Some of my favourite things about politics in Brighton and Hove

The Greens: Thank goodness we live in a city that has the variety of politics and an openness to new ideas that allows a party like the Greens to thrive and enjoy electoral success. As a tribal Labour loyalist who voted Labour in May, I can’t imagine how very boring politics would be if we were still locked in a two-party dog fight, year in, year out. The Greens are forcing Labour and the Tories to rethink their strategy and policies, and (who knows when) both the old parties may just one day change for the better!

Warren Morgan: Warren will hate to be included in this list but he represents the fighting spirit that remains in parts of the local Labour Party. I can rely on Warren to spill his Sugar Puffs each time I post my latest take on the Greens. For him, it is the Evil Princess and All Her Works (i.e. Caroline Lucas) that personifies everything that is wrong with Brighton politics. Without the likes of Warren, Labour’s decline would be almost terminal.

The Young Tories: Rob Buckwell, Michael Ireland, Mike MacFarlane, George Dore, Kerry Underhill, Robert Nemeth and the incomparable Momma Grizzly, Rachael Bates. The Tory Party needs ‘modernising’ but not in the Blair/Cameron sense (which are no more than a cover for the worst traditions of paternalistic old-fashion politics). This new breed of young Tories will help the Tories break with their past and will challenge Blue Labour, sometimes from the left. Momma Grizzly is an enigma: a right wing, anti-monarchist, pro-Palin, capitalist. Other than her anti-monarchist tendencies, she represents much of what I oppose, but at least she has a sense of humour and passion, but that could make her all the more dangerous.

Community Gardeners: These groups represent the free spirit of campaigning that has long existed in Brightn and Hove. They are bottom up campaigners that genuinely ‘shape place’ to use the jargon of the City Council. Co-operative and communal, they bring forward a model of how things can improve, without consultants and council officers.

Christopher Hawtree: Chris is the latest in a long line of characters that have graced and enriched the political scene in Brighton and Hove over many years: Dennis Hobden, Ruth Larkin, Doreen Radford (the lady who it is said wore a new hat at every Council meeting), Richard Stanton, Sheila Hall, etc. Christopher’s election sent greater shockwaves around senior officers of the Council more than any other result on the night. It is said his election sent shockwaves around the Green Party as well!

The Blogosphere and Twiteratti: My life was sad, lacking in focus, days passing into weeks and weeks into years. I am the shy, retiring type. But then I discovered a whole new world and made loads of new friends: The Ghost, Zombie, Doris Day (she never returns my calls), Baron Pepperpot, Momma Grizzly, Rosa’s Lovely Daughter, Dr Faust, etc. Social media has enriched the political world locally, although no party has yet worked out how to make the most of it. When one party fully utilises Twitter, they can expect to reap electoral success.

The future: I don’t mean the young Tories (see above) or even the impressive young activists in Labour (Harris Fitch, Clare Calder, etc.) or in the Greens (Luke Walter, Allie Cannell, Alex Phillips, etc.) but those who active in their early and mid teens, such as Pearl Ahrens. With committed young activists like her, we can take courage for the future health of the political process.

Condemning the Greens for their bar chart but recognising the Greens are on the up

Imagine the scene – Warren Morgan reviewing this blog while having a sneaky second bowl of Sugar Puffs. Seeing the condemnation by Dr Faust of my failure to criticise the bar chart used in the latest Green leaflet, he is compelled to write: “Dr Faust – yes, still no defence of the Green ‘last citywide poll’ bar graph from 2009, funny that.”

Faust himself had written: “BPB – don’t forget your over the top condemnation of Labour leaflets with far less contentious contents. You said Labour had lost one of your votes at the time – if you were going Green with it, then surely you should take it back – or maybe go Lib Dem?”

All I can do is coin a phrase: “Calm down, dear”. The bar chart used by the Greens is almost as bad as that used by Labour – which recorded some votes cast in Lewes District. At least the Green chart used only votes cast in Brighton and Hove. But apart from that, it is a dishonest chart in as much as these local elections are being fought on ward boundaries. No direct comparisons can be drawn and the Greens should not have used it.

