The Greens are well placed to have 2 MEPs elected in 2014

Over the next two years there will be two key elections that people in Brighton and Hove will be able to vote in. The first is the election in November of the Police Commissioner. The result of this pan-Sussex vote will almost certainly see the election of a Conservative into what could become a highly politicised, controversial position.

I think it is such a shame that the Labour Party is fielding a candidate since it has no chance whatsoever of winning. I have said before that an independent candidate, such as Ian Chisnell has a much greater chance of producing a shock result than someone from one of the opposition parties.

But the real reason for wanting an independent is that this role should be free from narrow party political influence.

But more intriguing is the election to the European Parliament in 2014. This election is based on a multi-member regional constituency across the South East. 10 MEPs are elected from this region. Last time the parties, all of whom field a slate of candidates, achieved the following results:

  • Conservative 812,288; 34.8%; 4 (total votes; 5 of vote; MEPs elected)
  • UKIP 440,002; 18.8%; 2
  • Liberal Democrats 230,340; 14.1%; 2
  • Green Party 271,506; 11.6%; 1
  • Labour 192,592; 8.2%; 1

No other party polled sufficient votes to have an MEP elected. The British National party, with 101,769 votes (4.4%) came sixth.

The interesting question is what will happen to the Lib Dem vote. It can hardly expect to hold firm. This will be true in every election coming up over the next three years. Some of its vote might transfer to Labour but it is likely that the Greens will benefit most.

The Green Party itself will no doubt benefit from the higher profile that the party has enjoyed following the election of Caroline Lucas to Westminster and the election of the first ever Green Council in Brighton and Hove.

My friend, the Enigmatic Flo, will no doubt tell me that Green support itself will not hold firm, with Labour being the main beneficiary. But European elections are not that straightforward and it gives disenchanted voters from across the South East a positive opportunity to vote for, and have elected, non-mainstream parties. I include the Greens and UKIP in this category. Together they had 3 MEPs elected with Labour returning just Peter Skinner.

The Green Party will almost certainly take over from the Lib Dems in third place and, if the UKIP vote weakens, the Greens could be challenging for second place. In either case, it would result, almost certainly, in the election of two Green MEPs.

The Green Party is in the middle of the selection process for its candidates for this election. Particular interest should be given to who comes second and third, assuming that the current MEP, Keith Taylor, is number one on the Green list. The Green party would be well advised to select a woman is number two on its list in order to present a balanced ticket.

Locally, three candidates have put themselves forward, Jason Kitcat, Ania Kitcat and Alex Phillips. My prediction is that Alex Phillips is most likely to appeal to Green Party members in the region and would be a valuable asset at number two on the Green list. I would anticipate that in May 2014 Ms Phillips will join Mr Taylor in Brussels.

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Westbourne by-election: comments that open up the sluices at both ends

Apologies for my silence. I’ve not been well. Three days with, as Monty Python said in regard to some Australian table wine, the sluices were opened up at both ends! That’s already too much detail for my three regular readers (Grizzly, Doris and Biker Dave. So Cool Soosie seems to have abandoned me).

I have just reviewed a few dozen comments on this blog and the overwhelming majority seem to be attacking the Green candidate, Louisa Greenbaum. It is quite obvious that Labour and Tory activists seem to think that Louisa is the front runner. And they are probably right.

Caroline Penn is one whose comments are normally positive about her candidate, Nigel Jenner, and lists his qualities. She makes a reasonable attack on the Tories for the closure of Hove Police Station.

Another Labour supporter, Gloria Van de Lay (who has teased me mercilessly in DM’s) describes Nigel as “locally resident” living, as he does, just outside the ward. She also sees the Tory record on policing as a weakness of the Tory campaign. I wouldn’t write Graham Cox’s chances off. He is an extremely strong candidate, is well known in the area, and is one of the most single-minded individuals I have ever met, judging from his record as the Top Cop in Hove some years back.

Having listed Louisa’s various interests from her Facebook page, Gloria announces that, on balance, she advocates a vote for Nigel. Fancy that. She is also beastly to the Lib Dem candidate, Gareth Jones. For me to defend a Lib Dem, well that how OTT she has been. I agree with Simon Williams, the former Green councillor, who suggests she lies down in a darkened room for a while.

