After the nasty attacks on Christopher Hawtree, I am considering closing down this blog

I have seriously considered closing down this blog over the last few days.  I have several reasons for this but uppermost in my mind is the tone of the debate over libraries and, in particular, the nasty personal attacks on councillor Christopher Hawtree.

The library issue, as with everything to do with the budget of Brighton and Hove City Council, is fraught with difficulties, and ethical dilemmas for those involved. But attacks on an individual’s integrity is not acceptable.

We should also remember that no party is immune from some culpability in what is happening:

  • The Tories and Lib Dems are imposing cuts of 35% on the City Council. There are alternatives, but this is a government with an ideological commitment to cutting government. That is a political choice.
  • Labour failed to maintain confidence of the electorate, are not mobilising opposition, are more interested in who should lead their party, and they are failing locally and nationally to provide a viable alternative to the cuts agenda.  Nationally, their political choice is to make cuts but not as quickly.
  • The Greens have made the political choice to form the administration locally, and to best manage the level of cuts imposed on them.

Within each party there are honourable people trying to do their best.  For many it is a question of compromise which, after all, is the most common feature of politics.  For some, it might lead to resignation.

I find it unacceptable to question, in such personal terms, the integrity, morality, even the mental health, of someone who is struggling with issues. I can only conclude that those who indulge in this political form of bear baiting have no positive policies or proposals of their own. It says more about them than the target of their vitriol.

We are fortunate to have the likes of councillor Hawtree in Brighton and Hove, just as we are fortunate to have the likes of the Hangleton Twins (Barnett and Janio) and many others who sacrifice a great deal to stand to become and then serve as councillors. Let us start all debate by recognising this, and then, by all means, question the policies being implemented, but keep the debate about policy, priorities and alternatives, or as Craig Turton always says, stick to the ishoos. 

I once referred on this blog to Thumper from Bambi who said “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say anythin’ at all”.  There are some who could learn from Thumper.

I am still considering whether or not to close down this blog.

If you can’t say somethin’ nice about Caroline Lucas, don’t say nothin’ at all

Craig Turton asks: “Why oh why does BPB keep on banging on about some mythical obsession s/he thinks Labour has with the ‘Evil Princess and All Her Works’?” Well, Craig, spending time with Labour activists during and since the election, they seem to have two obsessions: one with Caroline, the other with the newly minority Green Council.

Labour activists find it almost impossible to have a rational conversation about Caroline Lucas. Take someone at random …. how about ….. Craig Turton. He writes: “The problem with Saint Caroline (BTW I first heard that nickname from a Green during the plot to throw over Keith Taylor) is that being in a minority of one with in essence the status of an independent MP representing the Brighton Pavilion Allotments and Residents Association, means that her ability in Parliament to influence government and its agencies to act as a catalyst in facilitating change for the City is far more limited than that of an MP representing the DUP or Plaid Cymru for example.”

Most people wouldn’t agree with Craig. Allie Cannell predictably, as a Green, writes: “Caroline Lucas does work with other people in parliament?!?!? Plaid Cymru and the SNP give the Greens lots of help in Westminster. She does propose, amend and oppose legislation. How much difference would one more Labour or Tory MP out of hundreds make? As we said over and over again during the general election campaign. I don’t understand your argument……”

I agree with Allie. But then Craig would say: “of course you would”. But Allie makes a good point. Caroline Lucas is one reason why the Greens did so well in the local elections. In fact, every time I hear a Labour activist rubbish Caroline Lucas, it drives me further away from the only party I have ever been a member of, and one which I think about rejoining from time to time. But it is the hostil attitude of Labour activists that is the primary reason for not doing so.

I would suggest Labour activists should spend the next six months following the Thumper Principle (that’s Thumper from Bambi who said “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”).

In fact, I would challenge Craig, Warren, Harris and any other Labour activist who wishes to take up the challenge – post one genuine positive comment about Caroline Lucas. Not a back-handed compliment, something genuine. I won’t hold my breath ….

Doorstep Brighton 15: Websites, Patcham, and denying Christopher Hawtree a famous victory in Rottingdean Coastal

There has been a great deal of interest in the new Labour Party website. And even Green activists have applauded its launch. Luke Walter, for example, said:  “A few kinks, but fair play. A big improvement to the last one.”  So, too, have a number of new readers (and now probably ex-readers) who were attracted to the last post having searched ‘lap-dancing club Brighton’.  Probably the same ex-readers who were no impressed with the picture of me dressed in nothing but a sheet!

