Tuesday, 9 June 2009

FT says Brighton Greens' leap to first place fails to surprise most voters

Today's Financial Times reports that Brighton Greens' leap really isn't a surprise to most voters.

Long a Tory-supporting bastion, Brighton, which fell to Labour in 1997, exemplified Tony Blair's ability to attract the middle classes as no other Labour leader had done, writes Alistair Gray .

But the days of ascendency for the governing party have disappeared like mist on Brighton beach. Less than one in 20 residents here voted for the Labour party last week.

Browsing the boutiques of the edgy North Laine area yesterday afternoon, few of the trendy patrons were surprised by the disclosure that the Green party had jumped to first place with nearly a third of the vote. Debate, however, raged as to whether their performance represented a strengthening of environmental concerns among locals - or a mere protest against an unpopular government.

Luke Jefford, a 36-year-old graphic designer who knocked on doors for Labour during their 1997 campaign, voted for them again in 2005, but deserted to the Greens last Thursday, is typical of those who feel the party has betrayed its values.

"I was dyed in the wool Labour for many years," he said. "Down at the town hall in '97, I remember shouting from the top windows when [Michael] Portillo was voted out. But now there's a lack of direction."

A gleeful Paul Steedman, the party's general election campaign director who is based in Brighton, said the Brighton Pavilion constituency was now the party's "number one" target for the first Green member of the Commons.

The article also quotes Labour's Kemptown candidate Simon Burgess claiming that most voters, like him, think Gord-help-us Brown is the best man for the job of PM, and predicts that many will come back to the discredited party.

I can't help wondering which voters he's talking about. Certainly not the ones I met out campaigning, or the one's living in Peacehaven, Telscombe, Brighton or Kemp Town who abandoned the party in such huge numbers last week.

But as The Argus says in its comment piece today [not online yet - I'll post the link when it is]: "...the Greens were the only one who actually made an effort to canvass door-to-door and took the time to make sure they had a representative at most of the pooling stations across the city." So perhaps Simon didn't actually meet many voters at all.

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