Saturday, 27 March 2010

Untangling the Brighton Pavilion parliamentary web

When I sat down to write this blog an hour ago, I was going to ask the Brighton Pavilion candidates to help sway me, as I was completely undecided which way to vote. Now before I continue, please be clear on something - despite my constant Tory-bashing, I am equally suspicious of all politicians. For me, it's always a case of picking the best of a bad bunch. Personally I think the whole system needs an overhaul and fresh set of faces, but let's put that to one side and get realistic for a minute - that's not going to happen any time soon.

So I sat down with all the fliers that have dropped through my letterbox lately and worked my way through all the facts, figures, spin and hyperbole. In doing so I found that my decision is actually quite an easy one. Let me take you through how I got there.

Social Networking
Working in the community sector in Brighton and Hove, part of my job involves seeking out opportunities to work in collaboration with local businesses and people. This means I spend a certain amount of time on the popular social networking site Twitter. Now the thing about Twitter is that some people get it, and some don't. Some people understand the impact of the way they present themselves on Twitter, and some don't. The three main candidates for Brighton Pavilion can all be found on Twitter, and I have been watching them all closely for some time now.

Now I have to admit that Labour candidate Nancy Platts does have a slight advantage here, in that I have been lucky enough to spend some time talking to her face-to-face. Nancy contacted me through Twitter to discuss my work. I found her to be interesting and engaging, and refreshingly genuine. She explained the local political landscape to me without spin and she is both honest and humble. Take a look at her tweets - polite, engaging, factual and relevant.

Those same words can be used for the Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, who also come across very well. Of course I wouldn't expect less from a forward-thinking party such as the Greens. Ben Duncan, Green Party candidate for Kemptown, also comes across very well.

However, let's take a look at the feed for Charlotte Vere, the local Conservative candidate. Aggressive, irrelevant, bitter, defensive, isolating, and quite frankly - dull. But then, if she spent a little more time promoting her party's policies and less time whining at her followers she might actually risk connecting with people. That's not really the Tory way, is it? Well, not unless there's money involved.

I can only presume that Liberal Democrat Bernie Millam has given up the chase, as until I googled the candidate details I had no idea who their representative was.

Local Campaigning
I pulled together everything that has come through my door. Now clearly as leader of the Greens, Caroline Lucas is throwing everything she can into this campaign, include a whole lot of paper through my letterbox. Isn't that somewhat ironic, from the Green party?

Now initially I found myself being swayed towards the Green vote. After all, their fliers clearly state that unless we vote Green, the Conservatives will be voted in.

I have to say this is a particularly good piece of spin from the Greens, with a graph to "clearly illustrate" the level of support for the Green Party in Brighton Pavilion. The small print reveals that the figures are based on an opinion poll of 533 adults interviewed by telephone in December 2009. I note there is no clarification on where the phone numbers were sourced from, or that these are adults based in Brighton.

Now I really don't question the integrity of these figures, but they fail to tell the whole story. In 2005 the Green Party came third in the general election. They were 6,000 votes behind Labour, and nearly 900 behind the Tories. As far as I can see, this means that voting Green is actually a damn risky strategy that could in fact ENSURE that the Tories gain control, not prevent them from doing so.

Charlotte Vere sent me a very boring letter which I wish I hadn't put straight in to the recycling.

And as for the Lib Dems... well, they're a bit quiet around these parts...

National Policy
I like Caroline Lucas. She seems genuine. The Green Party, on the face of it, seem to have the answers. They could very well be the fresh face of British politics that we so badly need right now. The only problem is that they fail to back it up.

I WANT to vote Green, I really do. So I checked out the policies page on their website. It makes great reading, it really does. However, I have to say that it really doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It's all very well having a destination, but you also need to show us the route to get there.

I give the Greens great credit for campaigning positively, as sadly the same cannot be said of the Lib Dems. I'm sick of hearing constant critisism from Nick Clegg, when his tired old party don't show any sign of imagination or ability to provide solutions to the country's problems.

I've said enough in the past about my reasons for not voting Conservative, so I don't feel any need to expand any further right now.

Now, Labour. I've decided to support Nancy Platts in the forthcoming election, but I have to say that they're in the last chance saloon with me. I can't stomach the thought of a Conservative government and voting Green seems far too risky, but that doesn't mean that I'm anywhere near happy with the current government. Gordon Brown must surely realise that if they win the election a lot of things have to change, and quickly. However, locally I feel that Nancy has the ability to make a difference. I was very impressed with her understanding of social issues and as far as I can see she is the only candidate who is permanently resident in the area.

THAT is why, for now at least, I am supporting Labour.


  1. Interesting to see your thinking evolve there, and it all seems fair enough on the face of it - at first. I think though that you miss a couple of key things in your analysis of the 'risk' of voting green.

    You say that you think the poll quoted fails to tell the whole story, which is true, and I'm not sure which leaflet you saw, but we (yes, I am a green) have also given other stats that back the case for the choice being between Green and Tory. These other facts build the case and complete the picture for you.

    First of all, the last general election. Yes we were 6000 votes short of Labour, but only a few hundred short of the tories - a very small number of labour voters defecting to the Greens will see us overhaul the tories, rather than allowing them in.

    Since then, in the 2007 local elections the Greens took more council seats in the constituency that any other party. At a by-election after that we increased our vote share. In the Euro elections last year we took more votes than any other party across the city as a whole with 31% compared to the tories in 2nd on 22% - and as that includes areas which are effectively green wildernesses as far as our vote share is concerned, you can easily deduce that the lead was even greater if just taken in the Brighton Pavilion area (no specific figures exist so that is the best we can do).

    As far as that poll is concerned, it was all done in Brighton, commissioned by the greens but done to the British Polling Council standards by ICM, so not rigged as some have suggested.

    You may well still want to back Nancy Platts, that's your choice, your right. But if your reasoning is based even in part on the idea that she is the best bet to ensure that there is not a tory government after the election - sorry, but I think you have that wrong. The trajectory of the Labour party in this seat is downwards. The Greens story on the otherhand is very much on the rise.

  2. Hi Guy,

    This is a really interesting post and you make some credible points about your reasons for backing Labour.

    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.
    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.

    Anyways, it's a pleasure to see another addition to the Brighton blogosphere.

    All the best,


  3. Thank you both for your response. First of all, my apologies for the delayed reply - I was awaiting a comment notification that never arrived!

    I can't really disagree with anything you say. I am still finding my way around the election landscape so all additional information is very welcome.

    I am aware that support for Labour appears to have slowly transferred to the Green Party, but when I look at the big picture I have to ask myself what I genuinely believe is the best thing for the country. As strong as my anti-Tory bias is, what is important to me is voting for something that I believe in. That's why I said, and genuinely meant, that I WANT to vote Green. The dilemma I have is a complicated one, torn between the ideals of the Greens and the realism of Labour. Give it a couple more years and I may well be changing my mind, but at the moment I cannot say that I truly believe that the Greens can deliver.

    Of course there is the risk of my vote going to waste and allowing the Tories to gain control as a result, but this is why I chose to come public with my views, as I feel I must do more than simply vote, I must support the Labour party too. However 6,000 votes is still a big ask. My other concern is that any Labour seat lost gives the Tories the edge in the general election.

    I really appreciate your comments and look forward to continuing the debate!

  4. Hi Guy,

    Rather than just re-post my response on here, I figured I would post a link to my site:

    Many thanks,