Archive for Elections

Momentum!

The one thing we can be absolutely certain about from the General Election is the fact that every single party lost. Brown lost seats and lost the popular vote, Clegg lost seats and failed to capitalise on the post-Leaders Debate momentum and Cameron failed to get an overall majority. Only three parties gained seats on the night, the Conservatives, the Alliance Party (who took Belfast East from Peter Robinson and the DUP) and, of course, the Green Party, who took the seat of Brighton Pavilion.

This is an historic first for the Greens. These are uncharted waters made even more complicated by the fact that we have a hung Parliament. However, Caroline is used to firsts and will have no trouble getting to grips with the intricacies of Westminster politics.

But, and this is perhaps the most important thing of all, despite the squeeze felt in London and elsewhere, the Greens have momentum.

For the Green Party in Brighton, this momentum could be translated into another historic first in a year’s time – the first ever Green council. Critics might point out that across Brighton and Hove, the combined vote put the Greens in fourth place, behind the Lib Dems. I don’t dispute this but, and critics need to know this, we were also fourth across Brighton and Hove following  the 2005 election, only to then turn the momentum into 12 council seats (13 since last year’s epic win in the Goldsmid by-election).

So, how can this come to be? Where can the Greens possibly take seats? Well, whilst I haven’t yet had a chance to look at the returns from Thursday night’s count, I believe there are several seats in play come next May.

The Greens need 27 seats to take the council and secure a majority, a big ask but, the Greens have a habit of doubling their council numbers in Brighton and Hove. Let’s see what they can take.

The Greens already have one seat in Preston Park (the always brilliant Amy Kennedy) and should be able to bag the other two this time round.

Following on from Alex Phillips’ win in the Goldsmid by-election last summer, the Greens can target the remaining two seats in the ward.

Another opportunity for the Greens in Hove, might be the ward of Central Hove. Currently Tory, but bordering Goldsmid, Central Hove is a vulnerable seat that may succumb to a Green surge across the city.

Also up for the grabs is the Lib Dem ward of Brunswick and Adelaide. The Lib Dems will be throwing everything they’ve got at trying to hold it but, Lib Dem voters might be swayed into going Green at the prospect of the Greens taking majority control of the council.

Coming back to the Pavilion constituency, all the remaining seats should be Green targets. The Conservative vote has proven to have flatlined across the constituency, including the “heartlands” of Patcham and Withdean. The Greens have every chance to take a seat (or more) in both.

Going after Labour seats, Hollingdean and Stanmer Park could easily fall to the Greens who can now bank on the student vote making a strong showing. With enough work, and careful targeting of their key demographic, the Greens could potentially take all three seats from Labour.

Likewise in Moulscoomb and Bevendean. Currently a mixed ward of two Labour councillors and one Tory, the Greens can force Labour onto the back foot. Considered “safe”, the Tories pinching a seat in 2007 is a sign that this is far more vulnerable than previously assumed.

The final ward which, to some, will seem laughable is, Rottingdean Coastal. Probably the longest shot for the Greens, this “safe” Tory ward has probably been taken for granted, with new voters from the urban city centre moving out to the village over the past three years, the Greens might be able to take at least one seat off the Tories. Don’t rule it out.

So, if I was to work out the numbers on this, the Greens would need to take the two seats in Brunswick and Adelaide, at least one in Central Hove, the remaining two in Goldsmid, all three in Hollingdean and Stanmer, at least one in Moulscoomb and Bevendean, two in Patcham (yes, I am that optimistic), two more in Preston Park, one in Rottingdean (wait and see) and one in Withdean (maybe two). Thus bringing a net gain of 15 new Green councillors. Combining this with the 13 existing councillors (with no losses), the Greens would have a grand total of 28 councillors and a majority administration.

I would not rule out the possibility of the Greens taking majority control. Critics will detract from this but, they will not have factored in the “Lucas effect”, nor the Greens “big mo.”

It is no easy task, far from it, it is a colossal challenge. However, with the current leftwards trajectory, the fact that the Greens are ideologically identifiable as a left-wing party committed to social justice, fairness and protection of public services, makes it far more likely for the Greens to attract idealistic and progressive voters to the party and our positive politics.

In the meantime, the Greens need to get on the ground, to continue campaigning, to further improve our links with trade unionists and the labour movement, to work with community groups, taking on casework from those outside of the wards (and constituency) we currently represent and to make the case for a Green, progressive Brighton in 2011.

