Friday, May 09, 2014

#Lewisham2014: The Mayorals


22 May will see European Parliament elections, local elections across London and elsewhere, and the vote for Lewisham's directly elected mayor. I hope to blog on all of those, but this post focuses on the mayorals in Lewisham. [UPDATE: Extra info on how to navigate the supplementary vote system and who to put second here.]

Here are the seven candidates, and some comments on them.

Liberal Democrats: Duwayne Brooks @DuwayneBrooks
My impression of Duwayne Brooks is of a smart, charismatic, passionate, decent person. His main campaign theme seems to be that it's time for change in the borough, with Sir Steve Bullock (see below) having been in office for too long. Probably he is the candidate that has the best chance of unseating Bullock: the Lib Dems came second with 25% of the first round vote in 2010. However, his campaign material overstates this by dishonestly including the second round vote (including transfers from Tory votes) in a bar chart purporting to show that Tories can't win in Lewisham.

The main reason not to vote for Duwayne, however, is that he is a candidate for the Lib Dems. However, you'd not notice that from his Twitter feed or website, which barely mention his party affiliation if at all, which is not surprising given what a liability it must be around here. Who could vote for the party that has enabled the Cameron government's austerity regime and dismantling of public services? Who could vote for the party that utterly failed to stand up against Jeremy Hunt's Clause 119, legislation drafted in response to the people of Lewisham successfully winning a legal challenge against his attempts to close our hospital? For these reasons, and more, we can expect the Lib Dem vote in Lewisham to have evaporated since 2010, making Duwayne a no hope candidate (and a vote for the Greens or a real left alternative at least as meaningful a protest vote as for Brooks).

Labour: Steve Bullock @mayorbullock
Sir Steve Bloke, as he's known, is the Gordon Brown of local politics: competent, gently intelligent, controlling, utterly un-charismatic. Having clocked up a longer term in office at the town hall than Thatcher or Blair did at 10 Downing Street, it's hard not to sympathise with the idea that it's time for change. In 2010, when Gordon Brown was unsuccessfully defending his tenure in Downing Street, Bullock got 44% of the first round vote (a majority of well over 20,000). Four years of Cameron/Clegg misrule, as well as Bullock's important role in the legal challenge against Hunt's attempt to close our hospital, will surely contribute to a strong Labour vote this month, so it's hard to imagine Bullock not romping home again.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: Chris Flood @ElectChrisFlood
Chris Flood is the candidate for the Socialist Party's front TUSC, possibly the least exciting left party Britain has ever produced. Flood had a decent record as a Socialist councillor in Telegraph Hill, during which time he played a major role in defending council housing and fighting hospital cuts - but he probably has little borough-wide profile. It's hard to see TUSC doing very well. In 2006, during the Iraq war, John Hamilton (see below) got 8.2% of the vote, and so at best Hamilton and TUSC might expect to compete for that fraction. Despite that, at the moment I'm thinking of voting for Flood, as Bullock's majority means a non-Labour vote is fairly risk-free, and I like the idea of showing Labour that they can't take its multicultural working class heartlands for granted in its rightward quest to conquer middle England.

People Before Profit: John Hamilton @PeopleB_4Profit
I've voted for Hamilton in the past (in 2006, when he got over 4,823 votes), but am not going to this year. Hamilton and his merry band are pretty indefatigable campaigners on a range of local issues: Hamilton was a key activist in the fights for a new school for New Cross, to save Ladywell pool from Labour cuts, and to save Lewisham's libraries from Labour cuts. I like what People Before Profit say in their election material. However, I have written about Hamilton a few times on this blog before, and regular readers will know why I can't vote for him: read posts on his disruption of Holocaust Memorial Day and on his involvement with the antisemitic Holocaust denier Gilad Atzmon (as well as his guest post replying to the latter). More recently, allegations have emerged on the internet about the business practices of his People Before Profit colleague Ray Woolford, which I won't repeat here because I have no idea if they are true, but which raise worrying issues.

Green: Mike Keogh @lewgreenparty
Mike Keogh, also standing for the council in Ladywell ward, won 12% of the vote in the 2006, but the Green vote shrunk by a few hundred to 6% in 2010, as the turnout increased and the Labour vote swung up. The Greens therefore have little better chance this year than the more left-wing alternatives to Labour, and interestingly the party website has nothing on the mayoral election, concentrating on the council elections where their results might be more interesting.

