Vote for policies or personalities? Vote tactically

There is an excellent website that I commend, http://voteforpolicies.org.uk. By completing the survey based on policies alone, you are advised which party most reflects your views.  Have a go.  You might just be surprised.

Almost 100,000 people have completed the survey and the results are fascinating.  In third place, with 17.12%, is Labour, in second place on 17.99% are the Lib Dems, but the party whose policies enjoy the widest support, on 28.25%, is the Green Party. (The Tories are on 16.28%).

It would be great if people did vote on the basis of policies, but that won’t happen.  In most constituencies most voters will remain true to the main two parties. It often takes a leap of faith for lifelong supporters to transfer their support from their traditional party.

In Brighton Pavilion, those arguing against a Green vote point to Labour’s 5,000 margin of victory in the last general election. Amongst those who argue this is Alexander Craven who regularly comments on this blog: “You shouldn’t neglect the basic fact that Labour had a 5,000 majority in Brighton Pavilion in 2005. And also that most people always vote in terms of the wider national debate.  Let’s be frank. A lot of people here do not see what one Green MP in Parliament could achieve; most people disagree with their policies too.”

On the last point he is right, but as the VoteForPolicies website suggests, there is significantly more support for Green policies than those of Labour.  Having said that, and where I disagree with the Greens, I still hope Labour will be the largest party in the new parliament.

Could a single Green MP make a difference?  You just have to look at Dr Richard Taylor, the Independent MP for Wyre Forrest, who has had a higher profile than any number of anonymous and arguably more influential given his expertise in matters relating to health. And best of all, he is not inhibited by a party whip.  All these apply in equal, if not more, measure to Caroline Lucas.

As for the national debate, this election cannot be seen in the same way as previous ones.  There is a mood to move away from traditional voting trends, for better (Greens and some Independents) and for worse (BNP and UKIP).

It would be great if we could simply vote for policies, but it is most  important that the Tories don’t form a majority Government as this would see a fundamental shift of resources from ordinary (dare I say ‘hard working families’?) to the richest 2%.  So I repeat my call for tactical voting as follows: Eastbourne – Lib Dem, Crawley – Labour, Brighton Pavilion – Green, Brighton Kemptown – Labour, Hastings & Rye – Labour, and Hove – Labour

Traditional Labour, Lib Dem and Green supporters must put longstanding lotyalties aside and vote tactically

There was an interesting report published last week by the Electoral Reform Society that suggests that of all the seats in Sussex, ten contests are effectively ‘dead’ and that in just six seats voters might make a difference.  The seats that are ‘still up for grabs’ are Eastbourne, Crawley, Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Kemptown, Hastings & Rye, and Hove.  Such are the Tory majorities in all other seats (with the exception of Lewes) that there is no hope of unseating the Tories.

In Lewes Stormin’ Norman Baker has made the seat the nearest that there is to a safe Lib Dem seat.

There is the possibility that five of the remaining seats could go Tory, meaning that there would be 14 Tory MPs returned from Sussex, one Lib Dem and one Green.  More than ever, there needs to be tactical voting in the other seats as follows: Eastbourne – Lib Dem, Crawley – Labour, Brighton Pavilion Green, Brighton Kemptown – Labour, Hastings & Rye – Labour, and Hove – Labour.

In an earlier post I warned that the growing ‘bad blood’ developing between Labour and the Green supporters could allow the Tory, Charlotte Vere, to slip through between them.  While I think that a Tory victory is increasingly less likely, tactical voting for the Greens would both guarantee a non-Tory and make a positive statement about the emergence of minor parties.  Traditional Labour supporters (like me) must put our longstanding loyalties to one side. So too should non-Tories in the other contests that are still to be decided.  One possibility could be that you find someone to ‘trade’ your vote with.  For example, a Lib Dem supporter in Brighton Pavilion could find a Green in Lewes and both agree to vote for the other’s candidate.

The election has a long way to go, but we could prevent a Tory victory by acting now.

In praise of Charlotte Vere ….. and Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas and David Lepper and Desmond Turner!

There’s been a great debate going on in the comments section following earlier blogs regarding election expenses.  The debate largely involves Green and Labour supporters / activists.

A recent comment reflected that many people don’t want either a Labour or a Conservative government.  We are either going to get one of them or we will have a hung parliament.  This blog has longed hoped for a hung parliament and has advocated tactical voting to achieve this.  But there seems to be such bad blood developing in Brighton Pavilion between Labour and Green supporters that my worst fears might be realised -that the anti-Tory vote will be split allowing a Conservative victory.

