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.

The highlight of the election to date: the emergence of another Fitch saving the No 2 bus to Rottingdean

Warren Morgan has brought news that will cause celebrations in every street in the City of Brighton and Hove: another Fitch is to make his political debut in this May’s local elections. Harris Fitch, a relation of the Legend that is Brian, is standing as the Labour candidate in the Socialist Republic of Rottingdean Coastal. I am absolutely thrilled since it gives me more opportunity to recall the heroic and largely successful election campaigns of the said Brian. The Political Life of Brian is the stuff of legend. He may not be the Messiah, but he has been known, on occasions, to be a very naughty boy. I think I may have met Harris Fitch and, if my memory serves me correctly, was impressed by his enthusiasm and red-blooded socialism. I await sight of his election address which will no doubt feature large his intention to save the Number 2 bus to Rottingdean which, I am reliably informed, is in imminent threat of being cut.

Labour’s full list of candidates in Rottingdean Coastal is: Harris Fitch, Tony Frisby and Mike Adams (not the Mickey Adams, surely?). Frisby? Next we will have a couple of candidates called Kitcat! Warren also advises that Labour’s candidates in Woodingdean are Julian Hayes and Sue Burns. He says that Labour will update the website with their details soon.

Warren also says that if you want to know more about Labour’s candidates in St Peters and North Laine you should look at their Facebook page. Problem is, Warren, you have to sign up to Facebook to view the page, and Facebook is so …. yesterday! Does Labour have a cunning plan in St Peters and North Laine? Are they creating a sense of intrigue, believing less is more by limiting information about its candidates, creating a sense of mystery? Or is there a problem with one or more of its candidates ….? Surely not. As the website says: “Adrian Morris is a great guy and a real supporter of your community.” Sources close to Adrian are whispering (perhaps whispering is not the right term) some interesting things….

Warren also reports that Bernie Katz is unwell, possibly in hospital. For all who know Bernie, we wish him the very best for a full and speedy recovery.

Finally, Warren makes a fair point regarding the Tories and the Greens: “Can you point me to the comprehensive online lists of the Green and Tory candidates? The Tory website was taken offline after it was pointed ou that most of it was in Latin, and Google can’t find their site. A list of candidates is not readily apparent on the local Green website.” Come on Greens, publish a list of all your candidates.

Brighton and Hove Labour’ website – no poll dancing clubs (thank goodness) but still frightening the children

A few weeks ago I blogged about the Labour Party’s new website. General I thought it was an impressive site even though it was clearly still under construction. I looked a it again this evening and can see a number of improvements since I last looked. But I offer the following observations.

I was pleased to see that Caroline Penn (with Celia Barlow) the Labour candidate in Central Hove, no longer appears to be posing in a poll dancing club. On the matter of photos, several candidates don’t have photographs. Do they think they might frighten the electorate? Actually, some of the photos that are there may well frighten the voters, children and family pets.

Back to Caroline, she has a decent write up of what she believes in and comments on what’s happening on the Council.

That’s a bit better than the write up of the three candidates in St Peter’s and North Laine. This is a seat where Labour is hoping to do a ‘Green’ by persuading the good voters of the ward to give them one vote with the other two votes going to the Greens. That way they might pinch a seat here or there.

I understand that Adrian Morris is the ‘lead candidate in St Peters and North Laine. Yet all it says about him is that “Adrian Morris is a great guy and a real supporter of your community.” It is hardly going to say “Adrian Morris is a miserable git and couldn’t care a stuff about your community.” Hardly a ringing endorsement.

The other two candidates fare equally poorly: “Pete Gillman lives and loves the St. Peter’s & North Laine ward of Brighton & Hove” – that’s it – while candidate number three, James Hallwood “has a great affinity with the St. Peter’s & North Laine ward of Brighton & Hove.”

But the St Peters and North Laine coverage is better than the Hove Park ward where all we are told about Bernie Katz and John Cooper is that their names are Bernie Katz and John Cooper – hardly a winning formula to inspire the electorate.