UKIP: Peter Lello @PeterLello
I doubt many of my readers would even consider a vote for UKIP so I won't bother to tell you not to vote for their nasty, isolationist anti-politics. I'm fairly optimistic that, despite UKIP's worryingly high national polling results, the demographics of inner London (young population, confidently multicultural) play against them here. UKIP's stronger chances are in the Euro elections, for which the whole of London (including the outer London "Boris bagel" where they are performing well) is a single constituency returning eight MEPs: UKIP got 11% of the vote last time (one MEP). Holding off an increase in the number of UKIP MEPs is a very good reason to make sure you do vote on May 22. 

Simon Nundy (Conservative) @SimonNundy

If the Lib Dems have massaged the figures to claim only they can unseat Bullock this month, the Tories have been even more fast and loose with the stats. The fact is they only got 15% of the vote in 2010 and, while the Lib Dem vote will collapse, the Tory vote is likely to hit a long-term low here. Nundy's campaign rests on five "pledges", almost all of which are hollow promises. 
  • Pledge no.1 is a 5% reduction in council tax, which looks superficially appealing but will benefit higher rate payers the most, is too small to make that much of a difference to our personal finances, and will create a hole in local government finances that can only be filled by further cuts in already frayed services. 
  • His second "pledge" is offering every kid a place at a good or outstanding school - a good aspiration, but he promises to achieve it by expanding the "free school" programme, a programme which has been thoroughly discredited. 
  • His third "pledge" started with less a hollow promise than a bullshit promise: to work with Boris Johnson to get more police on Lewisham's streets - bullshit because Johnson has reduced the number of police on our streets dramatically (I asked Nundy about this on Twitter twice, but he declined to answer.) In his leaflets, he has since downgraded this to a meaningless promise: to create a "Mayoral Crime Liaison Office", whatever that means. 
  • The fourth pledge is to bring all social housing to decent homes standard. The standard was introduced by the Labour government and Labour Lewisham has spent millions bringing thousands of its homes to standard, but I can't find out how many are still below that standard - if anyone knows please leave a comment below. 
  • Finally, pledge number 5 is a "package of support for small businesses", but he has been very vague on what such a package might include. 

***

OK, that's all for now. I intend to come back with a post or so on the Euro and council elections too, but in the meantime check out coverage on Clare's Diary, Our Hither Green and Alternative SE4. Hopefully needless to say, but this post is purely my own opinion; I am not connected to any political party; and you're more than welcome to offer your own views and comments below. All my Lewisham posts can be found here; all my election-related posts here. The image at the top comes from the Lewisham council website, and links to information on candidates, how to vote and other useful stuff. 

10 comments:

Clare said...

I'm keen on a non-Labour vote too, and considering Green in the council and euros. However, on the mayor I've seen no material other than what's in the booklet we all get and they don't seem that interested.

They need to earn my vote, so at the moment I'm tending towards Sir Steve I'm afraid. (I've voted PB4P in other elections, but having seen their recent behaviour I won't be doing so again. And agree about the profile of TUSC.)

Dave Plummer said...

Hi,

We do have some more info about Mike on the website but it is buried in a news story from October. I'm going to set up a page for Mike's Mayoral candidacy early next week.

The news item's here: http://lewisham.greenparty.org.uk/news/2013/10/28/2013-10-28-mike-keogh-candidate/

Dave Plummer,
Lewisham Green Party Press Officer

Unknown said...

Anyone who pledges a reduction in council tax gets an immediate 'no' from me.

Grr.

Only living boy in New Cross said...

Ray Woolford has done the impossible and made me seriously consider voting Labour across the board. Agree with your point about showing Labour can't take us for granted, may give Chris Flood a vote (but TUSC is such a dreadful platform - still living in the Ted Grant world of 1950s trotskysism where there was such thing as a significant constituency who identified themselves as primarily trade unionists and socialists).

