No Green/Red coalition in Brighton and Hove, and the Tories eye up 2015

The only consolation, if that is the right word, for some Labour and Tory activists following their joint defeat on Thursday is an element of glee that the Greens will be forced to make cuts. What a bizarre and sad reaction. What does it say about a politician that they can take any pleasure from seeing cuts being made? Take Momma Grizzly, Rachael Bates, she has said on Twitter: “Can’t wait to see the Greens having to make the cuts they said they’d never make.”

Such a reaction can be put down to one of two things, a bad reaction to defeat, or a deeply rooted ideological commitment to cuts and small government. Grizzly is an interesting Tory Party activist, the kind on the ascendancy within the Tory Party. And the group of young Tories who stood for election last Thursday (Robert Nemeth, Rachael Bates, and to a lesser extent Rob Buckley, Michael Ireland, Kerry Underhill, Rob McFarlane and Georgina Dore) are from that wing of the party that is ideologically committed to ‘small government/big society’, activists who are social libertarian and economically hardline (in the George Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg mould).

It is likely that this ‘Magnificent Seven’ (irony is not my most attractive characteristic) will stand again in 2015, but in safer Tory seats. 2015 will see another lage turnover of Tory councillors – the Normans will stand down in Withdene (where Rob Nemeth somehow managed to lose the seat for the Tories), so too may the Theobalds along with Brian Pidgeon in Pacham, and several of the Hove Tories will call it a day. Expect the Seven to secure nominations in these seats and, if elected, see the Tory group move sharply to the right. Several of the Seven are closely associated with Hove MP, Mike Weatherley. Grizzly tells me that all seven are in fine fettle.

Meanwhile, Labour is repoted to have rejected a coalition with the Greens on the Council. Gill Mitchell, leader of the Labour group, offered qualified support. She said: “With the Greens having 23 seats they are clearly able to form a minority administration to run the council. Labour successfully ran the council with the same number of seats between 2003 and 2007 and the Conservatives governed with 26 seats for the past four years. So it is right that the Greens, as clear winners, are given the opportunity to implement their manifesto in the same way. We will support the Greens where they bring forward sensible proposals in the best interests of the city as well as being an effective and challenging opposition when we think they are getting things wrong.”

One of Labour’s unsuccessful candidates, James Asser (who stood in Regency Ward) said: “It’s the right decision and everyone I’ve spoken to agrees.” (James is one reason why Labour can have some optimism for the future – very personable and engaging).

Warren Morgan has commented that no coalition has been offered, that the Greens don’t need one. “They won more seats than Tories & the right to implement own manifesto.”

As for the Greens, many are nursing sore heads this morning after celebrating long and hard on Friday evening at the Sussex Cricketer and again last night at 112 Church Road. For my part, I could be seen strutting my stuff at Abandoned until the wee small hours ….

The Greens are yet to reach their peak – next stop Hove and Portslade

I thought that the Greens would do well in Thursday’s elections, and they did. But I had doubts where that Party goes next. I felt that there were certain limitations to their reach. I was sure that the Geens would extend their reach to the maximum at this election, and then the challenge would be to hold that position at the next general election (no difficulty there) but defending their council seats might be a challenge. I have changed my mind because of the results on Thursday.

In Brighon Pavilion, the Greens are now challenging in the Tory heartlands. The Normans, Anne and Ken, will not stand again in Withdene and the Greens, having won one seat and having come close in a second, will have high hopes of winning all 3 seats in May 2015. In Hollingdean and Stanmer, Jeane Lepper, now the sole Labour councillor in Brighton Pavilion, will not stand again, leaving the way open for Luke Walter to join Sven Rufus and Christina Summers on the Council.

And there is the final frontier, Pacham. The Theobald Machine held firm once more, but with a local council election being held on the same day as a probable general election, everything is up for grabs. And will any of the current three councillors stand again? Brian Pidgeon will retire, and Carol and Geoffrey Theobald must be considering when it will be the right time to call time.