Steampunk claims most of the Green councillors are over 70 but look younger due to healthy green lifestyles. He says that Alex Phillips is the youngest at 43. A brave man to take on Lady Everton. Careful crossing the road, Punk. You don’t want to be run over by a Big Lemon.

My Pal Paul (Perrin), the UKIP candidate, bemoans another party employee running for office. I understand Louisa works just 10 hours a week for the Greens. But why should it matter anyway? He also notes that Louisa was the Green’s ‘first’ candidate last time. A strong point in her favour, I would imagine, given that three of the other candidates stood elsewhere as recently as May. Her track record strengthens her position.

Paul also says that I have “really lost it” – I got his age wrong (he seems to have taken offence at giving his age as 14 and three quarters!) and guessing that my “beloved Louisa” was in her 30’s when she is, in fact, a male in her 50’s. Actually, she is 41. Paul says that I am “squandering whatever good will (I) have had in the past…”. Well, thank goodness for that. As long as Doris, Biker Dave and Grizzly still love me, I’m happy.

Linda F (a Young Tory, me thinks, under 50 anyway) joins the ranks of the Green bashers, mentioning the schools attended by Louisa (Leeds Girls’ High School) and a couple other Greens, as well as putting the boot into Nigel Jenner for attending Brighton College. I heard a rumour that the Tory Party leader, Dave Cameron, his mate Boy George, and several others in his Cabinet went to Eton, while his fag (not a derogatory term but indicates a junior boy who does the bidding of a prefect at a private school) Nick Clegg went to the inferior Westminster School.

My spiritual friend, Ghost, identifies some of Louisa’s advantages in this by-election, second on the ballot, the only woman, and an established profile in the ward.

Pete Gillman, like Caroline Penn, makes a characteristically positive intervention by focusing on issues, although he might be being a bit melodramatic by suggesting the Greens wanted “easy access to hard drugs and legalised brothels if they had their way.”

Mike Weatherley has gone out to show a united front with Graham Cox, promoting him on Twitter and canvassing for him. But the cause of unity is not helped by Valerie Paynter, the biggest fan of The People’s Mike in Hove. She challenges Graham: “You say you agree with Mike Weatherley ‘on most issues’. I wonder, could you tell us, on what named issues you disagree?”. Not helpful Ms Paynter, well not for the Tory cause.

My Pal Paul says this by-election will make no difference unless, of course, he is elected. I think he may beat the Lib Dems into 4th place, but not more. But RobS (who graces us with his presence, says that “the election of a Green is the one result that DOES make a difference to the running of the council. True it doesn’t change overall control, of course, but when a minority administration is running a council, an extra voice and an extra presence for committees etc. can improve the quality of council management and decision making.”

Apologies for the length of this post, but needed to catch up with you all. In your comments, please keep them fair and reasonable.

UKIP first to select candidate for Westbourne by-election

UKIP has become the first of the political parties to select their candidate for the Westbourne by-election on 22nd December. Paul Perrin Is confirmed as UKIP’s candidate.

Nominations have closed for the Greens, with the candidate due to be announced on Thursday evening. Two possible names have been floated but nothing has formally been announced.

In spite of my best endeavours, I have no word on the Labour or Tory candidates, although a couple of names have been mentioned to me in confidence.

I have considered putting myself forward as the candidate for the Christmas Party. My platform would include free mince pies and sunglasses for pensioners. What do you think?

Anyway, congratulations to Paul Perrin and UKIP for getting off the starting blocks so quickly, but then I imagine it is easier if you have just 3 members locally.

Westbourne by-election: update after the first weekend of campaigning

I think I have just seen the first flower of spring, one usually hears in late February. Today’s version is who has seen the first poster of the Westbourne by-election. Both Greens and Labour make the claim, but I am yet to see evidence in the form of a photo on Twitter or one emailed to brightonpoliticsblogger@googlemail.com.

But the troops have been out, both Labour and the Greens, and did I see a Grizzly?