Warren also answers some of the gaps in the new website: “Thanks for all the comments and for pointing out the glitches/omissions, all being corrected. …. Yes, Celia Barlow was selected to stand in Central Hove (her bio will be changed), and Brian Fitch in Hangleton & Knoll. Their experience – and that of Simon Battle and all 13 Labour councillors running for re-election – is balanced by the new talent we have in Queens Park, Regency, Goldsmid, Hanover, Wish, St Peters, Preston Park and elsewhere.”

Dr Faust criticises me for hypocrisy: “On the ‘Thumper principle’ you seem to be failing yourself with your rather snide comments about Brian Fitch and others. Your respondants have followed suit as well – but I think that’s OK. Say what you like about candidates, preferably let it be true, but if not someone will hopefully point out your error.”

Tom Matthews says that this is a fair point, points out that I can get away with making snide comments because “(s)he’s not running to be a councillor, or IS (s)he??”. Thank you, Tom, I’m a sensitive soul, finding criticism hard to cope with! As for standing for Council, I wont confirm or deny rumours that i might be standing as an Independent Green in Rottingdean Coastal inspite of accusations that I will split the anti-Mears vote, thereby denying Christopher Hawtree an historic victory.

But Dr Faust is wrong. I wasn’t being snipe about the People’s Brian. I said he was a legend and that he would save the No 5 bus to Hangleton. I couldn’t be fairer.

‘Andy’ points out that the new website seems to suggest that one of “Labour’s candidate for Patcham seems to also be standing in Brunswick. That’s a good start!”.

And talking of Patcham, Serenus Zeitblom said: “You can tell it’s getting close to election time in Patcham because we’ve just had a flyer through the door advertising Messrs Theobald, Theobald and Pidgeon’s surgery times … however in the seven years I’ve been living in the ward I don’t think I’ve seen any evidence of Labour activity ever.

But I’m not wholly convinced by the new Labour website. Smart and slick at first appearance, it appears to be full of slips and errors – almost as if the webmaster has been filling in a template. And here in Brighton where you’re never more than a few yards from a web developer you expect slick digital campaigns.”

Two points regarding Patcham, “Messrs Theobald, Theobald and Pidgeon” surely refers to councillor Geoffrey and councillor Carol Theobald” as well as councillor Pidgeon. And secondly, there has been practically no reports on the campaign in Patcham, not even a convincing opinion from the Peter Snow of Brighton politics, Christopher Hawtree, that with a swing of just 187%, Patcham will fall to the forces of the Greens.

Doorstep Brighton 14: Labour for Brighton and Hove – not an endorsement but the launch of an impressive new website

I am grateful to Warren Morgan for alerting me to Brighton and Hove Labour Party’s new website Labour for Brighton and Hove.  I am delighted to say how impressive it appears. It has some welcomed links, for example to the blogs for the campaigns in Hanover and Elm Grove and in Queens Park. Both are very readable websites and the candidates should be applauded for them.  (It has been noted that this blog is not listed under ‘Friends of Labour’.  Remember, I called for Labour votes in both Brighton Kemptown and Hove at the general election. I remain a friend of the Labour Party as well as a friend of the Green Party).

I was disappointed that Tracey Hill decided to blog about Caroline Lucas’s home. Tracey should be told that a basic rule of campaigning is not to stoop to the level of attacking your political opponents.  It suggests that you are sectarian and small minded, and is an important factor in helping me to decide how I will vote.  As Thumper (not John Prescott) in Bambi said: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”.

Warren has pointed out that the website still has more features and content to come, but that the Party wanted it to go live now.  Of course websites do evolve as content and new features are added.  I am sure that this website will continue to improve.  However, I think that some changes need to be prioritised.  For example, the profile of Celia Barlow that appears in the ‘Candidates‘ section fails to mention 2 things. The first is where she is standing (I assume from reports that it is Central Hove), and secondly, in the very full write-up of her achievements, being elected to Parliament in 2005, being the first of the new intake to make her maiden speech, being a member of a Select Committee, being appointed as a Parliamentary Private Secretary, it fails to mention that she is no longer an MP. A slight, yet important, omission, I would suggest.