Would like to have a credible, principled, left-of-Labour opposition on Council, but People Before Profit sure ain't it. They are an anti-Labour party rather than a socialist one. Picked up extraordinary 'Local Campaigner' publication today from them. Every article slags off Labour Party (sometimes rightly so), but not a single mention of Tories. You would never know there was a Conservative Government (when you know that Ray Woolford used to be a Tory that raises alarm bells).

Their posters slag off 'politicians' but they pull every stunt in the book, taking credit for other people's activity, using charity work to boost their profile etc. We Care food bank does good things, but is it an independent organisation, a PBP project, or just Ray & pals?

Also there's this strange ego cult. The election issue of 'The Local campaigner' is apparently 'published by People Before Profit' but doesn't even mention their mayoral candidate, John Hamilton. But it does implore us to 'follow ray on twitter' and 'read Ray's Blog'.

The 'Raygate' allegations of his business doings are colourful but even without them there is some terrible self-promoting behaviour here. Much as I disagree with Labour nationally joining in with anti-immigration and anti-claimant rhetoric, people like Paul Bell and Luke Sorba (Labour candidates in Telegraph Hill ward) do have a track record as decent socialists and trade unionists. And in any event PBP's opportunist manifesto doesn't mention racism or the hassle migrants living round here face from the state. Interesting they have such a chummy relationship with UKIP who they invited to their hustings last night. Fits in with the 'British Road to Socialism' and/or Reg Birch nationalist anti-Europe history of some of their leading activists. There are apparently some decent people still in People Before Proft - all I can say to them is either get out quick or take control of your organisation.

bob said...

Thanks for that comment, Only Living Boy. My thoughts exactly, including same reservations about TUSC.

I've already voted now, with a postal vote. I'm going to try to find time to do another #Lewisham2014 post before polls close, including linking to Clogsilk's analysis of the chance of any non-Labour councillors being returned, which is possibly a reason to not vote Labour across the board, and perhaps in particular in the wards where Greens have some chance (Ladywell and Brockley), so that there is some opposition at council meetings.

bob said...

Here's Clare's analysis showing a likely Labour sweep of the council elections, leaving just 4 Lib Dems http://clogsilk.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/how-likely-is-it-lewisham-council-will.html There's a comment by Ray saying Telegraph Hill (Hamilton), Ladywell (Helen Mercer) and Evelyn (where PB4P came second in last by-election) as their key targets.

Anyone think Greens have a chance anywhere?

clogsilk said...

Brockley maybe? But I still think the loss of Darren Johnson's name will be the end for them, sadly.

Anonymous said...

Agree with unknown about instant no to council tax reducers.
Sick of seeing "We'll save you £70 a year on your council tax."
What, £1.34 a week? I'd rather you spent it more wisely than immediately taking millions of pounds out of the borough's coffers.

Anonymous said...

LPBP is not a socialist party but does have many socialists and communists within it. We are a broad community party and our votes suggest we have a broader appeal than the usual far left, who as we have seen with TUSC got votes in the family and friends range of 1,2 and 3 %. We have members who have come from a broad range of politics, including many independents and community activists. We do not have an agreed position on the EU but would support a peoples Europe rather than a bankers Europe, hence our active opposition to TTIP. Our lively European hustings was an attempt to raise the debate on the issue of TTiP. Nick Long

bob said...

Thanks Nick. I partially agree with you. The LPBP model of a broad-based rather than ideological party has to be the right one. People vote in local elections on local issues, and LPBP has consistently identified the local issues that matter to people and played a part in locally organising around these issues.

However, if you look at the TUSC results, while it is true that nationally (and in most of Lewisham) they did very embarassingly, Chris Flood's vote in Telegraph Hill (similar to LPBP's vote in New Cross) suggests that a locally known, locally focused candidate can do just as well under an openly socialist label.

Socialist Alliance (whose campaign slogan was People Before Profit) showed that this kind of politics can have some potential, even under an "out" socialist banner.

However, the sad truth is, even the high tide marks of an alternative left vote over the past decade or two look pretty pathetic. (Read Red Action in 2010: http://www.redactionarchive.org/2012/03/london-socialist-alliance-election.html ). The LBPB profit share of the vote averaged out across Lewisham must be in single figure percentage marks.

I'm pretty pessimistic.