Brighton Politics Blogger to stand as a Conservative candidate in 2015

Brighton Pavilion and Hove Conservatives are seeking candidates for the 2015 City Council elections – and you do not have to be a Party member already

Its website says that “In a bold new move the Conservatives in Brighton Pavilion and Hove have opened up their selection process for the first time to any member of the local community who wants to serve their neighbours by becoming a Councillor. No longer will selection be restricted to those who are already Party members.”

Councillor Andrew Wealls, who led a review of candidate selection, said: “We would like to hear from anyone who wants to work for the local community to ensure the Council better serves local residents and businesses. Of course we would expect them to be broadly sympathetic to Conservative values but the most important consideration is a determination to make life better for all residents, whether by ensuring council tax bills are reduced or delivering council services more effectively.”

In the spirit of the New Conservative Party, I have decided to put my name forward. While I have some difficulties with certain Conservative ‘values’, I am pleased that “the most important consideration is a determination to make life better for all residents”.

I want to make life better for residents, but which residents? Which seat will they let me stand in? Obviously there is a determination by the New Conservatives to make life better for this Blogger, and so will certainly allow me to stand in a safe seat. That rules out all seats in the current Brighton Pavilion constituency, even Withdean and Patcham wards.

So what sort of policies should I stand on? I am a conservative kind of person. I want to conserve socialist values in the Labour Party, a battle that is sadly being lost. I want low Council Tax rises, say 3.5%, in order to avoid bigger cuts last year, and on this issue I can foresee a Phillips-Blogger coalition at next year’s Budget Meeting. The modern Tory Party is committed to creating coalitions to replace the one with the doomed Lib Dems.

So here are some of my ideas for the Blogger’s Conservative manifesto:

  • The mandatory wearing of ties sporting the stars and stripes by all male Conservative councillors at all times;
  • All Tory councillors must abide by the Hyde Rule – having been born within a two mile radius of Brighton Town Hall (to hell with inbreeding, councillor Ania Kitcat);
  • Leading the annual Pride March around Hangleton – pride that the ward is the most anti-traveller ward in the City; and
  • Unlimited extensions for speeches by councillors Janio and Hawtree at all council meetings with tickets for the public gallery being sold to the highest bidders.
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Reflections on the Budget Council meeting at Brighton Town Hall

So what to make of tonight’s Budget Council meeting? Labour and the Tories voted down the Green Party’s Council Tax rise, and then the Greens joined with Labour and the Tories to vote through the Budget 53-1 (the one being Green councillor Alex Phillips who appeared not to be able to stomach this compromise).

For the Tories the stand out impression (other than the tie of the wonderful councillor Janio and his reference to the “great man” Ronald Reagan), was the emergence of their Leader-in-Waiting Graham Cox. His speech put clear blue water between the Tory Group and the rest. He is the Newt Gingrich of Brighton politics, the one who could capture the public imagination. Labour and the Greens be warned, he could see a Tory revival in 2015.

Labour were in a no win situation. The one Labour councillor who understood the politics of the occasion was Brian Fitch. It was he who articulated that Labour would OT be supporting the Tories. In the event, the Tories supported Labour. Labour will make much of this, countering the Green claim that Labour and the Tories had voted together. They will both be right. But there will be a nagging feeling amongst Labour supporters that the Tory and Labour budgets were not that dissimilar, and that Labour hardly ushered a word against the Tory government, focusing all their fire on the Greens.

For the Greens, Jason Kitcat was impressive, in command of his brief, and replied well. If this, his first major outing, is anything to go by, he will do fine as the Green leader. I was uncertain about the Greens voting for the budget. An honourable (?) abstention was what I would have expected from most, with more than Alex Phillips voting against. I imagine that, as Geoffrey Bowden said, most voted with a heavy heart. I thought the speeches by councillors Phillips and Sven Rufus were ones that should be noted regarding conduct.

But that’s not to say there shouldn’t be some humour, even some slapstick to lighten the mood. Councillor Janio’s ‘dual’ with councillor Hawtree is fast becoming the matter of legends, and councillor Hawtree’s repost was pure class. Perhaps a way of raising funds for this cash-strapped Council would be for the two of them to go on stage together, with half the proceeds going to libraries, the remainder to the third sector, after all, councillor Janio would not trust even a £3 note to local government.

It feels good to be back.

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.

The Brighton Politics Blogger’s Political Awards 2011

As the year draws to an end, it is time once again for the much sought after Brighton Politics Blogger’s Political Awards.

Team of the Year must go to the Green Party for becoming the first Green Administration in the UK. It was hard to see how that party could have followed up their achievement of having elected their first-ever Member of Parliament in 2010.

Campaigner of the Year goes to an Honorary Brightonian who was a leading campaigner in the ‘No’ campaign in the electoral reform referendum, Charlott Vere. She was hardly out of the news and made a barnstorming speech in Brighton during the referendum campaign. Chuck is much missed locally but will no doubt continue her inevitable journey into Parliament at the next election.

For his constant production of press releases, the His Master’s Voice Award goes to Michael Ireland, researcher for Hove MP, Mike Weatherley. Rarely a day goes by without another press release popping up in my inboThe most Inspired Campaign of the Year goes to the Labour Party for LOLA, the Leave Our Loos Alone campaign, to save public toilets from closure.

The Trend Setters Award goes to …. the Labour Party of the early 1990’s for starting the public toilet closure programme in Brighton.

The Hundred Year War Endurance Award goes to Steve Bassam and Jason Kitcat for their Twitter exchange on the Council Budget. It might not have gone on for a hundred years but sometimes it has felt that way to those of us who have read and reflected on each and every tweet!