On page 2 of the ‘Candidates’ there is the happy, smiling face of Brian Fitch.  A legend returns, but the question is where?  His write up fails to mention where he is standing.  It does say that Brian “has a reputation”. He sure does.  On this occasion it qualifies it by saying “as a man who gets things done.”  And I was overjoyed to see he has campaigned on issues such as ….. bus services.  The main thrust of his campaign is “to save the No 5 to Hangleton which is under imminent threat of being scrapped” (I made that bit up.  The No 5 is not under threat but be assured Brian continues to save it).

And a small word of advice to Caroline Penn (see page 4 of ‘Candidates‘, when posing for election photos, try to avoid the appearance of being in a poll-dancing club.

I am pleased to see that Simon Battle is hoping to make a return to front-line politics. I have worked with this former councillor and admire his work, particularly in achieving the pedestrianisation of George Street.  (As an aside, I was appalled when David Milliband said that he was withdrawing from front-line politics after his defeat by Ed for the Labour Party leadership. Clearly David doesn’t think that being an MP is front-line.  I think candidates in local elections, one and all – even Lib Dems – are in the front-line. David is such a typically arrogant New Labourite believing it is his birthright to hold office and to be leader. I’m still so glad he lost).

All in all, congratulations to Labour for this new resource.  Do take the time to have a look at Labour for Brighton and Hove

How effective are Nancy, Caroline and Chuck in using new technology in Brighton Pavilion?

The “snowstorm in a teacup” incident where Charlotte Vere re-tweeted a link to an outrageous blog that likened the policies of the Green Party to those of the BNP (for which Charlotte apologised), raises the two edged sword that is the mighty Twitter.  It is so easy to Tweet or re-Tweet something and for it then to get ‘legs’.  It has caused me to think about how the three candidates for Brighton Pavilion are using Twitter and other new media.

Nancy Platts has for some considerable time made very effective, and at times, humourous use of new technologies.  Her style is warm and engaged with a strong focus on local issues and what she is doing.  Anyone following her will have no doubt about her commitment to Brighton Pavilion and be impressed by her personal campaign.  A great example of her blogging can be found on “Tory stories, Tory cuts, my thoughts on what it’s meant leaving social care in Tory hands in Brighton” . Nancy has had a very high profile regarding the campaign to save the Preston Circus Fire Station, just one example of street-level activity for which she is know and respected.  Nancy has 693 Twitter followers.

Caroline Lucas, as the national leader of the Greens, has a different focus – more on national issues and events.  Even though this blog has called for a Green tactical vote in Brighton Pavilion, there remain concerns about Caroline as a local candidate.  Her Tweets refect this, although there is an increased focus on local issues, such as the campaign to save the Brighton History Museum.  That campaign has a high Twitter profile and can easily be supporter from Brussels.  What Caroline needs to do is to raise some original, local issues that are original to her, and not issues fed by her campaign team or joined online.  Her new website is impressive, but again the local issues are all those championed by Green councillors locally.  Caroline has 978 Twitter followers.  As yet she has chosen not to follow @BrightonPolitic, the rather wonderful Twitter of the Brighton Politics Blogger which this blog highly and without reservations recommends!

Chuck Vere (you notice that, following her apology, it is back to the rather familiar and intimate ‘Chuck’ as opposed to the sterner Ms Vere) has, as previously stated on this blog, hit the ground running with her website although she is yet to define herself as either local or London.  A lot of her Tweeting and blogging is on issues such as Gordon Brown’s leadership.  She doesn’t need to do that since it does not add to the overall debate and makes her come across as a party political hack, and being a cheerleader for David Cameron is not going to be a big vote winner, even if she thinks it will.  She also adds to an image as a hack by making direct and rather shallow jibes at Caroline over her expenses as an MEP.  Chuck has 190 Twitter followers.

Where Caroline has done well is to avoid responding directly to the jibes from Chuck Vere.  She addresses the issues but gives no name-check to Chuck.  She knows the number 1 rule of local political campaigning.  The electorate don’t respond positively to name-calling by candidates against their opponents.  To quote that great political strategist, Thumper, from the Disney film Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.