What the Greens can legitimately claim, and this will have Warren spluttering over his Sugar Puffs, the “Greens are on the up” and “Labour are in decline”. Apart from poor grammar (it should read “Labour is in decline”) this claim in the Greens’ leaflet is correct and will be seen to be so on Friday when the real votes are counted.

Which brings me on to Geoffrey Bowden. He writes: “What lovely fun all this speculation is. However, for my part and the rest of the Green Party candidates in Queen’s Park, the canvassing goes on till the last moment and nothing will be taken for granted.  Its been a great contest cleanly fought (for the most part) on all sides, but in the end it is the electorate who decide and not the sephologists.”

Clearly the Sussex Square doesn’t think it is fun at all. Lighten up, Geoffrey. This blog is provided as a social service, to help otherwise stressed candidates to let off stream. All four of my regular readers (Warren, Grizzly, Christopher, and Doris Day) know what is being written is speculative fun.

As we enter the last few frenetic days of the campaign, I encourage all candidates to enjoy themselves. Some wards are so close that a final push might make all the difference. Give it your all, and best of luck to all, even Grizzly and the Estate Agent!

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….

A campaign more interesting and more important that the local elections

Forget the local elections. There is another campaign that is far more interesting and far more important, mentioned on my post yesterday. Who is the top political Tweeter in Brighton and Hove. And it is not the Sugar Puff scoffing Warren Morgan.

According to updood.com, based on the number of followers, Labour’s Tom French is at number 964 of the top 1,000 Tweeters in Brighton and Hove. His Green opponent in Queens Park, Ben Duncan, is well ahead of him at number 472 with Warren Morgan, nudging ahead for Labour, at number 470. But above them (and I apologise for missing anyone out – I did crawl out of my dark basement for a couple of hours today) is Celia Barlow at number 383, and Green Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett at 353.

The highest ranking Labour politician is Dan Wilson at number 315. Momma Grizzly should be there at about number 250, but she has not set her location as Brighton.

But the leading politician is (and no doubt I will be accused of Green bias) is Caroline Lucas at number 9. But the top Twit in Brighton and Hove is the adorable Peter Andre!

I still don’t appear in the top 1,000, a source of considerable angst and a cause for self-loathing, but I still have all my loyal readers – Christopher, Warren, Grizzly, and now a fourth, Valerie. What more could I ask for? An Easter Egg perhaps.

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!

Ten days to go and the campaign has gone oh so quiet

I’ve been silent for much of the last week, listening and observing. I have spent a bit of time in the majority of wards, for one reason or another, and spoken to several candidates in each party. What has emerged is a depressing picture – and election campaign that has failed to catch the imagination of the City, including party activists and members.

With very few exceptions (East Brighton, Queens Park, and seats in west Hove) Labour is in the doldrums. Some candidates and councillors are out and about, but in some seats it has been hard to get any party members to do any door knocking. In one town centre ward, just the three candidates have done in any door knocking and even then one of the three has limited his activity to the minimum.

It is largely candidates and councillors doing 95% of the work for Labour. So disorganised are they in some seats that members have complained about not being given posters for their windows, while others have decided not to out them up at all.

Members in Queens Park are full of praise for the tireless efforts of Tom French (no surprise there) and to a limited extent his running mates. In East Brighton, Warren Morgan (no doubt fortified by regular supplies of Sugar Puffs), Craig Turton (masquerading as the Sugar Monster) and Gill Mitchell, are going about their business with quiet determination (I said QUIET DETERMINATION, Warren). Labour posters are in clear evidence in East Brighton, but other than Hollingdean and Stanmer, and Hangleton and Knoll, this election is resembling a poster-free zone.