Caroline Penn reported Labour posters up in Westbourne at lunchtime today, but the first report of a poster going up came at 14:29 yesterday (Saturday) from Green councillor Christopher Hawtree, who wrote: “Former Peace Messenger Brian Fitch looked daggers when he saw me giving a resident a poster which went straight up at noon.”

Any advances of 12 noon on 19th November?

The Tories recognise that the “by-election looks like a three way marginal… Bring it on and keep it blue!” says The Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell) on Twitter. Is this an indication that he might be the Tory Party candidate?

Both Labour and the Greens have been out on the knocker and delivering leaflets. The Greens, according to Luke Walter, have put a Greenleaf through every door in the Ward. Tim Sewell reports that there has been a good “doorknocking and delivery session” with Caroline Penn, Warren Morgan, Lis Telcs and “many others in Westbourne. Will be hard one to call.”

I assume he means that it is a genuine 3-way marginal. Labour’s Spiritual Leader in Brighton, Lord Steve Bassam, does not think the same. On Twitter he wrote: “Feel a bit guilty as I think I ought to go canvassing in local council by-election. We all need to get out there it’s a R Tory/Labour fight.” I don’t think so, and nor do I imagine that Lord Bassam thinks so either. The Greens are the ones to beat but I admire the old campaigner’s instinct in talking down the Greens so to consolidate the anti-Tory vote with Labour.

Steampunk draws attention to an omission in my posts and comments by others: “Is Paul Elgood planning a come-back? I was going to say, nobody’s commented on the Lib Dems’ chances yet.” I have no knowledge about Mr Elgood but I think that the Lib Dems’ chances of winning are as likely as two of my regular readers, Biker Dave and Doris, eloping to Gretna Green.

Harris Fitch is full of bravado, the same bravado that led him to predict a win in Rottingdean Coastal in May: “It won’t be a futile course, we shot off the starting line months ago. We have so many keen members there compared to the Greens that we probably could man the election campaign with locals. Of course outside help is always welcomed though!” That is a remarkable claim, that Labour “shot off the starting line months ago”. I doubt it, but if that is the case (and I have seen no evidence of it in Westbourne Ward) it should make it a more even fight.

One welcome entry to the fight is the report from The Pepperpot Post that the shy and retiring Paul Perrin will be standing for UKIP.

Dr Faust has said that the issue of school places will be a key issue in the by-election. All parties will claim that they are the one who are most keen on a new school. The reality is that this by-election will not ultimately influence such provision.

Daniel Yates agrees that education is an important, but not the sole, issue: “the Labour and Co-operative vision for first class education with true community engagement really does appeal across a very wide political spectrum. Of course, there are also many other issues where this is true and we wont be sucked into believing that everyone is Westbourne is going to vote purely on schools.” If that is the case, how come education is in such a poor state after 13 years of a Labour government. Education is one reason why voters in Brighton and Hove have lost faith in Labour.

Keep reports flooding in. Either email me on DM @BrightonPolitic.

Who are the best politicians in Brighton and Hove?

At present, given their electoral success, the Greens could claim to be the best politicians in Brighton and Hove. Individual Greens could be seen as having achieving remarkable things. Caroline Lucas continues to be the dominant individual, but a success for the party is the emergence of other Greens. Bill Randall has made a solid start as the Greens’ first ever leader of a local authority, and is impressing all who deal with him. In the elections themselves, Christopher Hawtree stunned all with his victory in Central Hove.

Amongst the Tories, rumour has it that Mike Weatherley is looking for a junior position in the Home Office. He has focussed much of his efforts in recent weeks on home affairs issues – Travellers, squatters, anti-social behaviour, drugs, etc. With the support and influence of Mamma Grizzly, can we expect to see armed police as a norm, even the return of capital punishment? (I have no reason to believe the Grizzly One advocates either, but I know she will always respond to any provocation!)

Labour, as the minority party in Brighton and Hove, with no MPs and few councillors, is finding it hard to be noticed. I retain some admiration for Warren Morgan and his fighting spirit. (Warren was recently photographed with sheep in Sheepcote Valley http://fb.me/BShMUeAA – Warren is the one wearing sunglasses).

Amongst the fringe activists, one has to mention My Pal Paul Perrin of UKIP. He never misses a chance to make anti-European comments, or to attack the political establishment. His latest target is payments to or expenses claimed by politicians. Perhaps he should be known as PayPal Perrin or perhaps No PayPal Paul.

