07 August 2009

Dan Wilson Asks 'How Far Can The Greens Go?'

I think the answer (for Brighton and Hove at least) is actually quite far. Labour Party member Dan, says he can't see where the Greens are going to win any more seats. Well, all I can say is that he is not looking very hard.

For a start the Greens have already shown they can win convincingly in Goldsmid, so they should take the other 2 seats in that ward come 2011 off the incumbent Tory and Labour councillors.

It is not a great stretch of the imagination to see the 2 Lib Dem seats in neighbouring Brunswick fall to the Greens. The Greens are already in 2nd place there and they came from a much further back third places to take Regency and Goldsmid.

The Greens also already have one councillor in Preston Park and despite the popularity of the Labour councillors there, could easily gain another 2 seats on the back of a Labour slump nationally.

So, we already have a fairly easy SIX gains for the Greens putting them on 19 seats in total, but there is more. Central Hove is the sort of town centre seat or 'muesli belt' seat, as Dan puts it where the Greens do well and they are hot on the Tory incumbents heels there. This could easily be another 2 seat gain for them.

On 21 seats in 2011, the Greens could be breathing down the Tories neck as the largest party on the council, with Labour reduced to a rump of 10 seats, the Tories on 22 seats and the Lib Dems wiped out.

Admittedly it will not be so easy for the Greens in the Tory suburbs nor the traditionalist working class Labour areas in Hollingbury and Moulscoumb and further out Portslade and East Brighton. But even in these places they are well placed to move into second place. Moulsecomb and Bevendean and East Brighton in particular are areas where the Greens could target disenchanted Labour voters. The Greens are not hated like Labour are in the Tory suburbs either.

The demographics of a sea-change in public opinion in Brighton and Hove are well indicated by these results, Goldsmid being the most astounding. Goldsmid is the largest ward in terms of number of voters and hardly a 'town centre' seat. This was a hard seat for the Greens to win. Winning here on this swing puts most seats in Brighton and Hove not far from their grasp. Both Labour and the Tories are waking up to the Greens.

Expect more attacks on them like this one from Dan. He makes some good points. The Greens have got holes in their policies (but at least they have some and outline them in detail) and they are worryingly anti-science. This last aspect being the main reason currently holding me back from ditching the Labour party and joining the Greens, that and the fact that the Greens will never be a force nationally (well not without PR anyway).

Yet the Greens do have some fantastic policies that appeal to lefties like me. 20mph limits in residential areas will hardly put off the near 40% of voters in Brighton and Hove who do not own a car, neither will paying everyone a living wage, spending more on public transport and delivering a citizen's income raise many eyebrows in a city as liberal as this, whatever the tax implications or Dan Wilsons personal thoughts.

But one thing is sure, the Greens barring any big mistake and on the back of the election of Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion are heading for a very strong showing in Brighton and Hove in 2011, whatever we disgruntled Labour supporters think of it.


  1. Well, I suppose we'll see: nearly two years til the next city council election and there's a General Election on the way too. That's a lotta time and change.

    Goldmid is a curious ward in that it has Green, Blue and Red councillors. And Preston Park's two Labour councillors are locally very popular. So, I'm not sure they could grab those 4. Brunswick is a possibility, for sure. But again... hardly a cert.

    That's why I pose the question: high-water mark or momentum? I genuinely don't know.

    We also both assume that the Greens hold everything they have already got.

    Yes, 20mph policies and living wage policies are popular. But where is the real plan? I would be more interested in the Greens if I had a clear view on how they would use power as a majority party to genuinely green the city.

    The biggest myth is that Brighton and Hove is a green city but it isn't really (recycling rates in particular are miserable).

    Re switching. The Green nonsense on science is impossible for me to accept. And economically I find their ideas, at best, bewildering.

  2. Hi Dan, thanks for your comment. Like your blog, by the way.

    I don't really do bets, but I am so sure that the Greens are going to take the other 2 seats in Goldsmid that I would be willing to offer a small wager, say £10.

    Goldsmid is only split 3 ways because the last time it was very close between Labour and Tory and Labour managed to hold onto a seat and that there has been a by-election inbetween that has given a very convincing win to the Greens. Barring a Green disater between now and 2011 - some dodgy dealing councillor or something, they will probably win even more convincingly next time. As we know that under first-past-the-post, parties that win convincingly take all the seats - because people largely vote for the party not the person.

