I’m hoping that the Greens have chosen their new Brighton and Hove Cabinet wisely

The new Green Cabinet in Brighton and Hove contained a number of surprises – the number of newly elected councillors who have Cabinet positions. Of course, with so many new councillors, and just nine re-elected ones, at least one newly elected Green member had to end up in the Cabinet of ten.

But the appointment of so many new councillors creates extra responsibility and increased demands on those without prior Council experience. Some, like the Sussex Square, Geoffrey Bowden, has taken to his new role like a duck to water. His prior experience in a government quango will have helped. Others, though, are having to make the adjustment to being an elected councillor, becoming a Cabinet member and learning a new brief, all at the same time. Most newly elected councillors, no matter how lowly they are in the pecking order, especially in an authority like Brighton and Hove, are overwhelmed by the demands placed one them. To become a Cabinet holder is a huge ask.

Those Green councillors who have taken on Cabinet experience have not been appointed based on experience or competence by the Leader of the Council. No, they have been elected into each position by the entire Group. While that may be good for democracy within the Group and the Green Party, it could have resulted in appointment being made that might not otherwise have been made, with others, currently more experienced and possible more able, remaining on the back benches. I am not thinking of any particular Cabinet member. But for the well being of Brighton and Hove, I hope the Greens have got ALL appointments right. There is no time to learn the job on the go. The City can’t afford mistakes.

I anticipate that there will be one, if not two, resignations from the Cabinet within the first year as individuals realise what the brief entails and what time commitment is required. Whatever you may think of the last two administrations, individuals like Mary Mears, Maria Caulfield and Ayas Fallon-Khan (all Tories), and Simon Burgess and Sue John (Labour) worked every hour of the day and night fulfilling the demands of their portfolios. They may not always have got it right but nobody should negate their commitment and service to the City. I hope in a years time I can say the same thing for the ten Green Cabinet members who will need to make huge personal sacrifices while coming under close scrutiny and, in all likelihood, gleeful criticism. I wish each and everyone the best of luck. The City needs you to be successful.

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!

The campaign in Queens Park is getting lively and turning nasty!

Labour’s Tom French alleges that Green Queens Park councillor Ben Duncan was “slated by member of public for not attending 6 Police Authority meetings”.  Really?  The public no less.  Everyone of them?  Tom French then says that the Tories  “refuse to protect local bus services in Queen’s Park”.  The infamous, number 81 no less, the one with ‘Brian Fitch’ on the front.  He calls on another Green councillor, Jason Kitcat, to support the campaign to save the number 81.  Councillor Kitcat replies “if valued bus services are being actually cut then I’d be very very worried. But no firm signs of that yet”.  Then councillor Kitcat says “AFAIK”. What could he possibly mean?

The Queens Park campaign is likely to be one of the liveliest in the city.  The three Labour candidates, media-savvy Tom French, local community activist-extraordinaire Chris Cooke, and the other one (the lovely Dan Chapman) are hard workers, part of the new breed of Labour activists who lack electoral experience (which is a good thing given the tired out hacks on the council radiate doom and defeat). 

But up against them is the Green Dream Team, sitting councillor Ben Duncan (who cares if he misses the occasional meeting – focus on your own campaign, Tom French.  Attacking a popular and hardworking councillor like Ben Duncan makes you look shallow).  Steph Powell, a youth worker, is energetic and personable, and offers an alternative to voters because it is rumoured she is not a gay man!  Again it is rumoured that Labour tried to recruit her as recently as November.  Geoffrey Bowden, the Sussex Square, matches Tom French in his use of new media.  He is a communications consultant, no less. 

Queens Park was the outstanding result last time for the Greens.  Ben Duncan, the very popular Rachel Fryer and the much respected Paul Steedman ousted Labour’s leadership on the Council, Simon Burgess, Ken Bodfish and Delia Forrester.  Ben beat Delia by a mere 15 votes, but it would be wrong to think that a small swing to Labour nationally will even things up and allow Labour back in.  Rachel, Paul and Ben have consolidated the Greens position and the Greens could be on the verge of being the natural party to represent Queens Park.

But one shouldn’t forget Chris Cooke who has been everywhere in Queens Park over the last few years, with a profile as high as that of an active councillor.  We could get a split decision here.  My prediction is that Queens Park will return 3 Greens or 2 Greens and one Labour councillor.  No wonder it is a lively battle, and no wonder it is getting dirty!

Why the Greens should not be complacent in Brighton and Hove

In recent posts I have offered comradely advice to Labour about what it needs to do to re-establish itself locally.  In this post I offer some advice to the Greens (also comradely, but I’m not sure whether Greens use such language!).

I expect the Greens to do well next May.  In September last year I did a review of how I saw things going in each ward, the key wards between Labour and the Greens being Regency, Preston Park, and Queen’s Park.  The Greens are optimistic about Hollingdean and Stanmer, although I think that it might win one, possibly two seats, but certainly not all three.

The danger for the Greens in approaching thses local elections is complacency.  They underestimate Party loyalty and personal votes at their peril.  In Hollingdean and Stanmer, the Greens have made Jeane Lepper into something of a hate figure.  She clearly has got up the noses of Green councillors, but she has a substantial personal vote.  Performance in the Council Chamber and years of case work on the estates are very different things.  To a lesser extent, Pat Hawkes has something of a personal vote but nothing to match that of Jeane Lepper.

To their credit, the Greens are replicating its successful formula from the general election campaign.  The day of action on Saturday demonstrates what the Greens are capable of.  If local organisers can convince Green activists from across the south, London and beyond that a day trip to Brighton and Hove will help them gain control of the City Council.

In the three key wards, the Greens certainly don’t have it wrapped up.  The Labour candidates in Queen’s Park are keen, energetic and very active. But so too are the Greens (I almost described the candidates as ‘young’, keen, etc. until I remembered that the Sussex Square, the ever youthful Geoffrey Bowden, is standing!).  More than half of the Greens sitting councillors are defending their seats, either standing down or in the case of Sven Rufus, moving wards from Regency to Hollingdean and Stanmer.  The Greens will lose the advantage of the individual personal votes. 

Labour have been wise not to field several of the former councillors defeated last time, although several of their less impressive councillors are standing again, which makes areas such as Moulsecoomb and Bevendean vulnerable to a Tory clean sweep, something that should really be unthinkable.

Having given comradely advice to Labour, my comradely advice to the Greens is to avoid complacency.  Build your base (not your greatest strength) and recruit, recruit, recruit. Don’t underestimate loyalty votes, and chase each and every vote.  The results in several wards will be close.