But at least Labour has candidates in place in every ward, well not quite every ward – no candidates yet in Rottingdean Coastal or Woodingdean (a surprising situation in a ward which had a Labour councillor – Joan Moorhouse – as recently as the 1990’s). If Labour is to challenge again in Brighton Kemptown, it needs to get it’s act together.

And finally, I am pleased that Brian Fitch is still campaigning on buses. He has not been put off by the totally unfair aspersions regarding him having saved, singlehandedly, the number 81 bus and is due to save the number 5 to Hangleton in time for the eve of poll leaflet.

You think Moulsecoomb and Bevendean could go Tory, or Labour, even Green, in May’s local elections

Last night’s prediction that the Conservatives may win all three seats in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean has prompted an interesting response. No surprise that Peter Booth, Tory candidate in East Brighton agrees with my prediction: “Completely agree with your assessment in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean. Maria is a hard-working and popular Councillor and is joined in this campaign by Ayas Fallon-Khan who has gained a solid reputation on Council – and predict all 3 Conservatives will win through.”  Baron Pepperpot (flattery will get you nowhere with me!) couldn’t disagree more: “three Tories in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean? At a time when the cuts will start to bite?”

Allie Cannell makes a prediction that I don’t see as likely: “I’m predicting the Greens will get a seat in M&S. There are over 2,000 students just living in University residences there.   Thats not even counting all the students living in private accomodation.”  The problem with that view is that students are not that likely to turn out in large volumes in a Kemptown seat, even for Green candidates in a local election.  If I am wrong, then all bets are off regarding the final make-up of the Council.  3 Green candidates in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean would suggest major gains by the Greens across the city.  Allie is not alone, Christopher Hawtree is predicting that “the Greens could do well in Moulescoomb.”

Kelvin Poplett, another East Brighton Conservative, says: “Surprisingly- I wholeheartedly agree with Peter Booth. From our time spent knocking on the doors in traditional Labour areas, we are finding Conservatives everywhere. Through sheer hard work we may just surprise you.”  You would surprise me if you found enough Tory votes to unseat Mitchell, Turton and Morgan. Peter Booth says that the Tories in East Brighton “are David against Goliath – Yes we oppose your particular favourite (and that favouritism does shine through in your blog) but do not under-estimate the campaign of East Brighton Conservatives – who are all in this campaign – fighting for every vote until 10pm on 5th May, and who may just surprise you and your friend Mr Morgan. There are no no-go areas in East Brighton for EB Conservatives!”  I have no favourites (other than Green Amy but she never writes, never calls – thanks to Dan Wilson for that line).

The Ghost of Nobby Clarke asks: “Is Mr Morgan rattled I wonder!, This ward has never been worked by the tories has it Peter?”.  Actually, that’s not true and it did go Tory in the early 1990s when it was Marine Ward.

My “favourite” Warren Morgan, draws attention to the fall-out in 2007 from the stock transfer issue that so damaged Labour: “Woodingdean looks pretty safe for the Tories based on the 2007 results, but interestingly the ward was split three ways at the GE count with the Lib Dem matching Simons Burgess and Kirby.  The traditionally strong Labour vote in Woodingdean (we did win a seat there in the 90s) was artificially depressed there in 2007 by the stock transfer vote fallout, as it was in Portslade, Moulsecoomb and Queens Park. Geoff is busy being mayor and Dee is busy with Cabinet duties which may explain DAPs comment above. We’ve selected some keen, new candidates both there and in Rottingdean Coastal, all hopeful of putting up a good campaign and earning safer seats next time (as BPB said in an earlier post). And complacency is a stealthy enemy in politics, as some of my colleagues found out last time.  Don’t forget in Moulsecoomb & Bevendean that the Respect candidate Dave Bangs scored over 300 votes last time (equivalent to a constituency wide Respect/Socialist vote at a GE) capitalising on the stock transfer issue, and with what he portrayed as the endorsement of two retiring councillors. And yes, the students will be a factor, particularly if they vote tactically for Labour rather than the Greens who are not in contention in M&B.”

