St Peter’s and North Laine by-election: strong showing by Labour’s Tom French

Next Thursday is the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election. What is encouraging for the Labour Party is the performance of its candidate, the impressive Tom French.  He has run a high profile and energetic campaign.  He is just what the Labour Party needs following the general election.

So could Labour’s revival begin in this by-election.  It could be argued that the Green’s win in Brighton Pavilion got the Big Mo, momentum, from the Goldsmid by-election (even though Goldsmid is in neighbouring Hove).  In Goldsmid the Greens fielded 24 year old Alex Phillips.  She was enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive.  In St Peter’s and North Laine, Labour has a 24 year old, enthusiastic, well-liked, impressive candidate. The Greens had never won in Goldsmid, nor for that matter in any ward in Hove. It is many years since Labour came even close in St Peter’s and North Laine and, before that, in the old St Peter’s Ward.

But can the “positive, passionate and dedicated” Tom French win? (That was a quote from his election address going out this weekend).  He is “local and active in our community”, and he is “listening and acting on your concerns”.  Tom French is a strong candidate, quite comfortably the most impressive of all the candidates. Trefor Hunter (Lib Dem) will do as well as he has done in countless elections over the past 25 years in Brighton – he will lose.  Rob Buckwell, the Conservative candidate, is a nice young man, but he doesn’t have it, at least not yet.  He can repeat Tory Party policies but he lacks the instincts required of a successful local politician – to make the issues of local residents the ones he champions.  And finally, Lizzie Deane.  What can I say?  She has run a very low-key campaign, hardly seen, even spending a weekend away in London.  Does she actually want to be a councillor?

What will probably happen is Lizzie Deane will hold the seat for the Greens with a much reduced majority over Tom French, with the Lib Dems and Tories contesting who will come a very poor fourth place.  The Greens would be wrong to dismiss any collapse in its majority as normal poor turn-out in a by-election.  After the success of Caroline Lucas in the general election, the Greens should romp home with a four figure majority.  It should be a wake-up call for the Green Party, its councillors and candidates.  If it is to break through the 20 councillor mark next May (and I really hope it does), it must ensure that it runs campaigns that epitomise its ambitions, not a half-hearted campaign as it has run in St Peter’s and North Laine.

As for Tom French, keep up the fight.  The City Council would benefit from someone of his calibre. I will watch his progress with much interest.

St Peter’s and North Laine: Why the Lib Dems deserve to be humiliated

The Libe Dems are standing Trefor Hunter as its candidate in the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election on July 8th. In the latest Lib Dem ‘Focus’ newsletter that I understand is being distributed around the ward this weekend, Hunter attacks the Greens for failing to deal with congestion and pollution.

As someone who has fought and lost more elections than just about anyone else in Brighton over the last 30 years, Mr Hunter must surely be aware that the Greens have never formed the administration in Brighton and Hove.  In fact, his party’s coalition partner, the Conservative Party, are the administration locally and nationally.  He writes “Decades ago residents elected their first Green Councillor, but what difference has it really made?”.  Actually, quite a lot, and if we achieve a 20mph speed limit in Brighton I for one will be delighted.

The more relevant question is what difference does voting Lib Dem make?  In Brighton and Hove they are an absolute irrelevance.  In Brighton Kemptown and in Hove, they split the anti-Tory vote that saw two Labour candidates defeated and the election of two Conservatives.  Nationally, millions voted tactically or positively for the Lib Dems as a way of voting against the Conservatives.  What happened?  The Lib Dems jumped into bed with the Tories.  The sight of Vince Cable bumbling and stuttering through feeble and half-hearted defences of his party’s total sell-out of his policies, his sound economic analysis and his principled stand on the banks, is pitiful.  Actually it is beneath contempt.

If I had a vote in the St Peter’s and North Laine by-election, would I vote Lib Dem?  Give me an honest Tory any day. At least you know what you can expect from them.  The Lib Dems deserve to be truly humiliated in the by-election and in each test of voter opinion up to and beyond the next general election.