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An Open Response to ‘A Guy Named Guy’

The following post is the development of some of the points I raised in response to a post by an interesting left-of-centre Brighton blogger. ‘A Guy Named Guy’ , who blogs at Cut the Crap, makes an interesting case as to why he is voting for Nancy Platts in Brighton Pavilion.

Here is my post with some added bits:

“I think we have to remember, despite Nancy Platts being as decent a candidate as she is, she is deceiving voters in Brighton Pavilion.

Despite where Nancy stands on a whole range of issues (and I agree with almost all of her policy positions), she is asking voters in Brighton to return a Labour government and a Labour manifesto that will stand in stark contrast to Nancy’s own values.

The Labour manifesto will include cuts in higher education (despite Nancy standing on a picket line opposing higher education cuts), cuts in social and public services (despite Nancy sending a message of support to the Brighton anti-cuts demo), the replacement of Trident with a new nuclear system that will exacerbate tensions in the Middle East (Nancy is in favour of ditching our nuclear arsenal completely), a continuation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Nancy opposes both these wars), no repeal of anti-trade union legislation (Nancy calls herself a trade unionist) and the continuation of illiberal anti-terror legislation that will undermine civil liberties.

Labour has been given 13 years in office to push through radical and far-reaching change and they have fallen short. From reforming the House of Lords into a fully democratic chamber to introducing proportional representation (PR) for general and local elections, they have failed to make even the most moderate of changes to the political constitution, let alone advancing on a programme of addressing the deep inequality that exists in society.

I for one find it an absolute betrayal of the principle of ‘fairness’ that the wealth gap has increased under 13 years of Labour and inequality is more entrenched in society than it was before 1997.

Voters in Brighton Pavilion have a unique opportunity in helping shift the “progressive consensus” to the left with the election of a Green MP.

The Green Party is arguably a ‘radical social democratic’ party whose main focus in recent years has been on developing the value of fairness. Not just fairness in opportunity, but fairness in all that an active State does.

The Greens are the only party arguing against the consensus that savage cuts are needed, instead, we have taken a similar understanding of David Blanchflower’s analogy that recession (and the fragile recovery) is a war and (despite the Green anti-war irony here) the only way to fight a war is to throw money at it, you don’t budget or make cuts on the front line.

There is a real danger of a double-dip recession and we need strong, independent voices in Parliament asking difficult questions, lobbying for cross-party support on early day motions (EDMs) that chime with Green policy (take a look at my post on a recent example http://bit.ly/aczQ7f) and shifting the goal posts of what is possible for the centre-left to achieve.

Climate change is a serious, pressing issue, one that has been forced on the back foot by an emboldened climate change denial cabal, nothing sends a stronger message to that cabal than the election of a Green MP.

Having a Green MP(s) will elevate the urgency for action on climate change in Parliament. It will send a powerful message to the next Government that it is an issue that must be addressed in its entirety.

If, and heavens forbid if it does happen, Nick Griffin wins in Barking; we can expect whatever Government to be more xenophobic, more hostile to immigrants and asylum seekers and more likely to pander to far-right voters. This will only create breathing room for the BNP. Already we have heard Gordon Brown talk about “Strengthen[ing] fairness in communities through controlled immigration… .”

Gordon Brown is right when he says that voters should take a second look at Labour, then a long, hard look at the Tories but, I would advise all voters to look back at Labour’s 13 years, look back on their successes and failures, but think more about what they haven’t done and what they’ve failed to achieve.

Despite Nancy’s credibility as a sound candidate, think about what she is asking voters in Brighton to do. They won’t be voting for Nancy’s policies, they’ll be voting for Gordon Brown and the whole Labour cabinet and a manifesto that will give Labour a mandate to inflict savage cuts, to continue with the “war on terror”, to develop costly and dangerous weapons of mass destruction and for a Government that will pander to the far-right and further legitimise the BNP and their vile politics.

The Labour vote in Brighton has collapsed. The 2007 local elections and the 2009 European Parliament elections proves that. The danger of voting Labour in Brighton Pavilion is the possibility of a Tory MP, but also more of the same from Gordon Brown and co.”

However, it is a pleasure to see a new blogger in Brighton and I want to wish Guy well on his blogging adventure in the run-up to the General Election.