But none of the above rank as the best politician. The are some individuals in the business community, Roger French from Brighton and Hove Buses, Sue Addis from Donatellos, and Mike Holland from Fingers in Many Pies, who have worked politicians of many shades to achieve their own ends. So too in the community and voluntary sector, there are several more than able politicians, who are able to bend with the prevailing wind. I think of Ian Chisnall from a church group, David Standing of Hove YMCA, Andy Winter of the Brighton Housing Trust, and Emma Daniel of the Community and Voluntary Sector Forum.

The best politicians in town, however, the five most accomplished by far, are John Barradell, the Chief Executive, and his Strategic Directors in the City Council (David Murray, Charlie Stewart, Geoff Raw and Terry Parkin). The Greens were committed to abolishing the Fab Four, but it looks as though they will survive and are going about their daily business showing not an iota of care. Such is their combined political nouce, they have made the transition from a Conservative to a Green regime as easy as moving from a starter of blue cheese and biscuits to a serving of steak, egg and chips (except, of course, on meat-free Mondays).

Reward councillors for their hard work and dedication

Earlier this week I reported on a comment attributed to Grant Shapps during his love-in with Jason Kitcat, a councillor of this Parish. Mr Shapps is said to have expressed the view that councillors should not be paid, and neither should Members of Parliament.

Linda asks if Jason Kitkat had actually asked Grant Shapps about extra funding for councillors to cover childcare.  She writes: “Being a councillor is not (or should not be) a full-time job, it’s voluntary, like being a magistrate etc.  I presume people shouldn’t volunteer to become councillors if they don’t have the spare time to fulfil the duties of their post.”

I agree with Clive’s sarcastic response to Linda: “Quite right. Only rich people who can afford childcare should be allowed to be councillors, what-what?”

In an area like Brighton and Hove, being a councillor is almost a full time job, not least if you are a Cabinet member of a leading opposition spokesperson. It raises the question: what sort of person do we want as our elected representatives? Do we just want people who are well off (ie. rich) to become councillors? Do we just want ‘professional’ activists – those who work for MPs (Bishop Brian, Momma Grizzly, etc.)?

Paul Perrin suggests asks “how about ensuring that candidates for the council have had a reasonably wide experience of normal life before the become councillors? There’s a thought!”

It is not easy being a candidate or councillor. Someone recently commented that it seems to be easier to progress as a political employee than someone with a non-political career. Several former Green councillors did not stand at the recent elections because they found being a Councillor was not compatible with progressing their careers.

Again, I agree with Clive: “It may not be the best time to suggest childcare allowances for councillors given the general picture. But, having read Jason Kitcat’s blog, it seems to me that the really extraordinary point is Grant Shapps’ suggestion that even MPs ought not to be paid, let alone councillors. How reactionary are some of these people! It’s like local Tory wire-puller Mike Holland, and his brilliant idea of reserving half the council’s seats for business people (and how on earth would you define that precisely?) Representative government ought to be what it says, and to that end some effort ought to be made – though perhaps not right now – to encourage more councillors with young families.  My impresssion is that there aren’t too many at the moment – perhaps if there had been more the city wouldn’t have reached crisis point over schools places?”

I think a fundamental reform is needed. Let’s reduce the number of councillors from 54 to, say, 24, and let’s pay them a decent wage commensurate with the responsibilities they carry. Give them proper admin support so that they can work full time on leading the city.

I have no sympathy with the view that it should be a voluntary endeavour. Give the Kitcats child care. Pay maternity and paternity leave. Make pension contributions. If I was a councillor, I would want to do it as a full time job, get properly rewarded for doing a good job. I wouldn’t want to end my term looking 84 rather than my actual 24…..

A final footnote on political love-ins. Paul Perrin, he of UKIP fame, asks whether it was a freudian slip when I referred to him as “Pal” Perrin’. He asks if I am going soft and reminded me that I said that I would rather stick pins in my eyes than vote UKIP. That remains the case, but I have grown rather fond of my pal Perrin in spite of his views. But, yes, Sweetie, I am going soft.

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.