Clive points to another issue that damaged Labour in 2007: “Another elephant that is no longer in the room is the King Alfred. Last time, this surely helped the Tories in Westbourne, Central Hove and (to a lesser extent) Goldsmid.”  He also points out the state of the parties in national polls: “the national opinion polls in April 2007 – just before the last local elections – were, taking a rough average of all taken: Conservative 37, Labour 31, LD 19. Therefore it’s hard not to conceive of Labour enjoying some kind of general uplift given that they are now polling around ten points ahead of that.”  The counter argument to that, Clive, at least in Brighton Pavilion, is the Caroline Effect and how that constituency should be seen apart from the national position.

The good Baron agrees with my assessment for Queens Park where he lives, that “it’s too close to call, but I’m not sure you’re right about which Labour candidate would be returned in the event of a split vote.”

Finally, a couple of comments have been left on this blog earlier today which are not in the spirit of debate and friendly provocation.  I haven’t approved one as it may contain a libel or two, and I have removed another offending reference in another.  Please keep to the spirit of the blog.  I really don’t want to have to moderate comments left.

Results in Brighton Kemptown that will have Nobby Clarke and Dennis Hobden spinning in their graves

This evening I take a look at the Council seats up for election in the Brighton Kemptown constituency. This is far less exciting than several of the seats in Brighton Pavilion.  The Conservatives will retain all three seats in Rottingdean Coastal.  Even with the Green Tide of Progress described by Luke Walter, where Green voters move from town centre wards such as Queens Park, Regency and St Peters & North Laine to outlying, the Greens (and Labour) will fail to win this seat by a country mile.

Neighbouring East Brighton will remain solid Labour.  Even in a bad year for Labour (and this is not one of them) East Brighton should remain Labour. With Warren Morgan, Gill Mitchell and Craig Turton, Labour has a strong and active team.

Woodingdean’s two seats will be retained by Conservatives Dee Simpson and Geoff Wells.  Dee is a hard-working champion of the ward while Geoff Wells is a likeable if somewhat ‘unconventional’ Mayor. 

That leaves Queens Park and Moulsecoomb & Bevendean.  Labour faces tough battles in both, in Queens Park from the Greens who hold all three seats, in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean from the Tories who will be seeking to increase their single seat (that of the highly respected Maria Caulfield).  Queens Park is probably too close to call at present, with an energetic campaign being run by the Labour team.  Chris Cooke is most likely to take a seat from the Greens, but the Green councillors (two of whom are standing down) have gained a huge reputation for hard work and community focus.  If I had to make a prediction (and you know how I shy away from saying anything definitive …. ) I would predict two Greens and one Labour councillors returned from Queens Park.  But then again, it could be three Greens, or perhaps two Labour and a Green, and there again it could be three Labour …  What an interesting contest!

But it is Moulsecoomb and Bevendean that will be a headline result in May.  I predict that the reputation of Maria Caulfield, one of the most popular ward councillors that I have ever observed, will bring through her two Tory running mates, seeing two gains for the Conservatives with Maria holding her seat with a substantial majority.  What a state of affairs for Labour!  Nobby Clarke and Dennis Hobden will be spinning in their graves (or in Dennis’ case, whatever afterlife he has moved on to!).

So, from Brighton Kemptown there will be 8 Conservatives, between 3 and 6 Labour councillors, and up to three Greens.

Doorstep Brighton 7: On Selections, De-Selections, Undecided Voters, and Trouncing the Lib Dems

In a recent post I confessed a lack of knowledge regarding the candidates in Preston Park Ward and the future of the three sitting councillors.  Dr Faust advises me that both Kevin Allen and Juliet McCaffrey are certainly standing again for Labour but he is not sure about the third candidate.  Mark Sheppard and James Asser both fill in the gap by advising that the third Labour candidate is Tim Lunnon.

Similarly, I am grateful to Luke Walter who reassures me that Amy Kennedy will be standing for re-election.  He says that the other candidates will be announced formally very shortly.