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Can the Greens make it 3 in 4 weeks?

March has been a pretty good month for the Greens. We’ve taken our third town council seat in less than a year in Totnes , an amazing feat for any local party. I’m prepared to say that Totnes might even become a potential Green target seat in 2014 and might well be the party’s best chance of taking a Parliamentary seat off the Tories. Time will tell, of course.

However, last night saw Mid-Suffolk Greens take the Haughley and Wetherden council seat off the Tories with a whopping 61% of the vote, a 33.2% net swing from the Tories since the 2007 local elections. The Independent has called it a “bombshell on major parties”, whilst The Evening Standard hailed the win as a “shock” to the main parties so close to a General Election. Jim Jepps has the full breakdown of the results.

The Mid-Suffolk district council win comes off the back of the Greens getting a second Councillor Dean Walton after a Babergh district councillor resigned the Tory whip and joined the Greens. Quite the conversion and not one we’re particularly used to, but a welcomed addition to the growing ranks of Green councillors in the country.

On April 1st, less than a week away, voters in the John O’Gaunt ward in Lancaster go to the polls to elect a new city councillor following the resignation of a Labour councillor. Ian Chamberlain has been selected as the Green Party candidate and is keen to join fellow Green and current John O’Gaunt councillor, Jude Towers. If the Greens win the by-election they will become the largest party in the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency with a total of 13 seats. However, Lancaster and Fleetwood is a Labour ‘must hold’ and a Tory ‘must win’ if they wish to form a majority Government.

The by-election represents the last challenge for either Labour, the Tories or the Greens, to throw down their marker at this election. A Green win will only reinforce the idea that many voters are tired of Labour and the Conservatives and are seeking a different kind of change to the one being talked-up by David Cameron. A Labour win would give the party a much-needed boost of morale before an election is called and for the Tories, a win would represent a turn around in their recent misfortunes.

In the words of Greg Wallace, “it doesn’t get much tougher than this.”

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Does Labour really have a chance in Brighton and Hove?

There is little doubt that the race in Brighton Pavilion promises to be one of the most exciting in the forthcoming General Election. All three main candidates, Caroline Lucas (Green), Charlotte Vere (Conservative) and Nancy Platts (Labour) are giving it their all.

A little while back, in some discussions with friends, I predicted that the campaign in Brighton Pavilion would be a sour and bitter one. The threat posed by the Green Party is enough to undermine the status quo of the big three and to upset their predominance in UK politics. A Green win, even in one seat, is enough to challenge all presumptions and conceptions about the party and new forces breaking through at Westminster.

Some will argue that one Green MP won’t make any difference, however, they would only be lying to themselves if they didn’t believe the kind of impact it would have. A breakthrough for the Greens at Westminster would be significant, even if not immediately recognisable. The Greens are a national party with councillors up and down the country and with a policy manifesto that envisages the long-term. What has always been lacking up to this point is a real chance of making a breakthrough at a General Election

For far too long the party held onto a vague sense that Labour would deliver PR or a democratic crisis would become so apparent that changing the electoral system was the only hope of recovery. I am glad to see that the party has since shifted in its tactical and strategic thinking and recognised the necessity of employing a genuine target seat strategy.

This has led a large amount of resources, attention and focus going into Brighton Pavilion. The Green campaign in Brighton Pavilion certainly dwarfs both Labour and the Conservative campaigns. However, we must remember, nationally at least, Pavilion is not a top Tory target seat – it’s number 135 on their list; whereas Hove is 8 and Kemptown is 29.

Brighton Politics Blogger has reported on the shortfall in Nancy Platts election funds compared to those of Simon Burgess, the Labour candidate for Kemptown. Given that Simon has a higher profile in the Labour Party than Nancy (just take a peak at Simon’s record), it is no surprise that he has managed to wrestle more money for his campaign away from Nancy’s and Celia Barlow’s (the Labour MP for Hove).

Labour has a lot more to lose from a Green win in Brighton Pavilion than the Tories. If Caroline Lucas successfully takes the seat, then Labour would struggle to come back as the leading, left-of-centre force in Brighton politics.