Tim Ridgeway recently counted the posters he could see from the number 26 bus (Chuck, the 26 goes from Churchill Square to the Hollingbury Industrial Estate) and he counted less than 10 posters in all. This included the Green heartland of St Peters and North Laine where Labour posters are numbering the same as Green posters. (I’m not predicting a shock result here but my sources have been impressed by the one woman campaign being run by young Clare Calder who is said to be out on the doorstep most days).

The Greens are faring a bit better, with activists turning out and members from beyond Brighton coming in at weekends to help. Momentum has been maintained in their key target seats. Much effort is going into defending the seats in Queens Park and challenging for gains in Brunswick and Adelaide and in Goldsmid where Green posters are clearly in evidence and Labour posters largely absent.

In Hanover and Elm Grove, where Labour is focussing much of its efforts, moving resources from elsewhere in the city, the small advances being made by Labour in what was once its safest seat, will come nowhere near displacing the Buddha (Bill Randall) and his two Green running mates.

Hollingdean and Stanmer continues to be a hot-bed of activism. Momma Grizzly is out most weekends but most of her efforts are focused on Coldean. Jeane Lepper has been here, there and everywhere, like a Catherine Wheel of bonfire night, and always a complimentary word for her Green opponents (well, perhaps not). But it is the Greens that are most evident and winning the poster war. In particular, Luke Walter is campaigning full time. Ironically he could be the loser in this Alphabet Election as he is bottom of the ballot paper and might be pipped to the post by Jeane Lepper.

In Regency, when James Asser isn’t stuck on trains, he and Dan Wilson, along with the Determined Anne Freeman, are working their socks off, but so too are the Kitcat Two. Dan and James may well reduce the Green majority but they have too much to make up.

Finally, Moulsecoomb and Bevendean looks as though it may produce a split result, but the Tories remain narrow favourites to take all three seats but Anne Meadows might yet hold on to her seat.

I still don’t have a feel for the campaigns in Central Hove, Wish and Westbourne wards. Has everyone given up and gone home? And what of Christopher Hawtree? It is very quiet on the Hawtree Front and our readers are missing your daily overview. Just 10 days to go and it will all be almost over …..

Will Labour have any councillors in Kemptown after May 5th?

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke asks “What odds that the Labour Party have NO councillors in Brighton Kemptown after May 5th? (including East Saltdean, Telscombe Cliffs and Peacehaven). 30 Town councillors, 9 district councillors and 14 City councillors are up for grabs (the two conservative held County council seats are not up for election this year).”

No way, says the attractive Craig Turton: “Unlikely I’d say based on canvass returns and door step reactions. Certainly in EB there has been a level of voter enthusiasm for Labour which I can’t recall before in 2003 or 2007, eg; being asked for posters to display unprompted. QP colleagues tell a similar story.”

Sugar Puff addict, Warren Morgan, agrees with Craig: “No, no blue/red coalition (said in my calmest voice). Yes, there will be Labour councillors in Brighton Kemptown after May 6th, between 7 and 9 I predict. Hanover…I can’t remember seeing Labour posters on Elm Grove last April, but they are there now.”

Of course there will be Labour councillors left in Kemptown after the elections. The aforesaid Morgan and Turton, along with Gill Mitchell, will all be re-elected with thumping majorities in East Brighton. (I have this image of Warren and Craig, together with two of the Tory candidates for the area, Peter Booth and Kelvin Poplett, not a hair on their head between them, tucking into bowls of Sugar Puffs – how surreal is that?).

Labour is making a mark on the campaign in Queens Park, but the record of the Green councillors over the last four years should see them through, even though two of the sitting councillors are standing down. Expect Ben Duncan, who scraped in last time, to top the poll this time. It is possible that Queens Park might produce a split result, with one Labour candidate being elected. My money, though, remains with a Green 1, 2, 3.

Warren points to Labour posters in Elm Grove which is, I believe, still in Brighton Pavilion. Correct me if I am wrong.