I have, for many months, been positive about the three candidates, Nancy Platts, Caroline Lucas and Charlotte Vere.  All three have impressed me, and even though I don’t like her politics, that she is a Tory, and that she has based her campaign largely on attacks against Caroline Lucas, I have grown to like Charlotte Vere and believe that she would make a good constituency MP if elected. But I hope she will not win, at least not for Brighton Pavilion.  I hope that in future she will stand in a safe Conservative seat.

My dilemna has been who to support between Nancy Platts and Caroline Lucas.  Both are hard working, both are impressive women, both would make excellent constituency MPs, and both are politicians of the left.   Some months back I called for tactical voting for the Greens as I believed then that the Greens had the best chance of beating the Tories.  That view has changed slightly.  No longer do I see a Green vote in Brighton Pavilion as a ‘negative’ “Keep the Tories Out” vote, but it is now a positive vote for a positive change.  Brighton Pavilion can help make history by electing the first Green MP.  This will provide a platform in domestic politics for the Greens who could yet become a significant force in UK politics, if not in the election after this one, but the one after that.

I would love to see Nancy Platts in parliament, and I believe that she will make it, but this is not her election.  She has the misfortune to be up against Caroline Lucas in a year where Labour will struggle. In another year, in another constituency, she would be the standout candidate.  I wish her well.

As for Caroline Lucas and the Greens.  Her victory will not be a one parliament wonder.  She will nurture the seat and the Greens ongoing success in Brighton and Hove will see the possibility of her being joined in the House by at least one other local Green MP in due course.

Parliament was formally disolved at 11.41am today, meaning that David Lepper and Desmond Turner are no longer Members of Parliament.  Both have given great service to the City since being elected in 1997, and before that as Brighton and East Sussex councillors.  The City should honour them for their service.

Labour Minister Lord Adonis has effectively called for a tactical Green vote in Brighton Pavilion to keep the Tories out

The Labour Party is calling for tactical voting, something that this blog has been doing for six months. Writing in today’s Independent, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis has called for Liberal Democrat supporters to back Labour in order to keep the Tories out of office.

He said it was vital to grasp the “fundamental Labour-Lib Dem identity of interest” to avoid a Tory government and that this was best served by Lib Dem voters voting Labour in marginal seats. He said that Lib Dems had a national policy that was similar to Labour’s.

He writes: “In Labour-Tory marginals, a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote which helps the Tories against progressive policies”.

If only that was completely true. The Lib Dems, in some respects, are well to the left of Labour.

What Andrew Adonis does not do is to call for Labour supporters to vote tactically in seats where the Lib Dems are best placed to beat the Tories, but this is implied. He cannot directly call for Labour supporters to vote tactically for another party as this is against the rules of the Labour Party and would result in his immediate expulsion from the Party.

By implication, Lord Adonis is saying that Labour and Lib Dem supporters should vote to keep the Tories out. In Brighton Pavilion this means a vote for the Green’s Caroline Lucas who is both the front-runner and the person most likely to beat the Tories. His call for tactical voting must be seen as a boost for Caroline Lucas’ campaign.

Finally, a comment left on this blog yesterday by Derek Wall that there is still a lot of work to be done by the Greens in worth repeating: “I would still urge people to help, elections are won by canvassing and leafleting”. Well said Derek, and well said Andrew Adonis!

A rant against Ashcroft and Cameron, need for tactical votes in Hove and Brighton Kemptown, and Charlotte Vere’s hopes receding

Patriotism, was David Cameron’s call on Sunday.  Ashcroft has blown that out of the water.  Still a non-dom.  To give Charlotte Vere credit, she has made it clear she hasn’t touched his cash.  Good for her.  Cameron’s refrain that the matter was a private affair between Ashcroft and HM Revenue and Customs is hollow.

But isn’t it great to see Tory politicians becoming a bit more humble.  Gone is the swagger “When I am in the Cabinet …”.  The polls continue to narrow.  The attacks on Gordon Brown have been OTT.  But what could still go wrong is the Tories mobilisation of support in key marginals, backed by Ashcroft’s cash.  The polls show that the Tories are stronger in those areas that have benefited from Ashcroft’s cash and expertise.  This is a worry in Hove and in Brighton Kemptown, which makes tactical voting so important.  The polls suggest that Charlotte Vere’s chances of winning Brighton Pavilion have seriously receded.