There is a real possibility that next year, in the Brighton and Hove city council elections, that Labour could be reduced to having a core rump of councillors from East Brighton and Moulsecoomb and Bevendean. The Greens could certainly take Labour’s seat in Goldsmid, their two seats in Preston Park, the Lib Dem seats in Brunswick and Adelaide, as well as picking up one in Withdean, Hollingbury and Stanmer and maybe even a third in Goldsmid from the Tories.

This does of course have the potential of seeing the Tories return with an increased majority and overall control of the council, but Labour would of course be decimated, such would be the knock on effect of a Green victory in Pavilion.

If Labour were reduced to four, five or even six councillors, it could very well be the end of them in Brighton politics. If Labour fail to hold on to Hove (which they have next to no chance of doing so), or Kemptown (in which there is an outside chance they will hold on to) or in Pavilion (maybe no chance), then Labour, as a force in Brighton, will be no more. It would not be long before they are seceded by the Greens as the main progressive force in Brighton and Hove politics.


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This and that: A week in the life of…

I have been away from the blog for a week, doing this, doing that. Now I’m back and ready to be as scathing and scrutinising as ever before.

Kent Union elections

I was absent for most of last week because my attention was on the Kent Union elections, particularly the battle for VP Welfare.

I was backing the popular and dedicated Aaron Kiely, who faced tough opposition from the incumbent VP Welfare, Samantha Kennedy. Unfortunately I was unable to be there through most of campaigns week because of my work commitments; however, I was able to do my bit on Friday for the final push.

After a long day in which the weather worsened, it hit 4pm and the polls had closed to the relief of everyone, especially Aaron. That night, we had a nervous wait in store until 11pm when the results were announced. It went to three rounds and Aaron was shy of just 200 votes. The final tally was 1400 to Sam Kennedy, 1200 to Aaron Kiely and 700 votes to the third placed candidate. Whilst the results were disappointing after a long, hard slog, all of us were immensely proud of Aaron’s effort and those of his campaigns team.

Congratulations should go to Zoe Scandrett, Damon Reid-Williams and Tom Pengelly, who were all elected to the positions of Women’s Officer, Ethnic Minorities Officer and LGBT Officer respectively. Kent students are lucky to have three excellent people leading the liberation campaigns for the year ahead.

Victory for Kent staff and students

However, despite the disappointment of Friday night, a silver lining emerged in the dispute between the University management and staff in the Biosciences department at the University of Kent. Yesterday, at 3pm, after a meeting between the University and the UCU, the following statement was released:

“The University and UCU have had further constructive discussions in relation to the future of the School of Biosciences and have agreed upon an acceptable resolution of the matters in issue between them. This successful conclusion to the discussions indicates a renewed spirit  of constructive partnership between management and UCU, and both parties are committed to entering into a Redundancy Avoidance Agreement for the future.   As a result, the threat of compulsory redundancies has now been lifted from UCU members in Biosciences, and UCU has therefore cancelled the planned ballot of its members on taking industrial action which was to commence on Friday 26th March 2010.”

You can read more about this tremendous victory for the UCU and for student-led activism from Aaron Kiely and the Kent staff themselves.

Nancy Platts blocks me from Twitter

In other news, it seems as though the Labour candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Nancy Platts, has blocked me from following her on Twitter.

I for one am shocked and saddened by this move. As a public figure, whose Twitter profile is their candidate profile, Nancy’s move is unprecedented and surprising. Sure, I have criticised Nancy and Labour policy, but never on a personal level. In fact, I have the utmost respect for perspective parliamentary candidates (PPCs). Running for Parliament is no easy thing; it requires time, effort and, perhaps above all, maintaining a cool head. If Nancy thinks my soft criticism of her policies is bad, she has no idea what it would be like if ever she was elected to Parliament. I would appreciate it if Nancy could specify as to why she has blocked me but, if I have caused her any upset, I do apologise.

Shame on David Lepper

In further Brighton Labour news, the BBC has reported that Pavilion MP, David Lepper, has broken Parliamentary rules on overseas trips. Mr. Lepper has been visiting Cyprus every year since 2004 and has tabled 29 early day motions (EDMs) relating to the country. Mr. Lepper failed to register an interest when he tabled a Parliamentary question on 13th January 2009, as well as four EDMs between 2006 and 2009.