Three years and 363 days out I am making this prediction – the Greens will win EVERY seat in Brighton Pavilion in 2015.

I will comment on Brighton Kemptown at a later date, but I think that, for the Greens, Hove and Portslade is where their future lies. After Thursday, the Greens have 6 seats, Labour have 6, and the Tories 8 seats. The Greens have consolidated its first and only seat in Goldsmid where Alex Phillips led a strong campaign to win a seat off the Tories and to defeat Melanie Davis who was a strong candidate and respected councillor.

But it is Christopher Hawtree’s breakthrough in Central Hove that changes everything. That single gain shows what is possible, and the Greens must already have begun to eye Westbourne, Wish, and the other seat in Central Hove. The Portslades, North and South, have similar demographics to Hollingdean and Stanmer, and both will become vulnerable should (as is likely) both Bob Carden and Les Hamilton stand down in 2015.

And then there is Hangleton and Knoll, a large ward which, again, like Hollingdean and Stanmer, is an area where the Greens could thrive. Dawn Barnett and Brian Fitch are no longer spring chickens, and won’t go on and on and on. Does Brian have another campaign in him (probably) but will he want to be a councillor, should he be re-elected in 2015, will be approaching 80 at the end of that term in office.

So why all this speculation about 2015? If the Greens begin building in Hove, establishing a local organisation in each of these wards (don’t fall for Labour’s mistake and run everything from a High Command), and get a dynamic parliamentary candidate in place sooner rather than later, who can support, motivate, encourage, nurture the party in Hove, then there will be a further Caroline Effect, although it could come to be known as the Alex Effect …..

Congratulations to the Greens for making history in Brighton and Hove

I must first of all start by congratulating the Greens on a result that exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. It exceeded mine. I thought the Greens would end up with 21 or 22 seats. I didn’t expect the two amazing results in Withdene where Sue Shanks topped the poll, nor Christopher Hawtree’s sensational efforts in Central Hove. I suspect that Green High Command had some doubts, but one man did not share them – Chris Hawtree himself.

The Greens have emerged from this election with 23 councillors (including 6 in Hove, up from 1), the Tories are down to 18 and Labour have remained static with 13. The Lib Dems have been wiped out as predicted, hoped for and encouraged by this Blogger. Labour now has just one councillor in Brighton Pavilion where the Greens are now winning in Tory strongholds.

Before touching on other results, can I mention those sitting councillors who have lost their seats. Politics can be cruel, and election losses for sitting politicians offers no hiding place. Focus is on those who have been victorious, but this evening we should pause to thank the following for their service to the City, often at a cost that ordinary citizens, even party activists, don’t see and can’t always appreciate: Paul Elgood, David Watkins, Jan Young, Melanie Davis, Ayas Fallon-Khan, Pat Hawkes, Christine Simpson, Maria Caulfield, Trevor Alford, Kevin Allen, Juliet McCaffery, Steve Harmer-Strange, Ted Kemble.

I got one result hopelessly wrong – Moulsecoomb and Bevendean – where I felt that Maria Caulfield would win and, on her coat tails, Ayas Fallon-Khan (moving from Goldsmid) and Cath Slater (well known locally) would cause an upset in Labour’s back yard. I was wrong. And so I eat Humble Pie (though I do prefer Sugar Puffs). And congratulations to Labour’s team in M&B, Leigh Farrow, Mo Marsh and mayor-elect, Anne Meadows. This result, along with the return of the Legend that is Brian Fitch in Hangleton and Knoll, the anticipated gains by Penny Gilbey in North Portslade and Alan Robins in South Portslade, and the unexpected election of Anne Pissaridou in Wish, were the few positives on a day when it seemed the Greens were conquering everything before it.

A bitter-sweet result, and one predicted in this blog, was Jeane Lepper successfully defending her seat in Hollingdean and Stanmer. A combination of the Lepper name and Jeane’s own reputation as a hard-working and effective caseworker saw her survive. One of the few errors the Greens made this year was to underestimate Jeane Lepper.

