Focusing on the issues is so much better than personality politics …. sometimes

I agree with Craig (a variation of the theme ‘I agree with Nick’). Craig Turton, from time to time, criticises this blog for not dealing with the ‘isshoos’, as he says Tony Benn says it.

When, the other day, I posted on the protest camp in the Old Steine, I anticipated comment from the usual suspects, perhaps even from all four of my regular readers (Warren, Grizzly, Doris and Councillor Christopher), but there have been more comments than on any other post ever! Sadly, the tone of one or two comments reflect the intellectual calibre of those who leave comments on the Argus website (pond life). So I agree with Craig. This blog will focus more on issues (although I think many readers do enjoy the personality stuff as well!).

There are a number of pressing issues at the moment, many on a national scale. They are well covered elsewhere, although there is often a local dimension, such as the campaign to protect legal aid which is gathering pace. On the legal aid campaign, there is an excellent website and video and an online petition to sign.  I would encourage you to do so.  Even the Brighton Argus is taking up this issue, there is a strong editorial opposing the proposed cuts. Sometimes an issue such as this can gain momentum and could destabilise the reputations of MPs on the government benches, in our case, Simon Kirby and Mike Weatherley.

What are the other isshoos locally?  There is the Green Party agenda – housing, ‘ethical estate agents’, ‘Meat-free Mondays’, food recycling, ‘retrofitting’ homes (making them more environmentally sound, to you and me), the right to protest.  No doubt Paul Perrin of UKIP will find a reason to say these matters are a European/Green international conspiracy.  In all seriousness, having spoken to senior Greens, the economy of Brighton and Hove is an important issue, not least bringing in appropriate inward investment.  For too long, going back 20 years or more, the City has tried but failed to redevelop key sites in the City – Black Rock, Preston Barracks, the Municipal Market, the Open Market, etc.  There have been some successes, such as the New England Quarter, now in the heart of the Greens’ heartland of St Peters and North Laine.  But wouldn’t it be ironic if it was the Greens who achieved results on these long-neglected sites?

The biggest issue for the Greens, however, is how the cuts imposed by the Tory-led central government will be managed. What has impressed me (apart from Ben Duncan’s ill-advised comment on protests) has been the absence of big statements or initiatives that would be counter-productive.  The Greens would be wise if, as it appears, they are taking their time to set priorities and to come across as measured in how they are addressing the issues.  I hope that Craig agrees with me on this.

The Personal and the Political, how this blog falls miserably short of maintaining standards

Craig Turton quotes Tony Benn in saying that politics should be more about issues than personalities. He writes: “This blog (good though it is and the blogger would be flattered by the number of councillors who do read it) is in danger of becoming a soap opera. Perhaps time for more consideration of the ‘isshhoos’ as Mr Benn would have said.”

Craig, as in most things, is right. But as defenders of the gutter press say that they are just giving readers what they want, so too does this gutter blogger. When I wrote about policy and ‘isshhoos’, I had just two readers. Since embracing the cult of personality, readership has soared to five (Momma Grizzly, Mr Pickwick, an Estate Agent, Captain Morgan, and now Comrade Craig).

But Craig is not immune, himself, from making the odd reference to personality. Having urged me to focus on issues, he then reports on last night’s Council Meeting: The Nasty Party were back in force at the Council meeting with pretty nasty and unnecessary personal barbed attacks on opposition councillors, re-writing of history and misrepresentation from the Dear Leader, Fallon-Khan and Mini-Mears Maria.” Glad you have kept away from personalities, Craig.

(This is a bit personal, even a bit nasty, Craig. I am sure you mean it with affection. For all correspondents, the nature of this blog is left of centre, and any ‘name calling’ is done in a spirit of affection and good humour. Most of those who become the focus of my gentle gaze have assured me that they enjoy the attention and the increased name recognition even, I understand, the Estate Agent. Do get in touch if I am wrong and I will put it right).

Craig asks if I was in the public gallery at the meeting. I couldn’t stay as the meeting clashed with my monthly meeting at the Lodge. (Before anyone says differently, it isn’t a secret society, it is just a society with secrets!).

‘Clive’ agrees with Craig Turton. He writes: “Reading this blog, I feel as if I’m watching Eastenders after not doing so for several years. I’m not sure who the characters are, and I’m not sure whether I’m that interested.” he then goes on to criticise councillors for “petulant grandstanding”, adding “most of it from the administration.” He accuses them of being “bad losers, knowing they were on the way out.”

On the subject of Eastenders, says that he himself could “certainly pass for Phil Mitchell”. This could open up a rich vein of amusement for this blogger, keen to avoid the issues and obsessed by the cult of personality. Now who on earth could be the Peggy Mitchell, the Matriarch of the City Council ….?

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.

A tactical vote in Worthing East and Shoreham is a Lib Dem vote

Worthing East and Shoreham is an interesting seat.  The sitting Tory MP, Tim Loughton, has a good public image and is a hard-working constituency MP.  Labour and the Lib Dems were neck and neck last time, with Labour coming out marginally in front in second place.

However, with the national decline in the Labour vote, their inability to make any breakthrough in Worthing itself (surely an area where Labour could thrive), and the effectiveness of the Lib Dems in pavement politics, the recommendation of this blog is for tactical votes for the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dems need to get their acttogether, however, and get a decent candidate in place quickly.  Labour have had young Emily Benn, probably to be the youngest at the general election, in place for the past year. Her youth will probably count against her. The grand-daughter of Tony Benn and neice of Hilary Benn, she comes from a more Blairite tradition, reflecting the politics of her mother, Nita Clarke (who worked for Tony Blair)  more than those of  Tony or Hilary. For example, she supported the war in Iraq, and this will surely count against her.

The 2005 result:

Conservative: 19,548 (43.9%)
Labour: 11,365 (25.5%)
Liberal Democrat: 10,844 (24.3%)
UKIP: 2,109 (4.7%)
Other: 677 (1.5%)
Majority: 8,183 (18.4%)