Whilst David Lepper has apologised for not registering an interest, he has not apologised for using up valuable Parliamentary time in which he should have been focussing on the concerns of his Brighton constituents. He owes his constituents a massive apology for not working in their interests, but instead for the Municipality of Morphou, the Municipality of Famagusta and the Association of Cypriot Municipalities, who paid for his free holidays to Cyprus.

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New media in Brighton Pavilion

It is now established that if you’re a candidate standing for election you need a campaign website. For a lot of candidates this is the first thing they think of. Why? Because it is a cheap, resourceful tool in communicating your message to potential voters. It is also important for candidates to have the most attractive website they can get. Visitors to a site need to be taken on a journey, they need to find small pockets of interest that keep them coming back for more.

Nearly all candidates standing for election either maintain a blog or a news content page. This is true for all three main candidates in Brighton Pavilion, Caroline, Nancy, and Charlotte. Out of all of them it is Caroline who updates hers the most, either through her blog or through her campaign news. Both of these are similar but, at the same time, rather different. Caroline’s blog section discusses mainly the campaign trail, her meetings with local associations and the finer points of her agenda for the constituency. Her campaign news, which is updated less often than her blog, provides the press with details of Caroline’s positions and statements, as you would expect from a news section.

It should be noted that Charlotte and Nancy don’t separate the two. For Charlotte, her blog is also her news content page (she does have a ‘media’ page but that hasn’t been updated since January 16th- remember those snowy days?) Nancy, on the other hand, only has her news content, and this is updated a couple of times a week.

Nancy prefers to use twitter to keep her followers up to date with where she is and what she’s doing, using this to great effect. Charlotte, whilst using twitter in a similar vein to Nancy, is also much more personal, perhaps far too personal in her correspondence with her followers, particularly with her Green ones. Whilst Charlotte has a tendency to always ‘@’ Caroline (I think she may have given up by now), many of her tweets meet with immediate response from Greens, partly due to Charlotte’s antagonistic style. Yes, we know that twitter is a world mostly populated by people averse to the Conservatives, but there is something dogged in her chase for Caroline to reply to her tweets.

I think, and most certainly hope, that Charlotte has backed away from this style, especially for her own sake. We have not seen her update nearly as often, neither are her tweets focussed purely on Caroline. Whilst it is too early to say whether this is a tactical change in Charlotte’s social media strategy- perhaps someone has had a quiet word with her- it would be a welcome move if she would tone down on the ‘reply’s and ‘@’s to people who are clearly not going to agree with her.

Brighton Politics Blog, BPB for short, posted a similar article on Brighton Pavilion and new media back in January, go check it out.

By the way, does anybody know if CCHQ is still vetting PPC tweets?

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Lancaster Greens on the verge of becoming joint largest party

On April 1st (and no, this is not an early April Fool’s), Lancaster Green Party have a unique opportunity to become the joint largest party on the Lancaster City Council.

The by-election has  been called after the resignation of Councilor James Blakely, one of the two Labour councilors in the John O’Gaunt ward. The other seat is held by the Green Party’s Jude Towers, who took the seat off Labour in the 2007 city council elections.

Already the Greens have 12 councilors, Labour 14, Conservative 12, Morecombe Bay Indepedents 11, Liberal Democrats 5 and 5 Independents. A Green win from Labour will see them have 13 seats each.

The by-election is not just winnable for the Greens, it’s very winnable and, if they win, they will be the joint largest party on Lancaster city council. This is incredibly exciting for the Lancaster Greens as this will be the first time ever that Green councilors will be the largest party on any council, albeit jointly.

This is an opportunity that the Greens cannot afford to miss. By winning the seat, especially so close to a General Election, and becoming a majority party, we can prove to voters going into the polls be it in Lancaster, Brighton, Norwich or elsewhere, that the Green Party is the party with momentum, with the ideas to capture voters aspirations, but also with the muscle to deliver. Opportunities like this cannot be bought but, they can certainly be won.

I would suggest to Greens, everywhere, that if you can, take the time to make the trip to Lancaster. Wouldn’t it be rather special that just before we win our first MPs to Westminster, we also take our first council? As I said, it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

I’m going to be breaking from the norm and start keeping an eye on how things develop in Lancaster, I reckon we could be in for quite a treat.

So, do what you can to help them, either get on the train and knock on some doors, make a kindly gift to help the campaign a long or, in the words of Jim Jepps, you could start blogging for victory, #FirstGreenCouncil for the win!


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