Ashcroft is reported to have said that he will end his non-dom status if the Tories win the election.  Cameron must come clean about how long he has known about Ashcroft’s non-dom status, and make sure that he immediately ends his non-dom status.

(Apologies for the rant.  It has been a long day with much travelling).

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!

Green councillors may be hard working bureaucrats but they still lack the ability to campaign on local issues

Luke Walter, as always, puts up a spirited defence of Green councillors in a comment on my earlier post, 83 days to go, and Caroline Lucas continues to be let down by local Green Councillors.  He writes: “I would actually say that the Green councillors around St. Peter’s and North Laine, particularly Keith Taylor, is busy pounding doors almost every weekend, the rest of the time he’s pursing case work. Yes, perhaps they have missed one issue, but you have to remember, the local party is pretty stretched in regards to the campaign.”  He goes on: “I would say Green councillors work hard, one way or another, as the vast majority of councillors do.”

Allie Cannell also comments: “The Green Party makes it very clear that all green councillors have to do a lot of work as part of their role and are not allowed to just sit in the role, as some councillors do…..  They all meet up reguarily with the local party and have to report back on what they’ve been doing to make sure they are complying by these standards the green party demands!!!!”

I have no doubt that Green councillors and Keith Taylor in particular work hard as ward councillor (although I am not in a position to have any first hand knowledge of this).  What my observation is, and has always been, is that the Green councillors, particularly in a ward such as St Peters and North Laine, are poor campaigners.  They appear to have slipped into the habit of Labour councillors of being hard working, dedicated … bureaucrats!  To bring about change, it isn’t enough to be a hard working councillor, you have to campaign. 

On 3rd February, this blog referred to an earlier exchange with local thespian, Ralph Brown regarding the Open Market.  I had said that local Greens had much to learn about local campaigning.  Ralph accused me of being a Tory!  (I have hardly recovered from this slur but am making good progress, as I am sure Charlotte Vere will be pleased to note!).  Ralph said that Keith Taylor had been working on the regeneration of Brighton’s Open Market “for many years”, and that I should, in effect, ‘watch this space’.  I continue to watch and wait, and I all I observe is  further decline in the Open Market.  What Keith and many Green councillors lack is a grounding in grass routes campaigning, and so will lack that cutting edge required to win the Council in May 2011, and will undermine Caroline Lucas’ campaign in May 2010.

I have called on Labour and Lib Dem supporters to vote tactically for Caroline Lucas in May, and I would love to see a Green council elected in May 2011.  I am not a Green Party member, but I hope that supporters and members of that party will see my criticism of local Green councillors as constructive.  Unless the Greens learn to campaign, unless they broaden their support base beyond the Muesli Belt, and until they can understand and articulate issues from the perspective of ordinary people, they will remain a party with mere aspirations for office and may well lose the historic opportunity to demonstrate a new politics by forming an administration in Brighton and Hove.

Tactical Voting in Brighton Pavilion (for Lucas) and Brighton Kemptown (for the lesser of two feeble campaigns)

Caroline Lucas is consolidating her position in Brighton Pavilion. She has, as already stated in this blog, the Big Mo – Momentum.  Nancy Platts continues to run a high profile and energetic campaign, impressing all by her personal and political style.  Nevertheless, Caroline Lucas has the tide flowing with her, and the election remains hers to lose, although the Tory candidate, Charlotte Vere is getting herself known – and liked – and could yet pip Caroline at the post.  Therefore, with greater certainty, this blog continues to urge all Labour and Lib Dem supporters, who do not want to see a Tory MP in Brighton Pavilion, and who want to ensure that the Conservatives do not have a Commons majority, to vote for Caroline Lucas on May 6th.

The situation in Brighton Kemptown is becoming a fascinating campaign, not because any candidate is making a strike for victory, but because none are!  Simon Burgess, a decent man, not cut out for electoral politics, appears to have lost heart, demoralised from his defeat in the local elections almost 2 years ago.  Apart from the occasional foray into the media, he is largely a shadow of a candidate.  His website tends to focus on his activities in St James Street (largely irrelevant to the wider constituency albeit consisting of the most vocal of his patch – and the most fickle), and his activities within the Labour Party as Vice Chair of the National Policy Forum (certainly a turn off for the voters if ever there was one).  There are 89 days to go and he is yet to make his mark.