It does surprise me that in such a key seat as Preston Park the Greens did not select ages ago and announce their candidates last year.  It s not as if this election was announced at the eleventh hour.

On David Watkins deselection, Mark Collins, a leading Hove Lib Dem, writes that “Paul Elgood (and Brian Stone, for that matter) had nothing to do with David’s deselection. Candidates for the Lib Dems (as in other parties) are selected by an approval panel made up of ordinary members, Exec members and at least one person from Regional level. David’s approval was rejected by that panel. It was subsequently appealed to Region, who again rejected the appeal. Neither of these processes had anything to do with Cllr Elgood or Brian Stone. It was an unfortunate episode, because I liked David immensely, but the Ward requires someone who will go out and work with and for the community, not solely speak on its behalf. David’s deselection was purely of his own making, and that is the saddest part of the affair.”

Still in Brunswick and Adelaide, Michael Taggart reports that he bumped into Phelim MacCafferty, one of the Green candidates in the ward.  He describes Phelim as “a very nice young man”  Michael says that Phelim is confident of trouncing Paul Elgood and says the ‘doorstep’ has been pro Green.”

In the interest of balance (I must be having a weak moment) Mark Collins says that in the Lib Dem campaign in Central Hove “things are going steadily, but well. Last week and this week have been tough, the weather hasn’t really helped with encouraging people to open their doors. But those I met yesterday and the week before were positive and engaged. Most voters consider themselves undecided as the election is ‘miles away’.”

I don’t know Mark, or how experienced he is at electoral campaigning (I do sound patronising on occasions), but the hall marks are all there for a disastrous result. People may not be opening the door “because of the weather”, but to think that those voters who describe themselves as ‘undecided’ are very, very unlikely to vote for you.  They are either being polite, embarrassed, or don’t want you to know that they are (most likely) Tories.  Very, very few will genuinely be undecided.  When canvassing, I was always told by my olders and betters that you only describe someone as ‘undecided’ if they say they will be voting for you but you remain undecided that they will actually do so.

From Mark’s own account, we can assume that the Lib Dems are dead and buried in Central Hove.

A Doorstep Brighton report has come in from Woodingdean.  ‘David Weeble’ writes: “Unfortunately the election here in Woodingdean will result in neither excitement nor anyone (elected from the) Left”.  David may well be right, but Woodingdean (and its predecessor Warren Ward) has had a history of returning Labour councillors.  The most recent Labour councillor elected in Woodingdean was the hard-working and well-respected Joan Moorhouse.

James Asser reports on “another productive Saturday for the Regency Labour team” and that he is “very pleased with the amount of Labour support”.  At least Labour in Regency measures it support in terms of Labour supporters, unlike the Lib Dems in Central Hove who do so by measuring those who are undecided!

Patcham, Rottingdean Coastal, Stanford, Westbourne, Wish, Westdene and Woodingdean: The safest of safest seats

There are some wards, Patcham, Rottingdean Coastal, Westbourne, Wish, Westdene and Woodingdean that are safe safe safe Tory seats.  These are seats that, barring a minor (major?) miracle, will return Conservative councillors decade after decade.  Other than Woodingdean, I can’t recall a non-Tory ever representing any of these areas.  Once, in Westdene, James Humphrey resigned the Tory whip and sat as an Independent in protest at the anti-gay Section 28.

Stanford ward is slightlydifferent as it currently has an Independent elected.  A former Conservative councillor, Jayne Bennett was elected in May 2007.  She tends to support the Tories in just about every vote so, for the purpose of this analysis, is being treated as a Tory.

Such is the domination of the Tories in these seats that even if you took the top votes from the Labour, Lib Dem and Green candidates from May 2007, and added in the votes gathered by any independents, the sum of al their votes would not beat the lowest placed Tory.

The importance of these wards for Labour and the Greens is not at local election level but at general elections when the few hundred votes returned in these areas will make, and did make, the difference between winning and losing.

So my advice to Labour and Green supporters in these wards, vote for the candidate and party you like best so that the parties can gauge the level of their support as they prepare for 2015!