A quick word on the one Green who was not successful in H&S, Luke Walter. Luke must be incredibly disappointed tonight, but he should be proud of his achievements. He probably worked harder than any candidate in H&S, but electoral politics can be unfair, especially when your surname begins with a W or a Y (ask Jan Young). Luke has the advantage of age on his side, and his time will come before long. (I will be blogging on the fortunes of all the young candidates in the near future. None of them, other than sitting councillor, Alex Phillips, who I heard described as the “Baby of the Chamber” today, was elected.

But the day belonged to the Greens who, I understand, were in celebratory mood when they retired to the Cricketers Pub for an orange juice after the count. Never before in the United Kingdom have the Greens become the largest group on a Council, and this is the largest group of Greens ever elected (what do you think of that, Norwich?). So congratulations to all newly and re-elected Greens throughout Brighton AND HOVE. I will blog more on the Greens remarkable achievements and the challenges that lie ahead in the next few days. But for now, enjoy the night, encourage Bill Randall to go wild and have another lemonade, return to your constituencies and prepare for ….. I’m not sure. A coalition? A minority administration? Definitely Christopher Hawtree to be Lead Councillor for Libraries! Congratulations, All.

A great night out with young Conservative candidates

I must say I had a great time today. I never knew I would enjoy the company of a group of young Conservative candidates SO much. Talk of a 1p Council Tax cut, the removal of ALL cycle lanes, and how estate agents are doing in this testing economic climate. What fun we had. And to top it all off, we had a group photo taken. From left to right, Kerry Underhill (North Portslade), Adam Love (Goldsmid), Robert Nemeth (Withdene), Michael Ireland (Hangleton and Knoll), Momma Grizzly (Rachael Bates, Hollingdean and Stanmer), the Blogger, George Dore (Preston Park), le Toothbrush (Mike Macfarlane, Regency), and the Estate Agent (Rob Buckwell, Goldsmid). And now we are off to Belushi’s Below for their fantastic rock and metal night, Abandoned, to listen to a couple of rythym and beat combos, Slayer and Megadeath.

Young Tories

Young Tories

UKIP set to take the local elections by storm (actually a light breeze rustling the leaves)

So there we have it.  It is not the Switch to Fitch movement, nor Christopher Hawtree standing in several seats simultaneously, but UKIP that is set to take Brighton and Hove by storm.  Well, maybe a gentle breeze.  The party is rumoured to have seven candidates (so far ….) to stand in May’s local elections, a candidate in Patcham, St Peter’s and North Laine (I am reliably informed that Labour’s Adrian Morris “a great guy and a real supporter of your community” isn’t standing for UKIP), and Wish.  There will be three UKIP candidates in Rottingdean Coastal including Paul Perrin (the UKIP candidate in Hove at the general election).

Nigel Carter, the UKIP candidate in Brighton Pavilion last May, is standing in Withdene, or is it Hollingbury (sic), or maybe Woodingdean.  Perhaps somewhere else.  They haven’t yet decided.

Paul Perrin told me: “We are in the process of setting up a local branch/association, our only resource is goodwill of local supporters so we are spread a bit thin and rushed …but ….  I think it is safe to say that we are really just local people who think the UK should be putting UK citizens first, and think the local council should be putting its residents first.”  I think I am quite safe in saying that, on that platform, UKIP will not be forming an administration in May or even holding the balance of power.  But their arrival (if it can be called that) adds a bit of colour, especially in Rottingdean Coastal which is fast becoming a four-way marginal – Labour’s Harris Fitch, UKIP’s Paul Perrin, Christopher Hawtree of the Greens are all confident of unseating Mary Mears.  Be afraid Mary Mears, be …. well …. a tad amused. 

But have I got it wrong? ‘rottingdean’ says I should check my sources: “The Lido mob, UKIP or Mr Pickwick might not be the only surprises in Rottingdean, something far bigger is being rumoured to unseat Ms Mears.”  I’ve heard nothing.  I think Mary is safe as houses.