    In Preston Park, I am willing to admit that the two popular Labour councillors could hold on there, but no person is immune from the party brand they are attached to, and Labour has lost a lot of votes even since 2007. I think the Greens could easily take all three seats.

    In Brunswick, we agree, the Lib Dems suffer the most when the Greens do well, and they are largely replacing the Lib Dems in Brighton as the not-Labour and not-Tory party.

    These six seats alone would put the Greens on 19 seats.

    I agree that the Green nonsense on science is unacceptable. It puts me off joining them. But there are other policies are very attractive to me.

    Unlike you, I believe a citizen's income is a great idea - it would take some implementation - but I take an optimistic view of people's attitude to work. By and large, I think most people want to work and a CI will remove the financial incentive for people to sit on the dole. Those who really don't want to work, will find a way under any system. Of course this policy is irrelevant in the local context anyway, as the national government are the only ones with the power to implement it.

    I believe the Greens would take unpopular and necessary steps to take on the car lobby. Would this lose them votes, perhaps. But like I say, a lot of people don't drive in B&H and over 4 years the Greens could pedestrianise Churchill Sq and the Laines and improve transport on the sea front. Restricting cars in the city would have a massive impact on quality of life for residents and win them a lot of support. Labour was far too timid in these areas, disgustingly so. Which is why they collapsed in 2007.

    A queston for you Dan. Where can you see Labour winning any seats in Brighton and Hove? I can only see the Greens stopping the Tories here, which is why in Goldsmid at least, I will be voting Green.

    In other parts of the city - Portslade, Moulsecomb and Bevendean, maybe it is best to stick with Labour to stop the Tories, but we shall see. The Greens are going to pick up a lot of votes locally if Lucas becomes a Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, which seems likely. The Greens got nearly 20,000 votes in the Euros on a 30% turnout. Most of those votes they got in Pavilion, maybe 14,000. They probably need only 12,000 votes to take the seat, Labour by contrast did woefully with less than half this support.

    Nationally, of course I prefer a Labour goverment to a Tory one and the Greens will never be a force on the national scene unless we have a fairer voting system.

  3. I'll take that bet. :O)

    Some responses. In 2011 we'll be about a year into a Conservative govt (and presumably massive local cuts), Lucas may well have been elected to Westminster and Brighton and Hove's NOC council will have limped along for two years.

    The Green disaster you suggest, could well be Lucas's election. A few more like "flying to Spain is worse than stabbing people" style heartfelt comments and greater scrutiny of their bizarre ideas may well be a good thing.

    Yes, the state of the national party is important locally but good, energetic Labour candidates, running clever campaigns with bold policies with a green tint and getting out on the streets can swing enough votes to win.

    Where can Labour win seats? Anywhere where they have had them before, I venture. In the course of the past few months I have spoken to quite a lot of people who have been disappointed by the Greens locally: most comment complaint is unresponsiveness. Hanover, Regency, North Laine... I don't think winning back a seat is impossible.

    It's gonna be a long two years. ;O)

  4. Dan, the bet is on ;o) We have to keep in touch for 2 years to find out who wins. Roll on May 2011.

    It is of course possible, as you suggest, that the Greens could mess up in some way, but I think currently the Green vote is only going one way - up. They won convincingly in Goldsmid, I would be amazed if they didn't get the other 2 seats, but we shall see.

    Yes, a Tory government making cuts will help a Labour comeback. Hopefully enough for Labour to hold onto its seats in Portslade and Moulsecomb from the Tories. But, unlike the Greens, Labour's vote is only going down at the moment. Lis Telcs actually fought a really powerful campaign in Goldsmid (although negative), without it, I think the Labour vote would have dropped even lower than the 800 or so votes they got.

    There will definitely be momentum for the Greens should Lucas win, which I expect her to do. It could be close, and heaven forbid if the Tories won in Brighton Pavilion on 20 something percent. It would be totally unrepresentative of what central Brightonians want to have a Tory MP - whatever trendy candidate they try and find!

    As for unresponsiveness, I don't know about Hannover and North Laine, but I used to live in Regency and according to my friend who still lives there both Sven and Jason have been very helpful in the campaign to save the Alex from demolition. They seem to regularly be at residents meetings etc.