote for Caroline next time.

Some suggest that Dan’s obsession with Caroline goes deeper.  I love Nikki’s comment: “Jeez. Could Dan Wilson be more creepy? Is he trying to stalk Caroline Lucas? Sigh.  Yes, Caroline lives in Brighton. Yes, it’s in Pavilion. And yes, Dan, getting your panties in a bunch over someone’s private address *is* weird and rather unsettling behaviour. Try to get a grip & focus on trying to justify Labour’s sick-making actions over the past decade instead.”  For the record, I don’t believe Dan is stalking her, but get over her victory.

Sven Rufus poses a challenge to Dan Wilson, and comments on the possibility of a Labour / Green pact post May: “The really disappointing thing about Dan Wilson continually banging on about Caroline’s address is that I have already explained to him in detail the answer to his question, possibly even twice. That he keeps raising it despite that is strange – either he has short term memory problems, or struggles to assimiate basic concepts, or he is being deliberately provocative.  It is this sort of nonsense from Dan which makes it very hard for so many Greens to feel comfortable with the prospect of co-operation with the Labour Party. On the one hand he calls for ‘grown up politics, attacking the tories not each other’ – then he turns round and belies all those good words with juvenile and irrelevant attacks. If he wants to have a pop at Caroline/Greens for what we are doing in the political sphere, then we can talk, but while he debases debate like this, his actions suggest that the Labour Party is still feeling bitter about being beaten, and a bit lost – not yet ready to move on to the ‘grown up’ politics bit.  Let us know when you’re ready Dan.”

Steampunk has a great analysis on the Lib Dems approach to canvassing when commenting on Paul Elgood in Brunswick and Adelaide: “Oh dear, I can’t believe that Elgood told you that people don’t open the door to canvassers in bad weather! And you believed him. As you say, it’s a miserable time to be a Liberal Democrat. I personally can’t imagine anything more soul destroying than being an LD right now trying to tempt voters down over intercoms. What the hell do you say to them? – Hi, my names Mark, and I’m your local Liberal Democrat candidate – [click. silence.]  or – Hi, can I just quickly say before I begin that I’m really sorry about Nick Clegg and the whole coalition thing and… – Are you from the Liberal Democrats? – Yes, that’s right, please can I talk to you for 30 seconds? – [click. silence.]  or  – Hi, pizza delivery! – But I didn’t order a pizza? – Well, I’ve got a pizza for you, let me bring it up, we can have a quick chat, I won’t stay long… (NB this could prove expensive, but I suppose the advantage of only targetting two wards is that you get to concentrate your resources?)”.  Nice one, Punky.

In Goldsmid, Rachael Bates confirms that “none of the Goldsmid Conservative candidates are Estate Agents”.  So why do they dress like estate agents?

And finally, several people believe that they have ‘outed’ me by revealing my true identity.  ‘The truth’ (sounds a bit like ‘Honest Second-hand Car Dealer’) writes: “I see that Roy Pennington has been exposed as BPB.  He of course holds huge grudges towards Mears, Fitch, Bodfish, Burgess, Lepper, Theobald, Taylor and every Lib Dem on the planet (without exception). He fell out with them all, big time.  That makes this blog the sad musings of a nasty old man.”  Nice try, one and all.  I’m afraid if I begin denying one suggestion after another, in a mere 250,000 guesses you will have cornered.  And as for Lib Dems, “grudges towards …. every Lib Dem on the planet (without exception)”?  Such a silly exageration.  I knew a lovely Lib Dem (a Liberal back then) in 1981.  We got on great.  No grudge there.  But as for the rest of them ….

On Hard Working Councillors

Mark Collins, Lib Dem activist extraordinaire, has taken exception to Steampunk’s assertion that only Green councillors work hard. I find myself in the alarming position of agreeing with much of what Mark says about hard working councillors, although I don’t agree with his criticism of Jason Kitcat when he asks: “I still do not understand why Cllr Kitcat and others refuse to hold surgeries.”  There are many ways of engaging with one’s constituents, and surgeries are just on.  Some of the most diligent ward councillors never hold surgeries, but are accessible throughout the week.  It could be said that by holding monthly surgeries, some councillors are restricting their availability.  It is clear that Jason Kitcat is one of the most active and accessible councillors in Brighton and Hove, and Regency ward electors will return him with a sizeable majority. 

Sven Rufus provides a perfectly reasonable response: “Just quickly on the comment about not holding ward surgeries – in Regency we did, and over the space of 6 months at a cost of £30 a time to the Council, only one person came, and that was someone I had already been in touch with who just happened to be passing. No-one other than journalists and political opponents has ever raised concerns with me (and I think I speak for Jason too) about us not holding ward surgeries. We are there at the end of the phone, email, letter and will happily meet with people in person if requested to do so. I’m certainly not convinced that £180 over 6 months to be able to say ‘Nice to put a face to a name’ represents good value.”  Well said, Sven.

Mark Collins is a fan of Paul Elgood.  He says that Paul works extremely hard. “Lib Dems can’t afford not to. Unlike the Tories and Labour there is no such thing as a safe Lib Dem seat.”  I think after May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove, Mark may need to revise that to “there is no such thing as a Lib Dem seat”.

This is where I agree with Mark: “There are Labour and Tory Councillors who knock spots off of others. Dawn Barnett is a hard working Councillor for Hangleton and Knoll. I recall a time when my parents who live in the Ward were having trouble with some god awful road works in the street. An email was sent at 10:30pm and at 9:30am the next day, Dawn was on their doorstep, and by 4pm the next day the works were finished.” 

I don’t think Mark is too off the mark when he says of Dawn Barnett: “She works hard, and has nothing to fear from a ‘return’ by Brian Fitch.”

I think that Marks’s insight into the Les Hamilton Dynasty is worth repeating in full: “Let us also recall that Les Hamilton Snr had a street named after him, by request of local residents (and a bus). He was a truly exceptional councillor, and we can all take lessons from his example. Les Jnr appears to have taken after his father’s spirit as a hard working fighter for his community. Although I’m sorry to say Les, that you have a little way to go to convince my ever combative Nan that you are as good as your father. I’m sure you are.”

My view? There are hard working councillors in all parties (even the Lib Dems!).  I have high regard for the hours and hours most put in to serving their constituents and the City as a whole. I genuinely believe that they deserve better recognition and better financial reward.  If I could redesign the system, I would cut the number of councillors and pay them much more.