After the Euro results on Sunday night, the Labour Party in Brighton & Hove wasted no time in claiming that its extremely narrow victory over the Greens in the Euro elections “confirm that the city council and all three parliamentary seats are expected to return to Labour” in 2015. Yet last week’s lead was just 2.4%, a whole year away from the next election! I rather think BetFred would be happy to take any Labour wager on this.
Labour claimed last October that the Greens in the city were history, following a BBC ComRes opinion poll that gave Labour a strong 38% of the city-wide vote, with the Greens down to just 21%. But that polling was carried out at the lowest point in the Green council administration, mid-term and exacerbated by the lingering effects of the bin strike, during which the Greens had been lambasted from every quarter, with negative headlines, anti-Green stickers on every conceivable piece of street furniture and marches on Brighton town hall.
Time itself has marched on since then. As I wrote in a piece for The Ecologist last week, Green plans within the city are now starting to bear fruit and to show the Greens as providing an extremely capable administration that’s chalking up a fair roster of wins, despite the trying circumstances of government cuts and a council with no overall control. And respect for Caroline Lucas MP, within her constituency, across the city and, indeed, nationwide has never been higher.
Labour’s 38% support within the city last year was also being mirrored by similar figures across the rest of the country as a succession of opinion polls put Ed Miliband’s party in the high 30s and even early 40s.
But that was then. Last week, nationally, Labour won only 25.4% of the vote, a sharp fall from those low 40s and well below the 29% which saw Labour face defeat in 2010. And as Sunny Hundal pointed out on Tuesday in his Liberal Conspiracy blog post, the idea that Labour can get back up to the high 30s by next year is “a fantasy”.
In Brighton & Hove, Labour did little better than nationally, reaching only 26.8% of the city-wide vote – a collapse of 11 points from last October’s poll. Meanwhile, the Greens gained four points from last October, taking them to 24.5% and creating this graph:
Labour is also claiming that last week’s result gives it the leading position in the parliamentary constituency of Brighton Pavilion, the seat held by Caroline Lucas.
This is clearly nonsense. The votes of the Brighton & Hove parties are not spread uniformly across the city. Labour and Conservatives both have their strongholds in the east, west and (partly) north of the city while the Greens are strongest in the centre: Brighton Pavilion. If Labour can only manage an average lead of 2.4% across all three constituencies, there is no way on earth that Labour could have fared better than Greens in Pavilion unless its support has plummeted to rock bottom in Hove and Brighton Kemptown.
But Labour is claiming the lead in all three constituencies, which is just not feasible. In the 2010 general election Labour’s lead over the Greens in Hove was 28% and in Brighton Kemptown was 30%. If now it is only 2.4%, the runes are saying that in 2015 Labour doesn’t have a hope in its stronger seats of Hove and Brighton Kemptown, let alone Brighton Pavilion.
If I were on the local Labour leadership team, I’d be abandoning the fantasy of winning in Brighton Pavilion and instead concentrate all my resources on beating the Tories in Hove or Brighton Kemptown, or maybe both. Two seats is better than none.
* Brighton, Hove & District Labour Party circulated the press release below, shortly after the Euro election results were announced. It came out very quickly, so was clearly written before the announcement. BrightonandHoveNews.org published the press release almost verbatim the next day but declined to use the word ‘confirm’, replacing it with ‘indicated’. BrightonandHoveNews.org also published a response by the Greens.
The Labour press release refers to “our lead across the city in opinion polls” and as the BBC ComRes one, which I mention above, is the only publicly published opinion poll I’m aware of from that time, I take it that Labour is still crowing about its result in that poll.
LABOUR PRESS RELEASE:
European 2014 Election Results: Brighton and Hove Set For Swing To Labour
25th May 2014
Leading Labour figures in Brighton and Hove say the European Parliament Election results today confirm that the city council and all three parliamentary seats are expected to return to Labour in the 2015 local elections and General Election.
“After four years of hard work, explaining why Labour is a better choice than the Greens, Tories, LibDems OR UKIP, we’re delighted by tonight’s result,” said Melanie Davis, chair of the Brighton, Hove and District Labour Party. “I’m sure all of our councillors, council candidates and Parliamentary candidates will now look towards next year’s elections with renewed confidence that our message is being heard loud and clear,” continued Melanie.
Leader of the Labour and Co-operative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council Councillor Warren Morgan. “Our win in the Hanover by-election last year, our lead across the city in opinion polls, yesterday’s poll of the marginals, and now this show we are best placed to win. Our work on the doorstep has won back many local voters to Labour and our positive policies will show we are an administration in waiting. If elected we will deliver good quality, basic services to local people. These election results show that a year from now, with continued hard work, Labour can look forward to winning a majority of city council and getting on with the job of improving local services for Brighton and Hove.”
Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Purna Sen said, “This result shows that local people are more interested in effective government than in mere protest. I’m confident that a year from now, the voters of Brighton Pavilion will vote for real change instead of just the illusion of change. Labour stands for opposition and proposing practical policies, instead of just protesting. The next Parliament will make decisions that matter massively to the city, the country and, indeed, the planet. Work to address climate change, economic inequality, education and the NHS cannot wait. Only Labour can offer a genuine and practical alternative to the coalition. “
Hove and Portslade Parliamentary candidate for Labour Peter Kyle said, “It’s time to bring jobs and growth back to our communities and tonight’s election shows voters in Hove believe Labour is the best choice to do just that. This result reflects what people have been telling me throughout the constituency. For all the talk of a “Big Society”, the coalition have spent four years making Britain a less inclusive place, something clearly opposed by the voters of Hove. I look forward to working hard over the next year, as Labour continues to convince voters that as the party with the best record on social issues, ours would be the best party to deliver in government.”
Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven Parliamentary candidate Nancy Platts said, “Over the last four years, issues like zero hours contracts and rising energy bills have made life ever more precarious for working families. Voters across the constituency are turning back to Labour’s positive policies on the minimum wage and a commitment to secure employment.”