And then there is Moulsecoomb and Bevendean (or Moulsecomb, as Labour continues to spell it on their website). This ward is currently split, with Labour councillors Mo Marsh and Anne Meadows, and the Tory councillor, Maria Caulfield. My judgement might go AWOL when confronted by Marsh, Meadows and Caulfield (don’t get me started on Jeane Lepper …), but I think the lovely Ayas Fallon-Khan and Maria will prevail. In a change from previous predictions, Cath Slater and Anne Meadows will be neck and neck, and I think Anne might just inch it.

So, in reply to the Ghost, yes, there will be Labour councillors in Kemptown on May 6th. I predict that there will be four of them.

Bits and pieces from the local election campaign

Luke Walter has observed UKIP delivering leaflets in Hollingdean and Stanmer. He says that he suspects that they will take a few votes from the Conservatives and Labour on the estates. I suspect he is probably right, with a few more from the Tories than from Labour. I can’t see UKIP taking any votes from the Greens.

This raises an interesting question: who will the independent candidates harm most? And will the Lib Dems influence the outcome at all?

I think that the most significant independent this election is Jo Heard who will split the Tory vote in Hangleton and Knoll, as well as taking a few votes from Labour. Michael Ireland is likely to lose out amongst the Tories, while Alum Jones, due to alphabet voting, will suffer, but not by much. Jo’s candidature is not likely to be decisive. A stunning result would be if she was elected along with the Terrible Twins, Dawn Barnett and Brian Fitch. Not impossible but unlikely. I doubt an independent will win this May. The most likely result remains the election of Banett, Tony Janio and Brian Fitch.

Ben Codfish (what a clever play on words) asks whether we should rule out a Blue / Red Coalition. Gasps of indignation can be heard in this far corner of Hove as Warren Morgan splutters over a late night bowl of Sugar Puffs. “Never! Never! Never!” goes the cry in his best Ian Paisley voice.

If people vote according to their age, Steph Holder makes the following observation regarding this demographic: “The 2001 Census noted that 42% of people in Brighton and Hove are aged 20-44 – above the England and Wales average of 35% and the 34.6% average for the South East. 21% are aged 60+. A bit of quick research shows that about 70% of Tory councillors fall into the 60+ category – so the Party is very, very far from being representative of local people. Labour seems to be similar. Greens seem to most closely reflect the population, demographically speaking.”

Linda says that we shouldn’t knock the more mature councillor. “With age comes wisdom and I think a council with a wide age range and views is sometimes healthier. Remember, the outlying areas of B&H have a much older (perhaps more Tory?) electorate. We also have many residential & warden assisted homes in Hove.. Not everyone here is a right-on, cool, cycling, Green, Liberal.”

I think there is an issue here – which has allowed the Tories too easy a ride in the outlying areas. Christopher Hawtree identified this several weeks ago, as did Luke Walter. The Green tide is spreading far and wide, even in Withdean and Patcham. Earlier today Christopher wrote: “Nobody should regard the “suburbs” as a block vote.” I do agree, but I still don’t think the Greens will come within 1,000 votes of the Tories in Rottingdean Coastal.

Meanwhile, in Goldsmid ward (a ward that warrants close attention, along with Central Hove) I sense a gap is opening up between the Greens and Labour. I have previously predicted that Melanie Davis would top the poll for Labour and that the Greens would have Alex Phillips and another of it’s candidates elected, probably Ruth Buckley (not to be confused with the Estate Agent, Rob Buckwell). Given the strength of the Green campaign, and the popularity of Alex Phillips, I would not be surprised if Alex Phillips topped the poll with Melanie Davis and Ruth scrapping it out for second and third places.

I really don’t have a feel for Central Hove – too close, perhaps. The Tories are strong here, Celia Barlow is a very well known name, and Rebecca Taylor is running a great campaign as a Lib Dem candidate. (Please note, this praise of a Lib Dem is personal and should in no way be regarded as a softening of my totally unreasonable attitude to the Lib Dems. I do rate Rebecca Taylor).

There are just over 2 weeks to go before polling day. Do let me know how it’s going in your neck of the woods.