Ben Duncan on the other hand, has a much higher profile, seems to be everywhere, and is about to boost his campaign with the launch of a new campaign website.  His decision to take down his long standing blog has caused a number of the Blogerati to speculate that he has been ‘reigned in’.  If that is the case, that decision is foolish.  He is a lively, interesting, active candidate.  There are two things that cause this blog to hesitate suggesting tactical voting for him: first, he will struggle to connect beyond the Muesli Belt and, even more than Simon, tends to focus on the Queens Park area; and second, the Greens are probably not robbust enough to run two campaigns in neighbouring constituencies.  Their focus is on Brighton Pavilion where they almost certainly will pick up their first Westminster seat.  But in doing so they show a lack of ambition.  Or is it that nobody is allowed to challenge the great Caroline Lucas’ place in the spotlight ….?

As it stands, Simon Kirby is strolling into Parliament.  I don’t know which campaign is the less feeble campaign, that of Simon Burgess or Ben Duncan.  Which one is more ‘deserving’ of tactical votes? Perhaps you could post your views.

90 days to go until the General Election – Tactical Voting Campaign needed more than ever

If, as expected, the general election takes place on 6th May, there are just 90 days to go until polling day.  It has been said that a general election is decided by less than 100,000 voters, those ‘swing’ voters in key marginals whose votes decide which party gets a majority.  In some constituencies, like Arundel, a monkey with a blue rosette would gain a majority – and in the past it seems that this has happened!

But tactical voting can change that.  Perviously this blog has called for tactical voting in eight of the sixteen Sussex seats.  There is a danger that all sixteen seats could go Conservative, but with tactical voting Sussex could yet return eight non-Conservatives.

The key seats are: Lewes (Tactical vote for the Lib Dem Norman Baker); Eastbourne (again Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd); Hastings and Rye (Labour Michael Foster); Hove (Labour’s Celia Barlow); Brighton Kemptown (tight call between Labour’s Simon Burgess and the Green’s Ben Duncan); Brighton Pavilion (the Green’s Caroline Lucas); Crawley (Labour’s Laura Moffatt); and Worthing East and Shoreham (Labour’s Emily Benn).

This blog previously called for tactical voting in Worthing East and Shoreham for the Lib Dems, but such is the disorganisation and incompetence of that party in West Sussex that it has yet to select a candidate!  The website for the Worthing Lib Dems is one of the most inadequate websites I have ever seen.  The campaigns tag takes you to an empty page! It demonstrates that the Lib Dems cannot be taken seriously as the third party of British politics and should really stand aside in key seats such as Brighton Pavilion and Worthing East and Shoreham.  Therefore, this blog is changing its recommendation and is calling for tactical voting for Labour’s Emily Benn, granddaughter of Tony Benn and niece of Hilary Benn.  Alas, she does not share their politics.

By contrast, the website of the Lib Dem candidate in Worthing West and Arun, Hazel Thorpe, is lively and impressive.  Unfortunately, Hazel (who I personally admire) has little chance of success but nevertheless, this blog urges all Labour and Green supporters to vote tactically for Hazel Thorpe.

My next blog will review the two Brighton seats.

The Lib Dems are an irrelevance in Brighton and Hove

I was asked the other day why I never mention the Lib Dems in this blog.  I do, actually, having called for tactical voting for the Lib Dems in Lewes (for Norman Baker MP) and in Eastbourne, to name just two areas.  It is true that I completely ignore them in Brighton and Hove because, putting it quite simply, the Lib Dems are a joke in the City.

Recently, all parties on the Council were asked to be part of a campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer. Women representatives of all parties took part, along with the Mayor, Cllr Anne Norman.  That is all except the Lib Dems who were represented by a male councillor because they don’t have any women on the Council.

Boasting just two councillors (and neither are much to boast about), the ‘third Party’ has yet to select parliamentry candidates in any of the three Brighton and Hove seats.  I may be wrong on this, but if they have it shows just how ineffective and invisible they have been.

In Brighton itself, the Lib Dems have not a single councillor and look unlikely to gain any for the foreseeable future. The Lib Dems have ceased to be a national party and should accept that in areas such as Brighton and Hove they are an irrelevance.  I hope that they don’t field a candidate in any of the Brighton and Hove seats, and urge their supporters to vote either Labour or Green. It will help to ensure that non-Conservatives are elected, ideally from all three seats.