The Individual Award for an Outstanding Election Result was closely fought. The panel of judges commended Sue Shanks for her victory in Withdene and Graham Cox for his Westbourne by-election result, but the award goes to Christopher Hawtree for his stunning individual performance in Central Hove.

The Dear Leader’s Award for Winding Up the Opposition (or on this occasion, winding up the Administration) goes to Tony Janio for wearing his Stars and Stripes tie at meetings of the Full Council.

And in spite of the judgement of the ridiculous ‘Standard’s Committee’, the Champagne Campaigning Moment goes to Dawn Barnett for her stunt in directing travellers in her ward to open spaces in Green-held wards.

The final award, the Who Got It Totally Wrong Award, goes to your Humble Blogger for getting the result of the Westbourne by-election totally wrong.

Congratulations to all award winners. Bask in the glory of your awards, and best wishes to all my readers (Momma Grizzly, Doris, and Biker Dave) for 2012.

In defence of Dawn Barnett (and even of Tony Janio)

Once again, a democratically elected councillor might be prevented from representing her constituents because councillor Dawn Barnett is being taken before the ‘Standards’ Committee following an anonymous complaint, allegedly from a fellow councillor.

In early summer, shortly after the election of the first-ever Green Administration, councillor Barnett handed out letters to travellers encamped in her ward (Hangleton and Knoll) giving them directions to open spaces in Green-held wards.

I thought it was an imaginative and hilarious protest by councillor Barnett. So much of local politics is taken too seriously. While much of what local government does is serious stuff, occasionally a light hearted and irreverent intervention is to be welcomed. Councillor Barnett’s made one such intervention.

I like, for example, the style of councillor Tony Janio who has strongly held views that can be summarised as small local government, big third and private sectors. He takes a special delight in winding up Green councillors as witnessed by the wearing of a Stars and Stripes tie at Full Council meetings.

Now it may come as a surprise to my three regular readers (Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave) that I might not entirely support each and every political view articulated by the Hangleton Twins (Barnett and Janio). But I like their style.

But back to the attempt to discipline councillor Barnett. I am shocked that the hearing by the ‘Standards’ Committee might be held behind closed doors. Papers relating to the hearing have not been published because the council believes that “the public interest in maintaining the exemption outways the public interest in disclosing the information”. According to Tim Ridgway at the Argus, “It is believed the decision was made by council lawyers as they wanted to ‘downplay’ the publicity surrounding the hearing”.

This is not a matter of process, it is a political show trial. On the panel will be Tory councillor, Ann Norman, Green councillor Leo Littman, and Labour councillor Jeane Lepper. Two ‘independent’ members of the panel (which is scheduled to meet at 10am on Tuesday morning) are Peter Rose and Dr. Michael Wilkinson.

If council officials thinks that by “downplaying” the panel hearing that there will be less publicity, they are completely wrong. Try keeping something confidential, you can be assured it will leak.

And if Labour and Green councillors take a stance against Dawn Barnett because they disagree with her views regarding travellers, the issue will come back to bite them on the butt. For mark my words, if Dawn Barnett is suspended from office for even a micro-second, if she is censured for her actions, she will become a bigger legend in Hangleton and Knoll than she is already. Any chance of Labour regaining that ward will be lost; any thoughts that the Greens might have of gaining a foothold in that ward will be lost.

I opposed the Standards Committee action against Jason Kitcat, against Averil Older, and will do so against anyone else brought before this panel. The only group entitled to replace a democratically elected representative should be the voters who put them there in the first place.

I support the right to recall as strongly as I oppose the Standards Committee. I call on the person who made the complaint against councillor Barnett to withdraw it, and I call on councillors Norman, Littman and Lepper to refuse to hear this matter.

The polls have closed: the Greens to get better result than expected

The polls have closed and it looks as though the next 24 hours will be more fascinating than all the speculation that has gone before. The count will start tomorrow morning (although the verification of the number of votes cast is happening this evening).

The warm weather and the very high turnout for a local election leads me to conclude that there will be some extraordinary results tomorrow.

For all their bluster, the Tory campaign in East Brighton faded before it got going, with party members being redirected to Moulsecoomb and Bevendean where, contrary to Craig Turton’s suggestion earlier in the day, the Tories scent victory – one of their few hopes of gains. M&B is definitely one to watch tomorrow at the count.

The Greens are very confident in Preston Park, and are quietly confident of a very good result in Goldsmid. Brunswick and Adelaide could be a split result. Paul Elgood may just hold on but his running mate won’t be making a victory speech tomorrow. Central Hove is fascinating, and I just don’t know what will happen there. But Withdene and even Patcham will produce good results for the Greens, but probably no actual seats although Withdene may just …..

North Portslade and South Portslade are looking good for Labour, and Brian Fitch could be looking at a dramatic return to the Council chamber, representing Hangleton and Knoll, along with Dawn Barnett and Tony Janio for the Tories.

Overall, though, the winners are going to be the Greens. Several Labour activists have told me that the Green vote has been firm, and whe they might have hoped to have picked up votes in a split household, the votes a going Green. The prospect of the first Green council in the UK has inspired people to vote Green. It seems as though the people of Brighton Pavilion like being the first constituency to have elected a Green MP. So now it seems as though more widely in Brighhton and Hove the electorate is wanting to see the election of the first Green Council. Neither the Tories or Labour have been able to offer anything as aspirational.

Whether the Greens make it across the winning line and achieve 27 councillors is another matter. While today will produce better than expected results for the Greens, whether they can secure five more than the 22 I have predicted is another matter.

If they do achieve 27 seats, then the opposition parties must not block the election of a Green mayor who would give the Greens the casting vote in the Council Chamber. The people of Brighton and Hove will have spoken.

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.